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Tuesday, April 28, 2015
By Matt Blasing
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Ever been to The Stumbling Steer Brewery & Gastropub on the westside? If not, you've missed out.

My wife shoots me a text yesterday telling (not asking) me, "You're taking me out to dinner tonight." I figured she just had a bad day at work and this is how we were going to relax, however, her subsequent text text informed me that The Steer is closing this Friday. Short notice. Very bummed. This sucks in a major sort of way.

Why such an attachment to The Steer?

If you've lived in the 505 for the last five years or so, you've noticed there's a new brewery popping up on every corner. In fact I'm pretty sure the neighbor's cats opened one in my backyard, contributing to the market saturation here. While we love our beer here in Albuquerque, we've become a bit inundated with these establishments, meaning not all of them will be staying open. We have a lot of really good breweries here, but a brewery that makes amazingly killer food? That, my friends, is much harder to find.

Pictured above: their house fish & chips. What made these the best, in my book, was that they really upped the production value by serving them on nice dishware and accessorizing them with my new favorite side - minted mashed peas (not pictured). Amy calls them baby bird peas because they look like mama bird chewed them up and spit them back out onto the plate, which sounds worse than it actually is. They mash the peas up and mix them with mint leaves so they have a buttery, minty taste. Never had them prior to The Steer, so the gold standard's been set and will be hard to beat.

The beer. Oh my gosh, the beer. When The Steer had first opened, I wasn't super-impressed with their beers since Marble Brewery kind of set the bar for Albuquerque brewing when they first opened in 2008. This caused other breweries to go for that super-hoppy flavor, which smells increasingly like dog food the more you drink it. However, after The Steer found their footing and their flavor, the beers mellowed out and developed more depth and complexity while still being butt-kickingly delicious at a reasonable ABW level (which is a big deal because I like to drink beer, not get trashed off two imperial IPAs). It became tradition to bring a growler or two home with dinner.

The decor did it for me. This is significant because I remember this place when it was Quarters BBQ (which still has a restaurant and package liquor section downtown on Yale). Back then, it was very dark and the bar area was sectioned off in glass. Even though the northeast-facing wall had floor-to-ceiling windows, it still felt very dark and dreary. Since it became The Steer, those enclosed bar walls were knocked down and the entire place was opened up, giving a bright, airy feel to the entire place. It's a big deal to eat in a comfortable environment.

Shown above: my grandfather's birthday get-together, set to the blues sounds of Boulevard Lane, a local band who played there on occasion when Chris Ravin or the Todd Tijerina band weren't jamming out. What I liked about The Steer was that it had a great family atmosphere that paired well with good music, good beer, and good food. Lots of breweries still have that "bar" kind of vibe, and while I'm not opposed to it, it doesn't have the same comfort level that makes my kids enthusiastic about going there, since it takes much more than nachos to please my young non-beer drinkers. It wasn't just the food and the beer that I loved, it was that I felt that it was a good place to go with my wife and kids. Which brings me to...

...the service, which for me, was the pinnacle of this establishment. People like Ian, Emma, and Caroline made every visit special. Meet Caroline, shown above all by her lonesome, since she was the only one working our section when I took this. This laugh was genuine, as was her smile and her persona. (Side note: she was one of the best wait staff we've ever had here, so in the high likelihood she's job hunting right now and someone reading this has an establishment in the line of work she may be looking for, whatever it is, hire her immediately and pay her ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS.) She stood out to us because of the friendliness and the willingness to make conversation every time we paid The Steer a visit for dinner. As a parent, it's a big deal when the staff talk directly to your kids and not just to the parents. They remembered what we liked, and since their food was so good that we'd venture out on a mission to try everything on the menu, we'd often be retorted against with something like "aw, no Steer Burger tonight?" 

The biggest reason I'm sad about The Steer's closure is because it felt like "our place." Prior to meeting my wife, there were lots of breweries and restaurants I've been to before, like Turtle Mountain Brewing Company, which still remains my #1 brewery and restaurant for the last eight years up to today. I've made a lot of memories at Turtle Mountain which were all amazing, but every memory I've made at The Steer since February of 2014 included Amy and the kids. Even the few times I'd gone to grab a beer with a buddy of mine, I always had my family in the back of my mind, feeling as though they should be there with me.

The Steer had a short run in the grand scheme of Albuquerque breweries, but it'll still keep a place in my heart as a place my family and I held dear. Amy and I will miss your blond ale with lime, Sam will miss your Steer Burger, and Emma will grieve over the loss of your amazing mac & cheese. 

So long, Steer. It's been real.

Matt

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8 Comments
Matt Blasing - Glad to know we weren't alone in the closure, Roxane! My family was also in the "once a week" group just like yours. The atmosphere, food, and beer were just what we needed to unwind when the weeks would get extra-hectic. Besides, the fact that the kids loved it so much was definitely a plus!
Roxane - So sad about the Steer closing. Our favorite place to eat and we go at least once a week. Everything is delicious and the service is always exceptional. Staff goes out of their way to make you feel welcome and at home. We will miss you, but happy to be here tonight to enjoy a meal before they close. Thank you for all the great times!
Matt Blasing - Ian!

I'm so glad to have heard from you. We were SO bummed that you weren't there the other day, and have decided to make one more run there tonight to fill more growlers. We're having a few events in the next few weeks and figured we may as well enjoy your brews one last time.

We're glad to have had the chance to see you, Caroline, Emma, et al. on a weekly basis, and are bummed to not have our go-to spot. I'm not sure if this counts for anything, but if you're all doing a mad-dash job hunt and need references, you all have my email address and phone number (on the "contact" link of this site). Use us. We'll talk you all up for days.

In the meantime, I think we'll be making one more appearance tonight for some beers and whatever's left of the food (I hear the brussels sprouts are kaput). I know the place is running pretty lean since it's closing week, judging my the kitchen staff bring food out to customers the other night. However, I hope to see you there if you happen to be around.

All our best,

Matt, Amy, Sam, and Emma
Ian - Matt (and duh FAM!), what a beautifully written piece. You really captured the ambiance of The Steer. I'm happy to have been able to facilitate some of those memories you created with us. From the family dinners to your Valentines Day meal. People like you made the The Steer worth working at. We're going to miss the place as much as you. We've become a family and losing our home has been a very emotional rollercoaster. We thank you for your patronage, your families lighthearted, always understanding mentality and Emma's hit and miss debilitating shyness that would break my heart whenever it took hold. We'll see you guys on the other side.

Ian
Matt Blasing - A big hat's off to you too, Chris. I appreciate how The Steer was able to provide more than the traditional "bar food," as my family's not hip enough to desire going outside to grab something from a food truck. As much as we went there (which Emma or Caroline or Ian can testify), it's amazing we all don't weigh 300lbs each.

I appreciate you and your entire crew. Shake off what the pessimists are saying on Facebook. Your crew was the bomb, at least from my experience.

And yes, knowing how to make baby bird peas would be invaluable. And if it's not too much, if you gave a helping hand on the mac & cheese, my daughter would be eternally grateful. :)
Chris Horne - I've been the prep cook here since the beginning, basically if you've ever eaten at the steer you've had something i made, at least in part. I just wanted to say thank you for your kind words Matt. It means alot to know that at least someone out there got what we were trying to do and enjoyed it. If there's one there must be others.

Thanks again Matt Blasing, if we ever meet up I'll tell you how to make those mushy peas, you have my word.
Matt Blasing - Thank you so much, Theresa. For most customers, we don't care what's happening behind the scenes as an excuse for a negative experience.

As a side note, my hat's off to you if you've been the one preparing my food. I'd always talk this place up commenting how it serves so much more than plain old "bar food." The food here had a style all its own, and I commend you for contributing to the reason we walk out the door satisfied every single time.

Please feel free to share with your co-workers (I posted the link on my Facebook page) if you think it'll help get their spirits up during this last week.

You also deserve ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS, Theresa. ;)
Theresa - As an employee in the kitchen I'd like to say thank you so much for your kind words about The Steer, it's been upsetting and frustrating reading all the negative things when so many great people are losing their jobs. Everyone is entitled to their opinions but at the end of the day this was our livelihood and how we supported ourselves and family! It's nice to know there are respectful people left in road world!!!