Marble rolls through one year of transition into a potentially explosive 2016

Posted: December 15, 2015 by cjax33 in Look Back/Look Ahead Series 2015-16
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We took this picture of Marble's massive downtown expansion in November; it has progressed even further since.

We took this picture of Marble’s massive downtown expansion in late October; it has progressed much further since.

If anyone out there thinks that 2015 was a massive year for Marble, just wait, because 2016 could be massive. For this next entry in our Look Back/Look Ahead Series for 2015-16 (following La Cumbre, Bosque, Tractor, and Distillery 365), I sat down with Marble owner Ted Rice, head brewer Josh Trujillo, beer ambassador Tony Calder, and marketing and events coordinator Elyse Cushman this past Friday. Basically, this was one of those interviews where I did not have to ask many questions; instead, I just let Ted tell the story of what was and what will be for Marble.

“What did we do? Let’s see, we closed our Santa Fe taproom in May,” Ted began. “That was a temporary location and our ideal location didn’t open up. That pop-up location was too small to justify its presence.

“On a high note of 2015, we remodeled our pub at 111 in April. So that was a beautiful transformation. I’m really proud of that. It’s paid off well.”

Certainly for the loyal patrons, the improvements in the taproom have more than paid off. That does not even include the staff, who now have a lot more room to work with one another behind the bar. Leah, Patrick, and the rest have had to find new ways to keep limber instead of constantly dodging one another without spilling a drop.

The vastly improved downtown taproom has been a boon to patrons and the staff.

The vastly improved downtown taproom has been a boon to patrons and the staff.

Of course, the biggest issue for Marble in 2015 has been production. The brewery has been capped in terms of how much beer it can make, all due to space issues and the like. Ted provided one good example of just how crowded it is in the back.

“We did not add one piece of equipment, which has been a rarity over the years,” Ted said. “It’s because we didn’t have room, our space didn’t have room to put anything else. I can’t remember the last time I added a tank. It might have been 2013.

“We’ve been running at capacity pretty much since day one. To run at capacity and not add another tank begged some serious analysis on what to do in the meantime.”

The unfortunate consequence of that, in terms of beer production, has been noticeable.

“We decided to scale back on our Pilsner production, unfortunately,” Ted said. “We love that beer, that beer has received numerous accolades.”

The flip side of less Pilsner has meant more Double White, so at least there is that. For those wondering why, pilsners are lagers, which require a longer fermentation time than ales like Double White. That in turn led to the fact that Marble should hit the 15,000-barrel mark for the first time. Technically, that makes Marble a regional brewery in the eyes of the Brewers Association, though as Ted pointed out, more than 90 percent of all their beer sold is only in New Mexico. They still distribute in a limited amount only in Arizona and Southwest Colorado.

Of course, as anyone walking by the downtown location has seen by now, Marble is in the midst of a sizable expansion. Scroll below for more on when that expansion will be complete and what it will mean.

The Westside taproom, which always brings out smiles in the staff, is in the process of another major expansion.

The Westside taproom, which always brings out smiles in the staff, is in the process of another major expansion.

In another 2015 move, a quite recent one, in fact, Marble has been working on further improvements at their popular Westside taproom.

“Two weeks ago, we started construction on our second Westside taproom expansion,” Ted said. “That project is going to once again double the square footage. So we’re going to move from 2,000 square feet to 4,000 square feet. Expanded patio, we’re going to add a new cooler over there to hold kegs. We’re going to add another bar and we’re also going to install a full-sized stage indoors. Right now we have this little corner stage, (instead) we’ll be able to have a full Marble music experience at the Westside. That is on track for complete in early March. I think we’re going to have a grand opening party on March 17. We’ve been extremely well received on the West Side and we’re trying to carry our style all around the city.”

Like any big brewery, there are always personnel moves to deal with. Marble recently lost one brewer, but added to key staff members.

“One of our brewers, Dan Grissom, decided it was time for him to be closer to his family in Oregon,” Ted said. “We’re very sad to see him go, but proud to see him leave with some great skills and take those to another highly decorated brewery, the Pelican production brewery in Tillamook. He’s going to keep doing what he’s passionate about and keep working for another great player in the industry.”

New to the team are Tony, a well-known face in craft beer circles, and Elyse.

“We’re very happy to have Tony on board, bringing his distributor-side experience to the team,” Ted said. “Now he’s on the supplier side. Tony’s a huge champion of craft beer overall, so he is our new brand ambassador. When did you come on board?”

“October 5,” replied Tony, who previously worked for Premier Distributing. “For me, I’m very fortunate to be coming on at this stage of all this growth and transition. It’s remarkable, I had an idea with my previous employer just about good, local craft — particularly Marble, of course — it’s overwhelming when I’m out in the market seeing the demand for our beer. And our ability to get product to our distributor, which we constantly work on every day.”

Ted said that with Tony on board, Marble has shifted more of their volume toward draft taps instead of packaging.

“It’s your sample base, the on-premise draft sales gives that opportunity for a person who tries a Wildflower Wheat or an Imperial Red for the first time, then they see it in their grocery store and then they say, oh, I’ve had that,” Tony explained.

“Tony is coming into his own here at Marble and starting to really make his mark out in the market,” Ted added. “He understands what it means for the buyer and the distributor and the retailer. Tony’s going to be on the ground, feet firmly planted for 2016 whenever we’re ready to deliver to the market.”

The live music and other events will continue at Marble into 2016.

The live music and other events will continue at Marble into 2016.

As for Elyse, she has taken over multiple tasks for Marble.

“Elyse is in charge of booking bands and ensuring that we have a great lineup of chefs on wheels and working with the community players to give back to the community that gives to us,” Ted said.

Elyse added, “2016, I think right now, is kind of looking to get bigger, do bigger things, we’re always looking to improve. We have that local base that we really like with the music and the events that we throw.”

Nice lead in to the second half of this article …

New Northeast Heights taproom among the big moves for Marble in 2016

The news broke a while back that Marble was opening a new taproom on Montgomery, just east of Eubank. The bigger news is that it is not merely a taproom, but a new brewing location as well.

“We definitely like to create new things on a regular basis,” Ted said. “It’s been something we’ve been struggling with lately. We’ve been trying to keep up with wholesale demands and also taproom demands. So, that kind of leads over to the taproom that we’re opening on 9904 Montgomery.

“We just didn’t fully disclose we were installing a pilot brewery up there as well because we had received two conditional uses on the zoning from the City. I wanted those to go through approval before I started talking about what my vision was for that location.”

Marble is one of three businesses that will take over the former U.S. Post Office building. Slice Parlor, a Nob Hill staple, will be opening in one of the other slots; the third is TBA. As for Marble, Ted said they will take 7,000 square feet of space, including an outdoor beer garden. There will be room for a total of 300 seats inside and out. Back behind the bar area, there will be a 10-barrel brewing system installed with a specific purpose in mind.

“We’re going to do a lot of experimentation up there,” Ted said. “Once 111 is filled with fermenters that are geared for our classic series, that are going into cans and bottles and distributed around town, we’re not going to have room in the production schedule here to really flex our creative brain muscles. We love making IPA, Red, and Double White on a regular basis, but we like doing other things, too.

“The 10-barrel Premier brewing system, it’s equipped with a 15-barrel mash tun so we can do a bunch of high gravity beers with ease up there. We will keg most of the production from that facility and split it between three locations. We’re going to stock the taproom with as many oak barrels as possible. We’ll have barrel aging, we’ll do kettle souring, play with experimental hop varieties, yeast strains, all sorts of fun stuff.”

Specialty and seasonal beers like Reserve Ale will likely be produced at the forthcoming Northeast Heights location.

Specialty and seasonal beers like Reserve Ale will likely be produced at the forthcoming Northeast Heights location.

Ted and Josh said how they will staff the Heights brewhouse is to be determined. That project will not be completed until late spring/early summer, so the primary focus for now will be on the downtown expansion at 111. That expansion will be about more than just extra fermenters.

One neat piece of equipment is called Perfect Pitch, which will make adding the yeast a heck of a lot easier and more precise.

“This yeast counting and viability measuring device is going to allow us to flow yeast from cone to cone at the precise pitch rate based on the volume and gravity,” Ted said. “So, that’s a really nice addition. It’s going to be available early next year.”

Also on the list of added equipment is a centrifuge.

“Right now our beers are all unfiltered, and they’ll remain unfiltered (even) with the addition of a centrifuge,” Ted said. “A centrifuge is going to allow us to transfer the beer from fermenter to bright tank with a higher yield from the fermenter of 100-percent usable yield in the bright tank instead of our sediment from the finings that are in the bottom of the tank now. Then we’re just going to dial in the clarity that that centrifuge is going to yield to the process.

“It’s going to give us higher yields and cut down on our production time. Instead of us having to wait 24 to 48 hours for the beer to clear through gravity, it’s going to be centrifugally clarified.”

Equipment has been on the move around the downtown expansion.

Equipment has been on the move around the downtown expansion.

All of the new equipment and set-up will require a bit of an adjustment period for the brewing staff, but Josh said they are all looking forward to the challenge of creating a more efficient operation.

“It’s going to alleviate some of those shortages in the market,” Josh said. “We’ll be able to produce some of those high-demand products that we’re shifting towards. At the same time, hopefully it’s offering some new challenges for us on a larger scale. We’ll make sure to focus on 111 here first before really diving into the other endeavors, make sure this place is dialed in.”

Another change will come in terms of the canning line. The current set-up has to be assembled and disassembled on a regular basis, Ted said, lest it clog up the minimal available space in the brewery. With the expansion building, all of the fermenters will head out there, leaving a permanent space for the canning line.

“Then we’re going to open up our existing fermentation hall and turn that into our new wort production (and) packaging hall,” Ted said. “So, we (also) have a new canning line, it’s called the CFT. It’s a 12-head, 100 cans per minute filler. That’s going to be installed in April. That’s a counter-pressure filler, so our package stability and shelf life will be improved. Yields will be higher and our output will be extremely improved.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of equipment shuffling, installation, and training here in the short term. And, on boarding the right people and bringing them up to speed, all part of natural growth.”

While Marble will promote some people from within, they will be looking for some additional employees as needed. Sharpen those resumes, folks. Ted said there will be three phases of tank deliveries in 2016, with Marble planning to have the necessary people in place in advance of each arrival.

“I say (we need) six people,” Josh said. “Two experienced, two fluid, and two minions to get this place flowing so that we can focus our ideas on growing the place, dialing in procedures.”

“And fully incorporate them into our company culture,” Ted added.

“These things don’t just happen overnight,” Josh continued. “Even with experienced hands, you’ve got to make them comfortable with their environment to get their minds to make the right decisions.”

Marble plans to increase its supply of excellent beer in 2016, including this here Imperial Red, which has won medals at the Great American Beer Festival in back-to-back years.

Marble plans to increase its supply of excellent beer in 2016, including this here Imperial Red, which has won medals at the Great American Beer Festival in back-to-back years.

Ted said a major goal for 2016 is making sure Marble has a one-month-plus inventory of beer available for National Distributing to send out to the market. That will include two new cans.

“In that one month supply we’re also adding two new packages, which are Double White 12-ounce cans and Red Ale 12-ounce cans,” Ted said. “We’re also having 22-ounce bottles seasonal release calendar in 2016, which includes 12 releases, an aggressive release a month.”

The first of those seasonal releases will be the Imperial Stout on January 13. Next up will be another fan favorite that will be released to coincide with a major event.

“On February 10, we’re going to have a ribbon-cutting party for the new facility,” Ted said. “That’s a Wednesday and that’s also going to coincide with our Brett IPA release. I’m looking forward to giving tours of our new facility, passing out samples of one of our proudest creations, and we’re going to start construction on the rooftop deck this January. I’m anticipating having that open this spring.”

Elyse said there are plenty of additional events to look forward to early in 2016.

“On New Year’s Day we’re having a party with all local bands,” she said. “I’m trying to get some stuff going there, Saltine Ramblers, Buffalo Gals, and hopefully one other. We’re also releasing a mysterious barrel-aged beer that day.

“Other than that we have St. Patrick’s Day coming up and that’s always huge for us. So we’re in the works there.”

Ted added that the ever-popular Paddy McNitro will be on tap for that wonderful March holiday.

While work on the Westside renovation/expansion continues, Elyse said live music will be tabled for the time being, but one fun weekly event will continue.

“Over at the Westside, every Wednesday we do a special (food) pairing with beer,” Elyse said. We used to have music, but with the construction going we’ve stopped that for now, but the pairing is still going. It’s great to be able to involve all the food trucks with that.”

“We’re constantly creating new flavors and new experiences and new musical opportunities,” Ted said, a good way to wrap things up.

A big thanks to Ted, Josh, Tony, and Elyse for taking time out of their crazy schedules to chat. And of course for the Reserve Ale after the interview. Job perk!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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