Santa Fe Brewing shares all the details on their massive planned expansion

Posted: September 11, 2014 by cjax33 in Beer in Santa Fe, Interviews, News

There was a big moment last week where Santa Fe Brewing announced its long-in-the-works plans for a major expansion. It was even covered by the mainstream media, seeing as how Governor Martinez was there and everything. And what did we all get to read about? Tesla. Yeah, the car battery factory mess was repeated in a story that should have provided details about our state’s largest brewery and their plans to get even bigger and better. So to help answer all those burning questions about what’s going on at SFBC, I trekked north Wednesday afternoon and met up with our Santa Fe correspondent for the Brew Crew Bullpen, Luke, and together we sat down with SFBC’s Alana Jones to get all the pertinent details on this planned expansion.

This will be the future look of Santa Fe Brewing. The offices and brewery will be in the existing building on the left. The new taproom, with a full patio and outdoor stage, will be in the center. The canning line and warehouse will be on the right.

This will be the future look of Santa Fe Brewing. The offices and brewery will be in the existing building on the left. The new taproom, with a full patio and outdoor stage, will be in the center. The canning line and warehouse will be on the right in a huge new extension.

Q: Most people are still interested in knowing the what, when, where, how. Take us through how this expansion is going to work.

Alana: So we’re thinking of it as kind of a two-phased expansion. The first phase will address the bottleneck that we currently have, which is our canning line. We plan on hopefully breaking ground on a new packaging hall/warehouse space in the next few months. We’re waiting on building permits. We would build that new building and then buy a new high-speed canning line. That would be kind of the first initial part of the expansion.

A high-speed canning line would really allow us to dig deeper into the markets we already sell in and then to launch new markets. Eventually the pressure would then shift to our brewhouse capacity. Because we’ll be able to add fermenters as we need them. We have a 30-barrel brewhouse now. We’re brewing about four days a week or so, three or four days a week, 24 hours a day on our brewhouse. Once we got to 24-7, then we would need to upgrade our brewhouse. That would be the second phase of the expansion. We haven’t decided what size brewhouse we’ll go with yet. But we’ve been thinking probably in the 100-barrel range.

Once we got to that point, we would probably also be hurting for some more warehouse space and would do an additional warehouse building onto the expansion.

(At this point Alana showed us the drawing you can see above and guided us through how things would now work. We’ve added directional markers to help you try and envision what she showed us.)

We would do an extension onto the existing building. This would be our new tasting room (in the middle) that would be a lot larger. Offices (on left) and sandwiched between eventually the new brewhouse that goes here (left of center) and the new packaging line that would be here (right of center). When you’re in the tasting room you can look onto both sides of the operation, which would be really cool.

Big outdoor patio area, big outdoor stage. When we first built this building our retail business was very small. It was kind of an afterthought. It would be very exciting for us to have an actual destination tasting room.

So we’re trying to get the canning line up and going as soon as possible. As far as the brewhouse portion I don’t want to give you a date on that yet because it’s just unclear how fast it’s going to happen. But eventually the goal is to have a capacity of 200,000 barrels on one.

A little more warehouse space could certainly help SFBC.

A little more warehouse space could certainly help SFBC.

Q: We had seen you had hoped to get to 200,000. Has there been any logistical stuff getting in the way so far? Any licensing issues? What have been the hoops you’ve had to jump through?

Alana: Building permit has been the big hoop. In order to do this project we’d have to tap into the city sewer. That’s another … there’s a lot of issues with the sewer that runs (near) here. It was owned privately and then it was owned by the city but it’s on county property. Basically the city and the county have to come to some sort of agreement about that line in order for us to move forward, to tap into it. That was proven a lengthy process.

That’s one of the big hurdles we need to overcome. At this point we are a septic system and we spend about $70,000 a year dealing with that. And that’s at 20,000 barrels. So we’re talking about more than 50,000 barrels, 100,000 barrels, we need to be in that sewer system.

We’re already looking into the water treatment plant which is actually what sparked this whole LEDA (Local Economic Development Assistance) Fund thing, was Brian (Lock) was starting applications for LEDA Funds to build the water treatment plant.

Q: A big part of the news last week was that you’ll be adding up to 105 jobs. What types of jobs are you going to be adding?

Alana: I imagine that we’ll just grow (naturally). I’ve been shocked at departments that I never thought we would need. Suddenly we need a warehouse department. That was always whoever is closest to the forklift would do it. I’m sure there will be things we haven’t even thought of that will come up. Some things that I would like to see would be expanding our lab program and maybe even having a sensory lab as its own department. I would also like to see our sales team get more filled out, especially for out-of-state markets. I’d love to have an HR (human resources) person so I wouldn’t have to do HR anymore, which is my dream. I’m sure there will be a lot of exciting new jobs coming up here and then of course adding onto existing staff.

Q: I know it’s hard to set any dates since you’re relying on people and agencies outside your control, but what is the hopeful date for the start of this expansion?

Alana: Well, I believe that we’re hoping we can have the new canning line up and going in about a year. So by the end of 2015, let’s say that we would be running our new line.

SFBC isn't kidding when they say Happy Camper IPA accounts for more than half of their production.

SFBC isn’t kidding when they say Happy Camper IPA accounts for more than half of their production.

Q: You walk into a lot of Albuquerque breweries right now and the seasonal lists are shrinking because they are at full capacity brewing their beers for packaging/distribution. How much is this an issue with SFBC?

Alana: Our Happy Camper IPA is our bread and butter. It’s more than half of all of our total sales. So we’re trying to do these other projects in order to prevent brewer IPA fatigue. So we started this Ever Changing Series. … That’s only going to be in New Mexico and we’re going to do one every quarter. It’s almost like doing another seasonal but it’s much smaller quantities than our seasonal so it can be more creative. There will be some on tap in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, very select accounts, maybe four of them. It will be very selective who gets this, only the best accounts for us. We do the ECS and for all of our releases there’s a lot of R&D that goes into it. We don’t just come up with a recipe and brew it on our big system. We brew it on our small system, let everyone taste it, we tweak it, we brew it again. So the brewers in addition to brewing Happy Camper IPA several days a week get to go on the small system. Right now they just did a wet-hop beer yesterday with local, New Mexico-grown hops. They just did a doppelbock today. They’re getting the opportunity to do a lot more fun, creative things. We really encourage that because otherwise you probably would get burned out.

Q (from Luke): What’s going to happen to the Los Innovadores series?

Alana: That’s still going. We have the Kriek out now. And I just tasted yesterday the single-barrel. We alternate between the Kriek and the single-barrel. The new single-barrel is amazing. I’m excited about it. We’re also going to be releasing a wild porter that was oak-aged as well for several months. It’s pretty nice as well. We’re just doing more and more in our barrel-aging program. Eventually that will be a whole department of its own, for sure.

So many beautiful barrels aging so many wonderful beers at SFBC.

So many beautiful barrels aging so many wonderful beers at SFBC.

Q: I think that pretty much covers everything. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Alana: Our goal is to be a national brand. And then also an exporter. We want to get the Santa Fe name out there. I think we’re well on our way. I think it’s exciting. Fun times around here. Crazy times.

* * * *

Luke got to try the Double White IPA that will be the first in the ECS series (I could not due to allergy-related reasons with the orange peel it’s infused with) and he rather loved it. How much? It’s one of the first times I’ve seen him give anything five stars on Untappd.

And thank you, Monica, for making sure along with Alana that he got to sample from that bottle. It’s quite the beer and we’re looking forward to seeing what other mad scientist moments the SFBC crew can have with this series.

Here’s hoping the City of Santa Fe and Santa Fe County can work out their differences quickly so SFBC can move forward on round one of the expansion. It’s all another sign of how well the craft brewing scene in New Mexico is doing when breweries can plan on expanding this ambitiously.

We’ll keep everyone up to date on SFBC’s progress. Thank you to Alana for taking time out of her very busy schedule to chat with us. Thank you to Max and Josh for keeping us updated for The Week Ahead in Beer. And thank you to everyone working tirelessly behind the scenes at SFBC to keep us all satiated with copious amounts of great beer.


— Stoutmeister

  1. […] quite a lot in the works, and just in case you missed it last week, here’s the lowdown on SFBC’s massive expansion plans. — […]

  2. […] Fe Brewing Co. had a great year. Taking a look forward, the last interviews the Crew did were about plans for expansion for the brewery and plans for the Albuquerque taproom. How are those coming […]

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