As our Look Back/Look Ahead Series winds down, I would have been remiss to not stop by The 377 Brewery at Yale and Gibson. Luckily, brewer Lyna Waggoner and I found the time in our busy schedules to sit down and chat for a bit last week.
The 377 opened in late 2016 “with a bang,” only to slow down over the holidays, which is a similar fate most breweries endure, even those open for years.
“We got more and more busy (afterwards),” Lyna said. “I got that double gold at the Denver International Beer Competition. That boosted us on the Schwarz. We started really picking up. We had another rough Christmas (this year). Now we’re back to doing really great again.”
That early award helped bring some legitimacy to The 377. It also helped that the brewery embraced its location near the University of New Mexico, with big crowds coming in on the same days as many of the best football and basketball games. That helped open up the brewery to more people than just the tourists at the nearby airport-area hotels.
“What we really get are hotel people, (but) we’re starting to get where the city is starting to learn about our beers,” Lyna said. “These last two months, or last month-and-a-half, we’ve doubled over income every night. It’s not necessarily the hotel (crowd), it’s the late-night school people, the University (of New Mexico) and CNM. Last Wednesday night, all of a sudden, we made twice the amount of money from 6 to 10, and there was nobody in here at 6. We’re getting the crowd.”
Lyna said that bringing in a younger crowd is important to the future of The 377.
“I just think we need to maybe ‘millennialize’ this place a little bit, get some cool bands in here,” she said. “I need a marketer like crazy, (but) that’s not my decision. I’ve seen the way people do it. … It takes coordination, vision, the right person, and not somebody who’s serving beers and says I’ll call (the media).”
Getting more money is a big goal for the brewery in 2018 and beyond.
“We have new expanding (plans) that we’d like to do, bring in some investors, possibly,” Lyna said. “We have a food truck here that we have zoned. We already have plans for a kitchen that have been submitted to the City and is all ready to go, but we just don’t have the funds for it.”
Another example is the building itself. Right now, The 377 can only occupy 3,500 of the 8,000 available square feet. The City of Albuquerque would require the installation of a sprinkler system for any commercial space that exceeds 3,500.
“I thought we could use the back, but we can’t,” Lyna said. “This is an 8,000-square-foot building, but we can only use 3,500 unless we put in a sprinkler system. That’s a huge, huge (cost), so for me to delineate a spot back there for my (barrel) program, away from this, I’d have to be in the back. Right now it’s not working. I’m gearing up, I’m doing little things like adding brett to the bottles and things like that to get a sour profile.”
That barrel program that Lyna has started is in two parts. There is the one dedicated sour barrel, then three “clean” red wine and bourbon barrels. For now, though, there is not any additional room to add more.
“There is a little bit of room back there, but that’s where my barrels are going to go for the clean barrel program,” Lyna said. “The keg washer, that’s over at Palmer’s right now, that can come home. I can get my mill running, but then that’s it. Other than that, the other 4,500 back there is going to be vacant. We have a lot of room to grow if the funds are provided.”
Lyna said she was inspired by a trip that she took to Belgium in 2017.
“I went to Belgium (and) it turned me upside down,” she said. “I know that styles are great and when you can learn styles and nail styles, but in Belgium there aren’t really any styles.”
Lyna said that there are some basic categories, like dubbles and tripels, but each brewery interprets those styles in some wildly different ways.
“We were bussed to so many breweries, and everything was a little bit different,” she said. “That’s what you learn. I came back here with a whole open mind. I can do the beers that are (already) on tap, but I want to go out and explore a little more. That’s kind of where I’m going this year. We’ve got barrels. I haven’t gotten the sour side right yet, just kind of on the sly, I don’t want to mess up the brewery.”
For now, the big sellers include IPA (naturally), plus Imperial Cream Ale, Wee Heavy, Peach Wheat, and Plum Sour. The recent Red Wild Ale was a big hit as well, so look for more funky, off-beat beers in the future in addition to the house favorites. The 377 also has a pair of special barrel-aged beers as well right now — Wee Heavy on sweet cherries and Milk Stout on dark cherries — so stop at the brewery to pick up one or both before the small supply runs out.
It has been good to see The 377 find its footing, but we hope the brewery will get the opportunity to start really growing in the future. Until then, make sure to stop by before or after Lobo baseball games this season, and not just wait until football in the fall.