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Cold beer means extra relief this hot summer

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Cactus Eddie, left, and Sydney Simmons, right, sit down to wait for friends to join them at Marble Brewery on Friday. The brewery is now operating at limited capacity after having its sitting areas closed since March. (Anthony Jackson/Albuquerque Journal)

The challenge to survive varied among New Mexico breweries after their temporary closures in mid-March.

But being able to reopen with limited capacity has brought hope to many breweries that thought they might have to close their doors for good.

“It has been difficult,” said Dan Herr, co-owner of Sidetrack Brewing Co. “… We were really fortunate to be able to stay open for packaged sales and that helped bring in some revenue but our revenue is at about 20% of what it typically is and after these three or more months of going through that it’s starting to wear us out so we’re ready to get back going again.”

As of Friday, breweries are allowed to open outdoor and patio seating areas at 50% capacity. They will be able to open indoor seating areas at 50% capacity beginning Monday.

Sidetrack was not the only brewery that felt the crunch – particularly in recent weeks when restaurants were allowed to open their patios in late May and their dining areas on June 1, both at half capacity.

“We’re just excited to be able to serve the public again and get to see our friends,” said Robert Palmer, owner and brewer of Palmer Brewery and Cider House. “It’s been tough. As soon as they opened the restaurants and other things that actually sell our products, demand for takeout went way down.”

Alexandra Sweeney, right, hands Miriam Swisher a chilled glass at Marble Brewery Friday. Breweries can now open outdoor and patio seating at 50%, and indoor areas at 50% come Monday. (Anthony Jackson/Albuquerque Journal)

Mike Campbell, owner and brewer at Kilt Check Brewing Co., said the ordeal was anything but fun, and he is relieved to reopen.

“I am really happy,” he said. “… Now I can at least get a chance at making some money and making next month’s rent. The industry was going down and I didn’t want to be part of the going down part.”

On the other hand, larger breweries able to sell their packaged products through retailers saw a sales boom but sympathized with smaller breweries dependent on taproom sales.

“Some of these places literally went from where they were to being down 90% overnight,” said Jeff Erway, president of La Cumbre Brewing Co. “For any business, that is just an impossible situation to try to deal with and I feel their pain.”

La Cumbre had “great distribution” that kept it from being in the same desperate place as so many other breweries. Erway said he’s grateful and happy to see New Mexico breweries opening again and plans to pay a visit to his favorites.

“We’re excited to see who comes out and supports their local breweries and we’re really just as excited for those other breweries that don’t have the heavy distribution that we do,” he said. “We’re excited to seeing them get back open and get back to doing what they do best as well.”

Marble Brewery also saw an uptick in canned sales but the usual lively ambiance at its brewery and taprooms has been missed by its crew.

“We miss all of our loyal customers and looking forward to seeing our die-hard fans and meeting new ones and enjoying beer outdoors in a safe, responsible manner,” said Ted Rice, president of Marble Brewery. “We’ve really had strong to-go sales at all our taprooms and distribution with cans only has been amazingly strong and our volume is ahead year to date over last year. … We truly appreciate everybody considering local handcrafted Marble beers.”

The big empty patio and taproom were sad sights for Jamie Schwebach, Canteen Brewhouse general manager, who said her staff is excited to welcome everyone back.

“We feel so fortunate that throughout this entire ordeal we’ve been able to serve to-go and are so thankful that people have come out and supported us and all the other local breweries,” Schwebach said. “…We‘re just excited that we can open and start doing what we do, which is sharing space with people and selling good beer and having a good time in a responsible and safe manner.”

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