Marble aims to hold a steady course in 2014 after a busy 2013

Posted: December 16, 2013 by cjax33 in Look Back/Look Ahead Series 2013-14
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Welcome to our fourth entry in the Look Back/Look Ahead Series for 2013-14. This series is designed to give a recap, from the breweries themselves, of 2013 while also previewing all that is to come in 2014. We have already visited La Cumbre, Bosque, and Kaktus, so click the links if you missed the stories.

Armed with my trusty digital recorder, notepad, and a pint of Josh’s Brown Lager (recommended by, uh, well, Josh himself), I sat down at Marble’s downtown pub to chat with co-founder John Gozigian about how this past year has treated the ABQ area’s largest brewery. It was another year of steady growth, and all the challenges that come with that, for Marble.

All the equipment a beer writer needs to properly conduct an interview.

All the equipment a beer writer needs to properly conduct an interview.

Reflecting on 2013

When I write that Marble is big, I’m not kidding. The brewery churned out 12,750 barrels of beer this year, up 2,000 barrels from 2012.

“Despite the two new fermenters we have outside, we were totally maxed out,” John said. “Summertime was very challenging. We were still distributing throughout Colorado. Here in Albuquerque and in Santa Fe our own distribution picked up. I thought we had plateaued, but we’re up about 17 to 20 percent in our own territory.

“Nationally we were up 100 percent over the past year. So we were strapped. We say over and over it’s a great problem to have, but it was so hectic.”

Eventually that led to the tough decision to withdraw Marble from most of the Front Range (Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, etc.) portion of Colorado. John said Marble will still distribute its beers in Southwest Colorado, including Durango, Teluride, and Cortez.

Marble also switched distributors in Arizona to Hensley, which proved to be a positive change.

“They do a really great job for us,” John said. “They’re very conscious that we’re small and they don’t order truckloads of beer. They’ve taken a very measured approach, getting us into the right accounts, into the right stores.”

The current edition of Marble's Imperial Stout has been a Brew Crew favorite.

The current edition of Marble’s Imperial Stout has been a Brew Crew favorite.

Selling beer in stores is still not a problem for Marble, but outside of New Mexico finding space for keg accounts has become tougher. Then again, it is tougher for almost anyone trying to cast a wide net of distribution as more and more local breweries begin to distribute.

“Quite honestly now it’s getting harder and harder to get draft placements outside your home territory because there’s so many local places,” John said. “And rightfully so, they’re going to get those draft placements. Unless it’s a true beer bar with 40 to 50 beers on tap, I’m thinking of the smaller places between four and 10 handles they could be totally filled up with local players and that’s awesome. That’s what we see here and around the country, too.”

In the end, though, that can actually benefit Marble’s original customer base in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

“We always take care of our (taproom) locations first,” John said. “Our local distribution customers are a close second. Everybody beyond that, they get what (we have available). We always want a large selection here at our taprooms. We want our own draft and package customers here and in Santa Fe to always have that.”

The local demand is big enough, which has kept John and the rest of the Marble command staff busy trying to help Ted, Josh, and the rest of the brewers.

“We just added more capacity,” John said. “We just another 120 a couple weeks ago, a fermenter, and a 120-barrel bright tank which is really going to help our turnover. It’s going to add another 20 percent capacity probably. I think that’s all we need. We’re not going to go out and try to sell that (extra 20 percent), we’re going to use that to fill in the gaps that we currently have.”

It is getting a little crowded, equipment-wise, in Marble's brewery as they try to keep up with demand.

It is getting a little crowded, equipment-wise, in Marble’s brewery as they try to keep up with the demands of a thirsty public.

The toughest task now is trying to fit new equipment into the existing brewery.

“It’s been a challenge figuring out how to make a building expansion work, but there’s other ways to do it,” John said. “One way or another, we’ll keep adding capacity as we need to. But it’s never been part of our philosophy to just go nuts and just build. We’d rather grow organically and just add capacity as we need it. That being said I think it would be nice if it could happen a little faster.”

Even at capacity, Marble is still able to churn out some award-winning beers.

“Our Double IPA won a silver (medal) at the Great British Beer Festival this year, after having won gold last year,” John said. “They like it over in England, especially on cask.

“We got a couple more GABF medals this year (for the Pilsner and Thunder From Dortmunder), which is awesome. We try not to get too hung up on those because we don’t focus really on brewing to style. Our brewers back there, they like to brew beers that are interesting and taste good. But not necessarily rigidly style-specific.”

Marble also had a little fun with a notable pop culture tie-in this year.

“It was a good year for recognition,” John said. “We got a ton of attention for the Breaking Bad tribute beers, which were really cool. Those we made for fun, because we love the show. We didn’t try to ride the coattails of the success of the show. We didn’t put them in package or try to make a ton of money off them. We did it in the pub and the taprooms and that’s it.”

Marble is working hard to keep its customers, near and far, supplied with lots of good beer.

Marble is working hard to keep its customers, near and far, supplied with lots of good beer.

Preparing for big things in 2014

If there was a down note in 2013, it was the news that Marble’s Santa Fe taproom is closing. Fans of Marble in the state capital should not worry, though, John said.

“One of the lowlights was the loss of our Santa Fe taproom, (but) I think we’re getting pretty close to another location there,” he said. “That’s going to turn out to be a silver lining, a blessing in disguise. Despite the fact that that location did really well, a lot of the customers that came in there they were looking up from the plaza and saw a beautiful patio with umbrellas and people drinking and eating something and they decided to be there. We spent half of our time there educating people that we were a craft beer bar.

“Our sales were good but it was not like a typical taproom (clientele). We want people who are specifically there for beer. So wherever we end up it will be more along those lines. We want to serve the local clientele than try to focus on tourists. Not that we were trying to focus on tourists, that’s just what we got. We had a lot of regulars, too, but they’ll be willing to go anywhere.”

Marble also established its West Side Taproom in 2013, and now has plans to expand that site in 2014.

Marble will be present at just about all the beer festivals again in 2014.

Marble will be present at just about all the beer festivals again in 2014.

“We’re moving into the adjacent space, which is currently a nail salon,” John said. “We’re going to make our bar, which is currently one-sided, two-sided or a U-shaped bar. So we’re going to use both sides of the space. We’re going to put in some booths, shuffleboard, darts. We’re going to really make it a place to come hang out.”

Beyond that, Marble will continue to hold its course, brewing up new and exciting beers while resurrecting old seasonal favorites. The brewery will continue to work with local charities and other businesses, while providing live music once the weather warms up again.

Marble will be present at the Taos Brew Masters Festival on Saturday to finish off the 2013 festival season, and they will also attend WinterBrew in Santa Fe in January as well as two major festivals in Phoenix and Tucson in the late winter/early spring.

* * * *

Thanks to John for taking time out of his busy day to chat. And thanks to Josh for pointing out his Brown Lager while he was on his way out the door to go have lunch. Twas delicious.

In a slight adjustment to our schedule for this series, Broken Bottle’s entry has been (slightly) delayed, so Nexus will probably run Tuesday late afternoon, and Sandia Chile Grill will be Thursday. You’ll have The Week Ahead in Beer in between on Wednesday to keep you entertained.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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Comments
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