Ever look at a building and think hey, that’s pretty big, only to then go inside and realize just how enormous it is? Yeah, that happened to the Crew on Tuesday afternoon as we visited the massive expansion building at Marble downtown. Bharley Quinn and I, plus our intrepid staff photographer Mario Caldwell, got a full tour from Marble owner Ted Rice.
Once we had some Imperial Stouts in hand, we navigated through the original brewing area into the massive new addition. It will be open to the general public on Wednesday, Feb. 10, with a DJ, pours of this year’s edition of Brett IPA, and plenty of food. (Marble will have more details soon, which we will update here and on social media.)
The 7,000-foot expansion is nearly ready. They have begun moving fermenters inside, work on the new centrifuge is underway, the towering walk-in cooler is in place, and a whole lot more. So until everyone else can check it out, here is an advance tour.
“These are our three new 150-barrel tanks, made by Silver Springs Stainless in Reno, Nevada,” Ted said. “We moved these tanks in on Friday. These are the 120s that were outdoors. We’re going to move the other two 120s ideally this (next) Monday.”
The 150s are somewhat unique in their design.
“They have the cone doors here (on the bottom), as opposed to the traditional person portal on the side,” Ted said. “We can do five brews in a day to fill these up.
“The plan is to have 14 (total) fermenters and two bright tanks. So, this is phase one of tank delivery. Phase two will be in April and phase three will be in like July.”
While the fermenters will be contained almost entirely in the new space, Marble will have something else to fill up the existing space in the original building. The two buildings are now connected, with a big hole cut in the wall where the old walk-in cooler used to be.
“The canning line is going to come in in April, and that’s going to go over in the existing space,” Ted said. “I’ll sell off my smaller tanks to breweries around town, basically the 30s, the 45s. I’m still going to retain some 60-barrel tanks, maybe a couple 30s, to do little things.
“But, this is the space (for fermentation). We went for durability. We tiled the floor, stainless steel trench drains.”
The one busy area of the expansion area was around a key piece of new technology.
“The guys are here doing the centrifuge install,” Ted explained of the workers buzzing around the equipment along the south wall of the expansion. “The centrifuge will pull all the beer out of the tank. We’ll get a higher yield. What goes in the tank will be 100-percent usable. All of the beer remains unfiltered, but this accelerates that process.”
The southeast corner of the expansion actually features a second floor/mezzanine area that is divided in three parts.
“This open space area here is what I’m calling the brewers’ lounge,” Ted said. “Now we have a dedicated area for employees, both front-of-house and back-of-house, to take a break and relax. We’re going to have a direct-draw cooler over here, so we’ll have beer on tap. We’ll have some couches, lounge chairs, chill out, listen to the sound of fermentation, and enjoy your co-workers.”
Along the east wall, near the giant floor-to-ceiling windows, will also be a conference room for the staff to use. They will be able to look over the fermentation hall, the forthcoming rooftop deck, and can gaze all the way to the Sandias.
On the other side of the brewers’ lounge is a full-sized laboratory.
“This will be our new lab space,” Ted said. “Right now our lab space has been cannibalized by the front-of-house staff as well. That happened with our renovations last year. We’re looking forward to an upgrade for lab space. We’re going to get a brewer’s desk in here, but we’re also going to get a clean bench, so that way you can work with samples and not worry about contamination. You can get a clean reading of what’s in your beer. These are going to be stainless steel countertops and those are … past due.”
Across the way, behind the fermenters along much of the north wall, is a massive walk-in cooler that nearly runs floor to ceiling.
“We’re going to have shelving in here and stack beer high,” Ted said. “This building is all about height. Marble Brewery has basically outgrown its footprint here.”
Also along the north wall is a garage door to the outside.
“A couple game-changers in this new space,” Ted said. “One is the centrifuge, two is having the additional capacity to keep up, three is having loading docks, like a real brewery does. We’ll be able to roll it onto a truck.”
Marble’s neighbors will thank them for no longer blocking Marble Ave. at the old south entry to the brewery.
For now the expansion seems spacious, but “once this is full of tanks and the canning line is installed over there, it’s going to be functional but cozy once again,” Ted added.
The entire project has taken place during the right time of year for Marble. January and February are traditionally slow months for beer sales, so any drop in production will not have a tangible effect.
“NDC (National Distributing Company) has a little bit of stock on hand, so shelves aren’t starving to death,” Ted said. “We’ve slowed down a little bit, but we’re going to come back with a vengeance.”
In addition to the expansion, workers are already beginning work on the foundation for the forthcoming rooftop deck that will go over the taproom. They are working on the south area now, with the north side work coming after the last two fermenters are moved inside. The deck still projects to be ready for occupancy by April. Also, the Westside Taproom’s renovations will be complete this week, and Ted said that the Northeast Heights taproom will be complete by May or June.
“It’s going to be a big kaboom sound this summer,” Ted said.
Overall, it will be a busy few months for Marble, but once it is all complete, it should be smooth sailing for a while.
And yeah, Ted said he will finally take a vacation. (But honestly, we’ll believe that when we see it.)
Until next Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony …