For Santa Fe Brewing Co., 2019 could be noted as a milestone year.
New Mexico’s oldest and largest craft brewery has continued to grow since it started more than 30 years ago, establishing four sites and steadily increasing production. This year, however, it has multiplied its production capacity fivefold and turned its southwest-side brewing facility into a large-scale craft brew destination.
On Friday, the brewery will open a 60,000-square-foot outdoor beer garden and two-level, 7,000-square-foot beer hall in a three-story building with one floor of offices. The projects are the finishing touches of a five-year expansion at the company’s headquarters on Fire Place, off N.M.14 and Interstate 25.
“I’m just trying to create a place in Santa Fe that can be a brewery destination that is unlike any of the experiences you might have at a brew pub,” owner Brian Lock said. “You can have that experience in any other city. This stands out.”
The beer hall, with 32 taps, can serve about 220 people, with an 18-foot community table on the first level and a banquet hall with seating for 50 on the second level.
“You can look through the windows behind the bar and see the canning line run in real time,” Lock said. “The windows across the hall show the serving tanks tapped to pour right into a pint at the bar, and on the second floor, you can look right into the new brewhouse.”
The new brewhouse will allow the company to ramp up its production. The beer hall also has a retail area with packaged beer, along with Santa Fe Brewing Co.-branded shirts, caps, jewelry, coolers and DISC-IT grills.
Lock has been producing Santa Fe Brewing Co.’s beer at the southwest-side site since 2005, using a 30-barrel brewhouse that produced 32,000 barrels last year — more than any other New Mexico brewery. This year, Santa Fe Brewing will reach 36,000 barrels.
Lock knew he was heading toward capacity seven years ago when he mapped out a five-year plan to build a new brewhouse, a new canning facility that opened in October 2016, and the beer hall and beer garden.
The company’s new 70-barrel, automated brewhouse, from Germany-based Krones, went online in October. It can run 24 hours a day and has a capacity of 180,000 barrels a year, Lock said. He anticipates brewing 42,000 or 43,000 barrels in 2020.
The prior milestone year for Santa Fe Brewing was in 2010, when it became the first New Mexico craft brewery to can its own beer. Its annual production then was about 7,000 barrels. Lock now ships beer across New Mexico and to Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and Utah.
“I have always had a mindset if you’re not growing, you’re dying,” Lock said Monday . “The craft beer industry is so much more competitive than it was even five years ago. For us to stay relevant in a very crowded market, we have to be innovative and come up with new and interesting products on a regular basis.”
Santa Fe Brewing is among 13 craft breweries in the city and 81 across New Mexico that are members of the New Mexico Brewers Guild.
A new entry in the Santa Fe market, Nuckolls Brewing, plans a spring opening at the Railyard.
Santa Fe Brewing also operates The Brakeroom, 510 Galisteo St.; the Eldorado Taproom at La Tienda retail center; The Bridge event center at its headquarters ; and Santa Fe Brewing at Green Jeans Farmery in Albuquerque.
Lock plans to open a second Albuquerque taproom in March at Tin Can Alley at Alameda Boulevard and San Pedro Drive, and make his first incursion into Las Cruces across from the Pan American Center. Construction is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2020, and he hopes for an opening in the first quarter of 2021.
Santa Fe Brewing also has more plans for its headquarters campus, where it has relied on food trucks to bring dining options to The Bridge.
“With this type of investment, it would be better to have our own food program,” Lock said.
He is installing a kitchen in a shipping container that should be open in March. Until then, Santa Fe Brewing will operate its own food truck serving green chile fries, a variety of street tacos and elote, or Mexican street corn.
The new outdoor beer garden will have a large grassy area “where you can throw a blanket and kick a ball around,” Lock said. There will be 12 rock benches, a kid’s area and a sunken fire pit with two-step bench seating .
The five-year project cost “more than $5 million,” Lock said, declining to give a specific number.
Mike Levis launched Santa Fe Brewing in 1988 as the first microbrewery in New Mexico. Lock and three partners acquired it in 1996, and Lock bought out his partners in 2003.
He acquired the former Wolf Canyon Brewery property on Fire Place in 2004 and started brewing there a year later.
The company brews eight beers year-round but has a rotation of 40 beers, including seasonal and experimental brews. Lock said the larger brewhouse will allow him to create more experimental beers.
Courtesy of the Santa Fe New Mexican. Written by Teya Vitu. Link to original article: https://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/localnews/santa-fe-brewing-beer-hall-opening/article76034208-1e00-11ea-9bef-036566a97690.html