After 15 years, a brewery can be fairly set in its ways, content to just keep doing the same things that have enabled it to succeed for that long. Marble Brewery, however, is not about to rest on its laurels as the milestone anniversary approaches in April.
For our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series, I caught up with Marble president Barbie Gonzalez and events coordinator Amy Levine to discuss how things did not necessarily return to normal for Albuquerque’s biggest brewery, but instead evolved into a new normal in 2022.
“For me, I think, 2022 (has been) a new discovery of what the world is going to be,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t like to use the term going back to normal, because I think that’s past. In order to move forward, you have to accept that things evolve, and you have to be cognizant that it’s evolving and you have to create a game plan of attack in order to evolve with it.”
That evolution took many forms throughout these last 11 months.
“Truthfully, everything, from what consumers want to consume, to events that are going to be successful or not successful, to the experience that we’re providing,” Gonzalez said. “And, some of these things have trended in a very positive direction, as well. I’m certainly not trying to make it all sound negative because my answer is not negative or positive, it depends on what specific thing you want to talk about.”
Specificity, as I was reminded in asking questions for a brewery the size of Marble, is always good. Broad questions can be fine for a brewery with a staff of a dozen or fewer people, but for one with three locations, multi-state distribution, and more than 100 employees, it helps to go point by point, subject by subject.
First up, then, were the events.
“I agree, it’s finding new events, what are people looking for, what are they comfortable with?” Levine said. “Music (was a draw), as usual, definitely. Right now we’re looking into changing the event scene, adding new events instead of going back to old events. I think that’s what people are looking for.”
“I think people, they’re very supportive of some of our old-school events, but it’s also very clear that, again, in conjunction with evolution, that you’re keeping things fresh,” Gonzalez added. “And, that fresh approach is applied to everything, including beer, including experiences, both on-site and off-site. I don’t want to keep everything in one bubble, where the Marble world exists only in the taprooms. But, what is that experience beyond the taprooms?”
Levine said that returning events like Marblefest, Muertos Fiesta, and the Mutt Masquerade were all big hits.
“One of the most positive was really Marblefest,” Gonzalez said. “Because the year prior we were still kind of in this unknown — what’s happening with COVID, are people comfortable — and this year we saw Marblefest really shine in a way we haven’t seen in some time. That’s really excited and really energized us into thinking about what we want to do moving forward.”
It was certainly the Crew’s favorite event out of many at Marble in 2022. But, now our interest was piqued in terms of what new events the brewery has planned for 2023. Levine, though, was keeping that calendar close to the vest, for now.
“You’ll see, I can’t tell you yet, but there are some really great ideas going around,” she said. “We’re looking forward to a great year next year, our 15th anniversary down here.”
The 15th anniversary celebration will not be limited to just a big event at the brewery downtown, Gonzalez said.
“Just to add to what Amy is saying, 15 years is really important for us to celebrate,” she said. “The concept is to celebrate throughout the entire year. In conjunction with new beer, there are going to be more collaborations, more events at all locations, new events at all locations, experiences outside of the taprooms and in outlying markets, where we can bring a little sample of this evolved Marble to where our beer touches. We’re in extensive planning for what 2023 is going to look like, and every department is involved.”
While events are a fun way to draw people to the taprooms and other sites, the beer itself remains the backbone of every brewery. 2022 saw the ongoing evolution of customer demands in terms of beer styles, though it often varied by location.
“From what we can see, people are definitely looking for lighter, more approachable styles,” Gonzalez said. “Cerveza has quickly become our number one seller, whereas Double White still has a very strong following, but that specific style is not trending as positively as Cerveza is. Now, hop-forward styles, no problem. It could be a hazy, it could be West Coast, it could be East Coast, people are still very excited by hop-forward flavors.”
Hop-forward beers tend to dominate the sales at the Westside Taproom, Gonzalez said, while the Heights crowd loves to try all the new, often experimental beers coming out of the on-site MavLab secondary brewhouse. As for the downtown crowd, the classic styles like IPA, Pilsner, Double White, and Cerveza are still the top sellers.
“So it’s interesting to see the way that the sales trend in each location, and what motivates people to go to which specific taproom,” Gonzalez said.
With the hop-forward beers still being so popular, both in terms of draft sales at the taprooms and in in-state and out-of-state distribution, Gonzalez said that brewmaster Josh Trujillo, head brewer Andrew Krosche, and their team are continually playing around with the many, many hops out on the market these days.
“What we’ve really enjoyed lately, and the brewery team has been really fantastic, is exploring single-hop series, and really understanding what that one hop can really do for a beer,” Gonzalez said. “That’s something that we’re all very excited about. Not only have we been able to dive into that specific hop profile, but learning how to play with that in conjunction with other hops.”
With the 15th anniversary coming up, Gonzalez said some classic seasonal/specialty beers could return for the sake of nostalgia, but Marble is intent to keep pushing for new and exciting things.
“We’re talking about reinvigorating some old styles, but our focus, again, is on bringing new things to the table, and showing what a 15-year-old brewery can do moving forward,” she said. “Part of that is creating two rotational series that will be coming out quarterly next year, in conjunction with 15 years, both available for on-site and off-site consumption. We are reinvigorating the small-batch program to make sure that there is a steady stream of new flavors.
“And, we’re always keen on enhancing current recipes. We have a lot of new things to look forward to, and we really want to be able to provide not just New Mexico, but everyone new experiences to remind them that our focus is on craft.”
That sounds like a mighty good plan for 2023. We are looking forward to everything Marble has cooking up for the big anniversary and beyond.
A big thanks to Barbie and Amy for taking the time to sit down and chat.
Keep supporting local!