Tractor Brewing will open the doors of its new Westside Taproom this Saturday at noon, the culmination of a two-year effort to bring the Beer Farm west of the Rio Grande. Located at 5720 McMahon Blvd., just east of Unser on the south side of the street, between Starbucks and McDonald’s, the taproom will seat around 70 inside and 50 outside on the patio.
During the final days of the buildout, I stopped by to visit co-owner Skye Devore as she was busy putting the finishing touches on the bar top. The very fact she was on the verge of opening a taproom out west showed how far that part of town has come.
“David (Hargis) and I both used to live out here,” Skye said of herself and her co-owner/brewmaster. “We both moved east because we’re like there’s nothing to do out here. It really stuck out in my mind, when we lived out this way, when the Whiskey over at Montano and Coors closed. It was a nice place to go get a drink, but the west side just couldn’t sustain it. At that time we thought there was no real market out there.”
Population growth, however, changed the opinions of the Tractor owners.
“But, I think that what’s been happening is that people are tired of (battling) traffic and they’re looking for stuff closer (to home),” Skye said. “So about two years ago, David said let’s go to the west side. I was very not sure of that decision. I was like OK, let’s give it a shot.”
As other breweries have found out, however, just wanting to go west does not equal being able to do that. There are not a lot of buildings that were taproom-ready.
“Instead of looking for (existing) spaces, we found this one, which was just a dirt lot,” Skye said. “We figured it was a good place, it was underserved, and I had just had my twins out this way, so (I knew) there was stuff out there, there were people.”
Tractor signed the lease, but Skye said it was just a long wait for the developer to finish building the actual structure. There were plenty of delays along the way, but there was nothing to do but stay patient and hope for the best.
“It was our first new construction and there were all the things that you don’t think about, like there’s not Comcast here that you just have to have turned on,” Skye said. “You have to bring the Comcast to the building. You don’t have to do a lot of demo and do-over, (but) there’s a lot of other stuff.”
Now the taproom is ready to go. The interior has some impressive high ceilings, where Skye said some future art installations could go. There will be plenty of taps behind the bar, with a larger interior walk-in cooler. Beyond that and the patio, there are just two bathrooms and a small office for the staff. There will not be any food in-house, but there will be a pizza place open next door in July, and there should be food trucks and other nearby eateries for those who want more than just beer or cider.
“It felt really big before we put the fridge in,” Skye said. “It was like oh, my god, what have we done? But, by the time you put the fridge in, plus the office and bathrooms, it has about as much floor space as any of our other places.”
The grand opening this weekend will be the last of its kind in Albuquerque for Tractor.
“This will be our last external project for a while,” Skye said. “We’re really turning our focus on redoing (our existing locations). We opened Nob Hill seven years ago and we opened Wells Park four years ago. There’s definitely some things we need to go back and work on there before we even look at opening anything else new. Definitely no other beer concepts in Albuquerque, we’re done.”
That does not mean Tractor would never consider a future taproom outside of Albuquerque, but it is not on the horizon.
“You want to do something close, because the management problem of going outside of Albuquerque is massive,’’ Skye said. “I’m like having night sweats as it is thinking about being 35 minutes away in case this place goes down in flames. I’m going should I rent a Winnebago and put it in the parking lot for the first month? Because you don’t know what’s going to happen. Are you going to be understaffed? Are you going to be overstaffed? That whole thing.”
Skye did talk about a few projects that are either on deck or already underway at other Tractor locations.
Changes in Nob Hill
With a new landlord, the oldest Tractor taproom is getting an overdue makeover.
“We’re moving the (walk-in cooler) inside, which is done,” Skye said. “Then we will take down the fridge that was outside and turn that into a private patio so we can events back there, and also have it as a non-smoking patio. That was a request from people, we love the patio, but get rid of the smoking. I respect that, but anytime you don’t have designated smoking, they end up smoking right next to the patio, taking their beers outside.”
Another development should be welcomed with open arms by customers.
“Eventually, starting in July, I think, we’re getting two new restrooms in Nob Hill, so we’ll have a total of four,” Skye said. “They’ll be next to the refrigerator, one room with two stalls. We’re excited about that.”
Tractor Distillery coming soon
Yes, Tractor has a craft distilling license, and once all the dust has settled from the Westside Taproom, the staff will start cranking up the new distilling operation at Wells Park.
“For us, I really enjoy beer, I think beer is great, but I think like with anything, you’ve got to grow,” Skye said. “We’ll always do beer, but I don’t see a big focus on our expansion being beer right now. We’ve got four packages in the market, we’ve got 20-some taps of our own, but how many times can you make all of those things? We want to do different stuff.”
The beer and cider will not disappear, but they will be augmented by new spirits and cocktails.
“Once we’re done here, we’ll move our focus to Wells Park and cocktails and distilling and making that excitement happen,” Skye said. “We’ve done a lot of staff changes recently, not removing people, but carefully adding people to our team that have that craft cocktail background, so that once that happens we have the right people in place, too, to hopefully not slaughter it. That’s the best you can hope for, right? A beertender is not a bartender.”
Skye said she is excited to start that enterprise, but it will not begin right away.
“It’s a whole new game, but we can’t think about that, even though we have the license,” she said. “We can’t think about it until we’re done here, because David and I are DIYers to a fault.”
All of us in the Crew, particularly our Westside residents, wish Tractor a lot of luck with the new taproom, and in all of its future ventures. Enjoy the weekend, everyone!