Gravity Bound Brewing discovered something new in 2022 — normalcy.
The brewery that opened in the middle of the pandemic lockdown finally found out what a regular year of business looks like, as brothers and co-owners Chris (general manager) and Cameron Frigon (head brewer) told me last week when we sat down for their Look Back/Look Ahead Series interview.
“It was definitely the best year yet,” Chris said. “We started in 2020, had no idea what was going on, and then still feeling those effects in 2021. We were still pivoting all the time as to what was allowed, what wasn’t.”
“It was easier, easier in some ways,” Cameron added.
“There were a lot of easing of restrictions, but also some went into place on (the) production side,” Chris said. “That hit us right off the bat — can we make enough beer? — and we’ve definitely felt that in 2022.”
With a little help from their industry friends, they were able to keep the taps relatively well stocked.
“I’m actually feeling very good right now,” Cameron said. “I have every tank full, which is phenomenal. All five over here and then two at The Craftroom. We’re getting stocked up, ready for spring. Last winter, because we didn’t know, I took my foot off the pedal a little bit. We’re doing pretty good this year. The Craftroom has been super helpful.”
“We’ve been super fortunate to work with people in the industry, especially Ram (Khalsa), who’s the head brewer at The Craftroom, and Miguel (Melendez), the owner,” Chris said. “(They) have really been a saving grace for us on the production side of giving us the availability some 20-barrel brewing capacity over at The Craftroom.”
“It’s a rocking system, too, I love that system over there,” Cam added.
“If they weren’t around, you’d have two beers on the menu,” Chris replied.
“We’d almost have to get rid of the lagers,” Cam said. “Either go down to three beers or get rid of the lagers, and that’s not an option.”
“We like doing our lagers and hopefully can get a little bit more of that style on the board here soon,” Chris said. “It’s going to be a goal of ours in 2023.”
Sometimes, the interviews just flow into conversation, which should not come as a surprise to anyone who has talked to Chris and/or Cameron over the last couple years.
Anyway, getting back on track, another huge moment for Gravity Bound in 2022 was becoming the first brewery to enter a hazy IPA and win the New Mexico IPA Challenge.
“That was a cool thing for us,” Cameron said. “It was super unexpected. We thought it was a good beer, but I think we’re newbies enough to know what really does well. Obviously it’s been clear beer for the most part.”
That IPA Challenge winner was the one beer that Cameron could not keep on tap for long, while everything else on the menu was consumed at a relatively consistent pace.
“It’s pretty steady,” he said. “It’s kind of one-third IPAs, one-third lagers, one-third sours (in terms of sales). It all moves pretty evenly. I think Quick Take, the IPA Challenge winner, moved really fast. That’s been the standout, for sure. I’ve made so many different beers, there’s one or two new ones every week, it’s hard to know for sure.”
Chris said they are up to about 150 different beers now, a fairly impressive feat for a brewery that is less than three years old. Cameron said he could not pick a particular favorite out of all of those, though he remains optimistic to keep things rolling this year in terms of more new styles and upgrades to returning beers.
“I really like our new pilsner recipe a lot,” Cameron said. “We’re going to do a better job with always having a clear IPA on tap. We’ve started to establish that in the last couple of months. That’s a thing for us now.”
Another pleasant development in 2022 was how local soccer fans continued to take over Gravity Bound on the big match days, whether for New Mexico United or the World Cup.
“World Cup was a blast, man, that was so fun,” Cameron said. “Why does it have to be every four years?”
“We think it’s something our patrons really enjoy,” Chris added. “We obviously weren’t planning on having that aspect as a brewery. It’s just really this cool, organic thing with us putting on those games, hosting watch parties. It’s just been a lot of fun.”
Those watch parties will be back this year, for United and, depending on the game times from Australia and New Zealand, the Women’s World Cup in the late summer.
Beyond that, Gravity Bound has some big plans for 2023. They are just not quite ready for publication yet.
“I know that (being fully open) showed our limitations on how many people we can fit in here, how many people we can fit in here comfortably,” Chris said. “We saw some holes in how we had the layout. I think it’s a good thing that now we know what we need to fix. That’s what’s coming up in 2023 for us.”
“We’re actually trying to put together a major renovation of the property,” Cameron said. “Not a ton of details to divulge right now. We’re still working with bankers and architects to try and come up with the right formula here. We look forward to having you back to talk more about that. We’re just not quite there yet. We’re working on some things here.”
Another big development will involve their friends at The Craftroom.
“I’m sure you’re aware that The Crafroom is moving, or they’re opening up their new production space over at 12th and Aspen,” Chris said. “We’re actually purchasing a handful of fermentation vessels, a few lagering tanks to store over there, so we can not interfere with their capacity, and have our own tanks. That will help ensure that we are just more capable of holding our inventory to a really reasonable level. That’s exciting.”
We have to admit, that is a clever idea for any smaller brewery that contract brews at a larger facility.
“We’re keeping our little 5-barrel workhorse over there,” Cameron said of the on-site brewhouse. “It will be nice to have a few, I don’t want to say flagship, necessarily, but year-round beers that we can make sure are always there. That’s been a pinpoint for us. That’s pretty big for us.”
“We started out with 15 barrels (of fermentation capacity) and that gets us up to almost 100 with the space we think we’re going to have,” Chris added.
“Those are the major things, which is plenty to keep us busy,” Cameron said.
“With that (future) extended space, we wanted to make sure we matched capacity with our vision for the property,” Chris said.
“That was something we talked about doing last year, we wanted to open up our space a little more, but we didn’t have enough beer,” Cameron concluded. “Now the two are in lockstep.”
A smaller development could see some Gravity Bound beers making their way to taps at other places.
“Hopefully in the next few weeks, depending on how fast the city moves on things, we applied for a wholesalers license as well,” Chris said. “Hopefully you’ll see us on tap a few places.”
“Distributing is difficult and rarely profitable venture for a small brewery,” Cameron added. “It’s really just for friends, people we have relationships with already.”
It could also further get the word out about Gravity Bound with the more casual beer drinkers around town.
“I think that we’re really well known in the craft beer community, and the downtown community,” Chris said. “But, there’s plenty of people that we talk who ask, what’s Gravity Bound, where are you at. That’s something that we’re trying to fix. We don’t do festivals, because we didn’t have the capacity. It’s hard to get your name out there.”
With the increased brewing capacity, Cameron said that Gravity Bound will probably attend a few more festivals in 2023.
“We might try and do that this year,” he said. “We’re thinking of the massive investment of a jockey box to actually have that capability.”
Overall, the brothers Frigon are quite pleased with how things are going for their brewery, and for what is to come this year.
“I think we’re really excited,” Chris said. “Once we get more firm plans, we’ll share those with you. It should be a really good year, unless we f— it up.”
“We’re excited about 2023,” Cameron added. “Things are feeling more normal all the time. Downtown seems like it’s kicking back into shape a little bit more, too.”
A big thanks to Chris and Cameron for the interview. We look forward to a return visit to learn more about the pending renovation. And, to drink more lagers, of course.
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