By: Rob McCorkle
Patrons of this Mesilla brewpub have a window on the world, whether seated inside or at umbrella tables on the front patio. Gaze beyond the busy Avenida de Mesilla and Calle de Sur (University Avenue) intersection to the mesmerizing spires of the Organ Mountains that punctuate the distant horizon.
The Spotted Dog is my neighborhood “Cheers” watering hole since I live only a mile away. I jokingly tell my friends, the brewpub is so close I could crawl home. Those who recall the hit TV series filmed in a Boston pub will appreciate a nod to postman Cliff Clavin’s discourse on The Buffalo Theory that hangs on the wall in the men’s restroom. It posits that drinking beer makes you smarter. (To refresh your brain cells on the theory, see “The Buffalo Theory” ). I’m not sure if the supposition holds true, but drinking Spotted Dog’s libations makes me happy.
Jerry and Susan Grandle’s microbrewery, which opened September 2014, employs a five-barrel system. Seven varieties of unfiltered flagship beers share taps with half a dozen Seasonal (brewed 1 to 4 times a year) and Throwback brews that rotate on and off the menu. No bottled or canned interlopers here, just the carefully crafted real deal.
The Grandles’ business is named for their bluetick hound Ryleigh. Jerry, a native New Mexican, was a home brewer for 14 years before taking h is passion commercial. He shares brewmaster duties with Garrett Denmark. Susan handles the bookkeeping. Spotted Dog is closed Mondays and Tuesdays due to limited brewhouse space tucked into the rear room of the small corner building that has experienced many reincarnations over the decades. Spotted Dog received the Runner-Up Reader’s Choice Award for best local craft brewery in the 2016 Las Cruces Sun-News Best of Las Cruces poll.
Location: 2920 Avenida de Mesilla
Wednesday/Thursday: 11:30 A.M. – 10:30 P.M.
Friday/Saturday: 11:30 A.M. – Midnight
Sunday: 12:30 P.M. – 8:30 P.M.
Phone: (575) 650-2729
Due to the brewpub’s proximity, I frequent the Spotted Dog on a regular basis and have tried more than a dozen styles of Grandle’s wizardry. Of the seven house beers, I typically lean toward the easy-drinking, caramel-tasting Amber Ale made with roasted barley, crystal malt and a light dose of Fuggles and Goldings hops. More recently I have been stretching my taste buds by trying other varieties. The seasonal Pumpkin Ale proved a surprisingly tasty and refreshing late fall beer. I have begun ordering a tasting flight of 4-ounce pours of 4 different brews to expand my horizon. During an early February visit, I sampled the Rye Ale, Red Ale, Brown Ale and Brown Porter with the Red Ale earning a pint pour. I find the Throwbacks (beers regularly rotated in and out of the lineup) intriguing and an incentive to keep coming back to see what’s on tap. More than once, I have headed home with a growler filled with the dark, toasty, but lightly hopped 80 Shilling Scottish Ale that appears as a Throwback offering on occasion.
Jerry says Spotted Dog fans can check the website, regularly updated by the Grandle’s daughter Katy, to see what seasonal and rotating beers are being poured in any given week.
To talk with the Spotted Dog owner is to receive a lesson on beer taxonomy and its centuries-old history. He easily discourses on such topics as Belgian-style beers, wort density, the difference between farmhouse styles and trippels, and the variety of sugars that affect yeasts in different ways to impart various flavors. Jerry often finds the history of a certain kind of beer the inspiration behind his creation. He notes his Milk Stout uses lactose sugar to create a style of brew developed about 1912 in England.
“We just brewed a Braggot beer that we’ll release in about a year that mimics earlier fermented beverages dating to the 12th century, which were mead, or honey, beers,” Jerry says. “They would spice beer with wormwood or heather, and then in Europe they discovered spicing with hops.”
It’s the trendy, hoppier brews – like the house IPA – that reign as Spotted Dog’s most popular style. Jerry explains that his house IPA tends more toward a balanced, British-style, which is not as much of an “in-your-face, palate-wrecking” beer as West Coast IPAs. His IPA strives for a balance between hoppy and malty. “You can taste the grain, taste the hops and feel the presence of the alcohol.” Other top-sellers at Spotted Dog include the Amber and Cream ales, the Milk Stout and Belgian Wit. The Wit, a wheat ale, is brewed with the zest of 64 freshly grated tangerines, and 7 grapefruits, as well as 9 ounces of freshly ground coriander.
Show your fondness for everything Spotted Dog by sporting a short-sleeved or long-sleeved tee or a cap. Take home your favorite brew in an uninsulated or insulated glass or stainless steel growler. Go retro by snagging one of the unique souvenir ceramic steins that I’ve been eyeing on recent visits. Jerry plans to stock ceramic growlers by Thanksgiving.
A typical afternoon at the two-year-old establishment finds an eclectic group of imbibers – university co-eds, camo-clad soldiers, cigar-puffing old-timers outside, cyclists completing a training ride and Highway 28-touring bikers rolling up on gleaming “hogs” – all seeking a convivial spot to chat, soak in the scenery and have a bite and brew. A number of Mesilleros even walk in from nearby neighborhoods. Some regulars perch atop one of the barstools in front of the taps to keep an eye on the flatscreen TV and chat up the bartender. The sounds of country music (Bruce Robison, Dwight Yoakum, etc.) and Southern rock (Charlie Daniels and the like) often permeate the air. Many opt to dine and drink at one of the half dozen tables or four corner bistro tables ideal for people watching. Others prefer the fresh air, grabbing a table on the dog-friendly front patio shaded from hot afternoon sun and heated on colder days. The overflow on busy days heads for the new and more secluded side patio.
Tom Drake’s former food truck operation has moved inside. His inventive menu, which can be viewed on his Colloquium pages on Facebook, feature a variety of dishes that elevates Spotted dog’s fare beyond common pub grub. While you can always find faves like the green chile cheeseburger and green chile Philly, Tom rotates 2 to 4 items weekly to keep things interesting. He uses only Angus beef for his patties and fresh ingredients to elevate his burger roster to a higher level. I can personally vouch for a couple of the surprisingly filling appetizers, including the Cajun BBQ Hog Wings and Beggar’s Purse (small shrimp wrapped in a crunchy wonton pocket perfect for dipping in sweet-tangy sauce). My other favorites include the killer Cuban sandwich (pulled pork, Black Forest ham and Swiss), Green Chile Philly (wow) and Green Chile Cheeseburger (one of the area’s best). Most sandwiches come with a side of crisp, but not overdone fries, but if you want to ramp things up, ask for the garlic fries (you might check with your significant other before ordering.) Vegans have several options, such as the black bean and portabella burger. Other creative dishes of note include Maple Waffle Chicken Fritters, Island Coconut Shrimp with sesame slaw and Asian Pork Tacos.