Take Interstate 25 south and get off at the Main Street exit (203) in Los Lunas. Take a right and head west, away from the old part of town and toward the bustling newer area. There is an ubiquitous Wal Mart and some other small chain stores and restaurants. Keep going past those, through the next red light at Los Morros, and finally take another right on Sandsage Street. There is beer up ahead on your right, marked by the giant green tractor parked out front.
The return of Tractor Brewing to Los Lunas, where the brewery began in 1999, is in a very different location than it was originally founded. Now it occupies the southwest corner of a large warehouse across the street from a fire station, just down the road from the Facebook data center and the Wal Mart distribution center.
Inside this spacious taproom was a swarming scene of employees, both local and those that came down from Albuquerque, working hard to get everything ready for a soft opening Saturday. Co-owner and president Skye Devore, ever the trooper while battling a cold, was happy to take a break for a few minutes and chat about the brewery’s return to its roots.
The first question: Was it always meant to be this big? Because it is a big taproom.
“I think it’s evolved a lot, because we were initially thinking it would be half the size, but the layout looked weird,” she said. “It was really long and narrow. OK, we’ll get a little bit more space, (but) that didn’t make sense for how the building was built, so, oh, we’ll take a lot more space. I’ve always said that I wanted to do something outside of Albuquerque and have it be more of a honky tonk. We have the stage and a table configuration for country dancing. It will be fun.”
A native of southeastern New Mexico, Skye does know her country music. There is a sizable stage in the southeast corner of the room, with tables in between it, the front entrance to the west, and the rectangular bar area that dominates the northwest corner of the space. A kitchen, including a pizza oven, is in the northeast corner. As a result, this Tractor taproom has a more extensive food menu than any other.
“It is, but when I was looking at this kind of square footage, I needed to put food in here,” Skye said. “We were lucky to meet Kayla Vallejos. She’s definitely set the bar above where we’ve been kitchen wise. I felt really confident that she would pull it off in a way I never wanted to. It’s a lot of work, you have to have somebody who’s passionate about it, and she is. It’s turning out great. I don’t cook, so having someone who knows how and is passionate about that kind of service is really important. She’s given our other menus an update. I’m really excited to have her.”
The exterior, which includes a small patio on the south side, still needs the most work. Other than that big green tractor and a barely visible little temporary sign strung up above the entrance, potential patrons could drive right by.
“I have a sign in the back with a big arrow, a flashy arrow honky tonk sign,” Skye said. “You can change the marquee. We’re custom cutting letters a big sign at the machine shop next door. We’re going to on getting that up. We’re putting some banners up. People stop by every day, (so) we don’t want to put signs up until we’re ready.”
Once they are ready, patrons will find a full beer, cider, and spirits menu available. There are even some kegged cocktails, though at least one still need some tweaking after Skye tried it and found it to be a little too boozy. Hey, it is all a work in progress.
“This is our first off-site location for spirits, so we’re excited about that,” she said.
The soft opening Saturday, and the grand opening beyond that, are not set in stone, but things are looking good for a final approval.
“Pending a blessing from the Village of Los Lunas, we’ll have a soft opening on Saturday,” Skye said. “We’ll have our grand opening shenanigan on (November 16), with live music, and we’re working on a ribbon cutting with the Village and all the fun fanfare that comes with Valencia County.”
After dealing with just the City of Albuquerque for many years, Tractor has found Los Lunas and Valencia County to be a bit easier to work with so far.
“They’ve been really, really awesome,” Skye said. “They reached out to us. They’ve made a lot of it really easy to do. One of the state reps from down here and I (work together at the) state legislature and are good friends, Alonzo Baldonado. He’s very excited for us to come into the neighborhood. I think it will be great.”
The location puts Tractor right in a booming area, too.
“Facebook is right there, the Wal Mart distribution center is right across the way, and then something that we didn’t anticipate but we found being here and working is there’s a 55-plus community right down the road,” Skye said. “They are anxiously awaiting our opening. We’re stoked to be a part of that community now.
“We (also) found out after we had already signed the lease that the average age in Los Lunas is now 35, which is not what we thought. We thought that it was older. … Definitely more young people down here.”
Oh, and upon entering the taproom, it is hard to not look up and marvel at the largest ceiling fan in any brewery or taproom in the state.
“They have them next door and they (asked) do you want a big fan,” Skye said. “I said what do you mean and they said come take a look. If you turn it up to 100 percent then things blow over. We’ll have to do some kind of fun video.”
That could be an interesting way to get people out the door after last call. Or not. However it works out, this taproom shows a lot of promise.
A big thank you to Skye for taking some time to chat and play tour guide.