Back during the time I was interviewing the key members of the Marble Brewery staff for their entry in our Look Back/Look Ahead Series, brewmaster Josh Trujillo and I ended up missing our chance to talk before that article was published. In a way, though, the work that Josh and brewer Greg Dupy are doing at the MavLab at the Heights Taproom deserved its own article in the series, so I caught up with them at the tail end of a productive workday.
“2019 in the MavLab was really good and really consistent,” Josh said. “We had a lot of beers that we’ve made in our first year, two years, really gain some traction. People started asking for them more. We’ve actually kind of hit a pseudo production stride, where we’re making Doppelbock for Santa Fe Ski Area, and a lot more beers for distribution purposes, Mountain Fog and things like that.
“We’ve found a pretty good balance between pseudo production and the research-and-development aspect which we really built the place for. It’s fun to see people really respecting some of the styles that we’ve made up here and request them more, kind of fill in those gaps that 111 can’t really do just based on their full-on production. They’ve got to make the stuff that’s packaged and already out there. That was really cool to see. We’ve really grown into our own this year.”
The 10-barrel brewhouse has been hard at work all year, producing a wide range of seasonal and specialty beers that are also sold at the other Marble locations. Josh had plenty of praise for his right-hand man in keeping things going smoothly.
“Greg’s been up here now two years and really found his stride,” Josh said. “We’ve gotten the facility to the point that it runs itself with good help and people that have initiative. As the most tenured employee here at Marble, it’s really good to see that I kind of know what I’m doing after 11 years.”
The MavLab duo has been able to find a balance between bringing back popular seasonals from the past, while still playing around with new beer styles. One of the bigger moves came late in the year as MavLab produced its first packaged beer.
“The Prickly Pear (Gose) was a really big deal for me, at least,” Josh said. “Seeing the MavLab really come into its own in being able to produce limited-release runs now. We have a universal label that we can tag just about any beer that we want. Greg and I rebuilt the two-head (bottle) filler, and built the hand-pull equipment to accommodate these small-pour runs. We’re looking forward to doing some other really cool stuff. The Prickly Pear is just one benchmark of many to come.
“In a way, we’ve come full circle back to packaging again, on a much smaller scale. It’s kick ass, man. I’m glad the people are receiving it well and we have a good audience for these things.”
Seeing the MavLab get into the limited-release packaging runs certainly figures to be popular with the beer geeks around town. The more beer, the merrier.
“There’s definitely still some challenges ahead as we grow, but that’s a good thing,” Josh said. “I think last year I said I was really looking forward to some of these challenges in 2019. We’ve overcome a lot of those challenges, and now there’ s new challenges ahead in 2020 with a lot of the new trends popping up in beer and fermented beverages, and maintaining that Marble standard of excellence for beer across the board.”
Josh already has some beer-specific goals for the coming year on his schedule, from refining classic styles, to having fun with new hops and a new brettanomyces strain, and seeing which of the MavLab creations will make their way downtown into full production.
“I definitely want to stick with my passion on unique German lagers,” he said. “I look forward to maybe putting Thunder from Dortmunder in a small limited release bottle format. I really love that beer, and I feel like the audience really loves that beer.
“I’m really interested to see what 2020 brings in terms of trends, and it’s always fun to kind of do your own take on a trend, based on your regional palate. I feel like Desert Fog was a really good take on a trend that suits the Southwestern palate a little bit more than some of the sweeter versions that are coming out of the East Coast. I’m looking forward to doing some more brett beers this year, going to play around with a brett strain we acquired.”
Hop-forward beers still sell, of course, so there will be more of those in the pipeline throughout the year.
“New hops, man, playing with a whole new range of single-hop IPAs and pale ales,” Josh said. “I feel like ’18 brought us a few varieties, and now ’19 kind of pushed a couple of other varieties into the spotlight. There are some new ones like Cashmere that we’ve been playing with. I really look forward to doing a lot more single-hops, and just seeing what the hop growers are up to and how does that fit into the Marble persona.”
Greg is also involved in the recipe process, with Dupy’s Dunkel being an obvious creation for him, plus numerous other beers that do not have his name attached. Josh said more light lagers will be on deck for the summer, including possibly an Italian pilsner, with Greg leading that charge.
Overall, much like its larger compatriot downtown, the MavLab will be challenged by the ever-shifting craft beer market.
“I’m not sure what the range for growth is in the market with the saturation, but I do look forward to developing some more beers here that are going to go into full production for Marble,” Josh said. “We currently have four styles (Cholo Stout, Desert Fog, Passionate Gose, Double White Triple Berry) that have started here that have moved into full production downtown. I’m really excited to see what 2020 holds in that realm of Heights creations that run into full production, things like Mountain Fog and Alpha Acid Trip. Kind of get those sort of seasonal IPAs, if you would, play with new hops and get some beers out of our facility into the mainstream. That always is really nice.
“In the end, it lets us know that we’re doing a great job with our research when the crowd really takes a hold of something and demands it in such a fashion that it moves to a large format in cans and distribution throughout all our channels.”
As already noted, more beer, especially of the high quality that the MavLab produces, is always a good thing. A big thanks to Josh and Greg for the chat, and the beers (including a Belgian-style dubbel that should be out soon that you all need in your lives).