Sobremesa Restaurant and Brewery has never really known what normal life is like. It was one of three breweries, along with Gravity Bound and ReSource, to open in 2020 while the pandemic and its many restrictions were still raging.
Now, with most of that (knock on wood) in the past, the staff at Sobremesa is looking for find out just what normal life looks like on the Westside. I caught up with co-owner/head brewer David Facey for our Look Back/Look Ahead Series to see where things are, and where he hopes they will head in the future.
“It was a big lesson in flying by the seat of your pants,” Facey said of 2021. “We had a really, really good core staff that understood very, very quickly what we’re doing one week, may totally change the next week. It was a good lesson in adaptability. The interesting thing is when you open up any new place, you have to adopt that mindset. Last year, really, really made that apparent that this is just the way of life right now.”
Facey said that Sobremesa was fortunate to have such a large outdoor patio, and that the public came and filled it up prior to things opening up inside in late May/early June.
Of course, not long after that happened, the global supply chain problems got worse.
“We’re still working through it, man,” Facey said. “In regards to supply chain, it’s definitely not getting easier. And, for me, well, for all of us, not just Sobremesa but the breweries in general, it’s not tough not being able to predict. Pre-pandemic, we can get an email that says this shipment will show up Thursday. If it shows up Friday, eh, no big deal. Where I get frustrated is it doesn’t show up on Friday (anymore), and two weeks later it’s (still) not here, which affects our production schedule.”
While Sobremesa did have that good core group of employees, it has still faced staffing challenges like most other brewpubs and restaurants. Finding enough servers and kitchen help has often been a challenge.
“A lot of people left the restaurant industry and went on to different careers,” Facey said. “And, as you and me have said before, you have to have a little bit of crazy to make this your career.”
At least things have been stable in the brewery, where Sobremesa is still a solid, two-man operation.
“Brewing has been great, man,” Facey said. “In regards to the system and our processes, Ian Graham and I, it’s still just the two of us back there. The nice thing about having a team so small is communication is very easy, which allows for us to almost transform and evolve because it’s just the two of us. Our core house beers, I think we’re dialed in. That’s (Hilltop) Helles, (East Meets West) IPA, and (Atrisco) Amber. So those recipes are all set.
“In regards to the helles, now we’re working on technique. Now we’re looking at more traditional brewing techniques on that style. When you enter competitions like World Beer Cup and GABF, ones like that, those comments (you get back) are valuable. Because you know where you’re at and where you need to go.”
Most breweries tend to have a more extensive lineup of house beers, but Facey said it was always the plan to keep a few other beers on tap most of the time.
“Very, very early on when we opened I made the decision to take the house beers down to only three, with the contingent that we have pseudo house beers,” he said. “That would be a rotating fruit beer, typically a sour, and then we have Chronically Juicy, which is our (rotating) IPA, just juicy. Same base recipe, just different hops.”
With the entire place now full most nights, Sobremesa has also been able to start ramping up its production of seasonal and specialty beers, including some collaborations with other breweries, and beers brewed to help local charities.
“To me, that’s the fun part about being a pub brewer, especially,” Facey said. “You have ample amount of time to do a collab, to talk to different charities, to do a bunch of different seasonals. For me, Ian, and the rest of the team, both front and back of the house, we’ve enjoyed it because it brought back a lot of sense of normalcy to us. Sometimes you’d do just a small pairing, talk to the guys in the kitchen, and then Ian and I would do a little collab.”
Facey said that he and Graham frequently sit down and discuss new beers, ranging from holiday-specific brews to whatever is trending around the country.
“We live by the motto that we don’t have to drink everything that we brew,” Facey said. “We just give people what they want.”
There a few new brews already locked into the schedule.
“We’re going to try to capitalize on the typical holidays, where people come out and imbibe a little bit,” Facey said. “We’re going to have a small St. Patrick’s Day event, but our next big one that we’re focusing on is obviously Cinco de Mayo. We’re a Latin-inspired restaurant, so we’re hoping we can claim our stake in that holiday. So for that, we have a Mexican lager that we’re going to be brewing, that’s going to be called Mesa Especial.”
Looking even further ahead is one that has just about all of us in the Crew quite excited.
“We do have a second anniversary beer coming out, which will be a Baltic porter,” Facey said. “It will be aged in Heaven Hill whiskey barrels. So that will be a six-month age as opposed to a year.”
Sobremesa was looking into limited distribution of cans of some of its beers, but most of those plans have been put on hold due to the supply chain issues and rising costs. Facey said they are looking into doing some keg distribution to bars and restaurants, but that comes with its own set of separate challenges.
Facey said the brewery is looking to add some more fermenters, mainly due to a customer demand that he found is fairly specific to residents of the Westside.
“It took us a while to figure out what the Westside market wants,” he said. “What we figured out is it’s not so different from other markets that we’ve worked in, but it’s unique in its own way. Light, pale lagers fly off the shelf. One of them that we did was called Small Ball, and that was in celebration of Opening Day.”
Due the recent Major League Baseball lockout, that was changed for this year. Facey said that they instead brewed a Lockout Kolsch, even though the lockout finally ended. When baseball games do start up on April 7, it will be on tap. Small Ball figures to return at a later date, since there will be a full 162-game season after all.
“We’re trying to (make) what people are asking for,” Facey said. “We had some home run beers, that we didn’t realize were going to do as well as they did, and I think that goes back to my previous point about understanding the Westside market. Last year, I put a citrus wit, so I got a wit strain because I knew we were going to make our bier de garde. So I made a simple wit beer, had some unique citruses added, and we put it on, and it sold like hot cakes. So we want to bring that back.
“The peach wheat, which we just put on this week, people have been asking for it. It was our first fruited wheat. It’s humbling to have people remember a beer almost 18 months later. And so, yeah, this year we’re trying to obviously keep innovating, keep experimenting, keep trying (new things) while trying to juggle what our clientele keeps asking for.”
We all look forward to seeing just what else David and Ian have up their sleeves this year, and are just happy to see another of the breweries that opened during the pandemic are still doing good. A big thanks to David for the interview and a pint of the Hilltop Helles.
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