Sobremesa intends to expand and improve its booming current location

Sobremesa brewer David Facey looks out where his new cold room will be situated. (All photos courtesy of Sobremesa)

Hails and ales all, for my final entry to our Look Back/Look Ahead series, I headed down the road to talk to brewers David Facey and Ian Graham of Sobremesa to see how my neighborhood brewpub was doing.

Solo: Look Back/Look Ahead 2022/2023, what sort of challenges and successes did you encounter in the last year, and what sorts of things are you looking forwards to this year?

Facey: So, even though we’re so removed from the height of COVID, considering that we opened during COVID, we’re still figuring out our clientele, as well as our clientele figuring out us. Ian and I are juggling with what can sell, what does sell, and what we want to brew. And, the juggle behind those three balls are that we know what sells, we know what we do really well, but we also want to expand the scope of brewing to this side of town. So we do barrel-aged beers, we do different types of lagers, we utilize different hops in IPAs. So, we try to juggle what sells, and we know imperial IPAs, big IPAs, they sell, but we play around with hops and see if these hop combinations work in our market. 

Solo: So a combination of pushing the envelope, and then seeing what will actually serve you going forwards. 

Facey: Yeah, you’ve got to rely on your bread and butter, and the people that come here really like what we do, and we’re so blessed to have that loyal customer base. But, to also have them tell their friends to come by and, “Try this, oh, you like this beer at this other brewery, try this one from Sobremesa.” And so, we are trying to juggle that. 

Solo: It’s a process, and it takes awhile to get your name out there and build your reputation. 

Facey: Going back to what I said, we didn’t open up in a conventional, “normal” situation. 

Solo: No, not at all, that was crazy.

Facey: I’ve explained to a lot of people that on some points, we’re kind of still in our first year.

Solo: Yeah, you weren’t fully running or able to open in a usual fashion, so you don’t really know what a normal crowd looks like. I think people in general don’t know what a normal crowd looks like or knows what we’re wanting to do now, anyway. 

Graham: It’s changed, I mean, it’s kind of crazy from our production standpoint just kind of getting pars together is way different. Because there were times where before the pandemic, New Year’s Day used to be one of the slowest. We’d get like maybe five people, (but) the past two New Year’s Days we’ve had a crowd come out, and so we are thinking, hmmm, this is normally the slow time, we can slow down our production, but this year we really haven’t been able to, which is nice. This side of town has a very different beer palate than downtown and so forth. One of our best sellers is a regular amber ale, and I haven’t seen that since I started my career 11 years ago, that you could keep an amber on tap all the time and it’s not just sitting in the brite tank, barely moving. 

Solo: On a personal level, that is music to my ears (I do love malty ales, yes I do).

Facey: It’s weird because we will brew an amber and think that we’re good for a while, and then we will go in the cellar and holy crap, they’re selling a lot of amber. Those are the things that we are trying to figure out. 

Graham: Looking back, I know we’re a little bit removed from it but, thanks to the people that sat outside in the freezing cold when we couldn’t have people indoors. People would sit outside and have a posolé and a beer when it was 25 degrees out, and that’s the only reason we still have jobs, that kind of loyalty and dedication. So we are very grateful to all of them.

More barrel-aged beers could be in the works in 2023.

Solo: Things for the coming year that you are excited for? 

Facey: A few things. From the brewery aspect, the number one thing is our bottle neck is cellar space. We don’t have enough cold room storage. We are building a cold room outside that is just going to be for beer storage. Ian and I run into situations often where we want to fill our fermenters and brite tanks, but then there’s a point where we can’t put it anywhere. So now we are going to have the opportunity to put it somewhere. What that means for us are more seasonals, potentially more house beers, and more barrel-aged beers. So we are really excited about that, just to kind of get crankin’, not necessarily saying that we are going to be a production brewery, but we are going to be able to produce a lot more. 

Graham: One of the other aspects of that with the cooler is that we are building out the space next door, and so that’s going to be a more events driven, dancing, UFC night, and all of that kind of space. It will be a different vibe from what we have. So if you want to go out Thursday night and do some salsa dancing, that’s probably what we’re going to have over here. There’s not much like that on the west side. 

Solo: There’s nothing over here like that at the moment.

Facey: So myself, Ian, Ryan, and our other business partners, we figured that everyone is opening up these taprooms across town and so forth, (but) there was a vacant space next door, and there was a vacant place in the market for events in general, especially on the west side. We kind of took that over; it’s under construction right now, should be open around March. And then, it’s going to open itself for anywhere from UFC night, to weddings, to quincenera, parties of all kinds, beer dinners. Like an actual beer dinner. 

Solo: Hell yeah. There haven’t been nearly enough beer dinners in the past few years, so this is really exciting. 

Facey: We are also transforming a little bit of the space next door to advance our kitchen. We will be allowed to produce more and different food, potentially do some catering options. When we adopted the space, that was the direction we wanted to go in. Instead of another taproom, let’s try to do something different, where it’s still attached to our brewer’s license and other licenses. Let’s try to give something to people that doesn’t exist here right now. 

Solo: Fill a void in the market. Everyone and their goat has a taproom. 

Facey: With the expansion of the cold room, we don’t have anything set in stone, but Ian and I are really excited about doing some different beers. I don’t think it’s our schtick, but we do like doing lagers, we like doing everything from a German pils to a Baltic porter, so that extra space is going to allow us to do that. I think it’s also going to allow us to utilize different ingredients, different brewing techniques, really honing in what this brewhouse is capable of doing. 

Solo: Kind of your first full year of “normal” business, so to speak, so you can get everything in line, plan a bit better and get to be a little bit creative. 

Facey: There have definitely been times over the last two-and-a-half years where Ian and I were in that brewer’s mindset of go go go go go. We’ve found some speed bumps because we go go go go go and then we’re stuck, no more room. And then, go again, and then stop. That’s an interesting conundrum, (but) I think Ian and I can have more of a regiment. 

Solo: And, that is good for the soul, the sanity, and the beer. 

Facey: It’s good for a brewery. 

A couple of us in the Crew were just wondering what Sobremesa was going to do with the unused north side of their building.

Solo: Having some sense of regularity where you can really dial things in, from ordering your ingredients to everything else. 

Facey: It’s not just for the brewery, it’s for the entirety of the restaurant. We have a full kitchen, and the current state of the restaurant industry is that it is difficult. We are doing our best, and the people that we have that are committed to what we are doing, (they) are amazing people. They are dedicated and committed, and that is getting more and more difficult to find. But, we are under the mindset that when we do find it, we’ve gotta keep it, and treat our people well. 

Solo: I think that’s the biggest lesson in the industry as a whole, this is a time when we need to treat our people right. 

Facey: And, it’s a long time coming. 

Graham: The industry used to be very very harsh on brewers and kitchen staff. 

Facey: All in all, over the last year, throughout everything that’s happened, turnover, all of that stuff, I don’t think I can be more grateful for the people that we have. In general, from business partners to dishwashers, because they are all valuable. Ian and I can make world class beer, it’s not easy, I’m not diminishing it, I’m not saying that it’s a mail-in-process, but if we don’t have people to sell it, if we don’t have food to pair with it, if we don’t have the management staff to organize it, then why are we doing it? It is an all encompassing team. I think the look back aspect in general, is thanking the really good people we have, and that’s what makes this place stand. 

Solo: Any parting thoughts?

Graham: Thank you, all of our customers who come out to support us. We know there’s umpteenth breweries in Albuquerque nowadays, you have lots of choices, so we are very grateful whenever you come out and choose our beers and our food. We promise to keep on striving to make it better for all of you, make sure you have a quality experience each time. 

This spirit of thankfulness, gratitude, and looking ahead to brighter things, rather than dwelling on the past, is quite apropos to the current day and age. In that spirit, we look forward to seeing the finished event space and all of the growth and benefits that come with the expansion, be it more delicious beers, expanded menu, and events on the west side. So head over and grab a pint and a bite, it’s well worth your time.


— Franz Solo

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