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Albuquerque’s “Brewery District” officially in play

ken carson of nexus breweryALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Thirsty for some craft beer? Maybe it’s time for a visit to Albuquerque’s newly anointed “brewery district.”

Local beer fans already know the area well since it’s been home to the Il Vicino, La Cumbre and Nexus breweries for years.

But now the industrial-leaning swath of Albuquerque – essentially bounded by Jefferson to the north, Candelaria to the south, Interstate 25 to the west and the North Diversion channel to the east – boasts a more formal designation thanks to the New Mexico Senate.

The legislative chamber passed a memorial during the 2014 session to define it as “The Brewery District,” a distinction that pleased industry leaders.

“I think it brings broader awareness to the fact craft beer has become such a component of the Albuquerque landscape and a strong (factor in) both economic development and tourism,” said Chris Goblet, the “beer ambassador” for the New Mexico Brewers Guild.

Goblet considers the moniker a great marketing opportunity and said “brewery district” signs are planned for streets and bike paths, as is a district celebration this spring.

“For me, it’s golden because I think it will be a great opportunity to continually remind people (the industry is) growing by leaps and bounds,” he said.

Although the city has a number of other breweries, this area has a particular concentration of them.

Sen. Tim Keller, D-Albuquerque, who introduced the Senate memorial, said the idea came up, naturally, over a beer. He was talking with La Cumbre president/master brewer Jeff Erway about neighborhood identity and how Erway’s business was in an area without a known name.

“We thought, ‘Hey, why don’t we – instead of (calling it) ‘random warehouse area along the arroyo’ – call it ‘the brewery district?'” recounted Keller, who co-sponsored the memorial with Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque.

A memorial doesn’t have the force of law but is a matter of legislative record.

Keller said the new designation is about branding and celebrating the positive impact brewers can have on a neighborhood.

Left Turn Distilling opened last year in the district, for instance, and a Skarsgard Farms site near Il Vicino will start selling its own hard cider this month and eventually may add a tap room.

“It’s a depressed industrial area, and the breweries are really kind of turning it around,” Keller said. “And that’s similar to what’s happening in other areas of the state.”

So why have so many like-minded operations clustered in this part of Albuquerque?

Erway said it’s a matter of zoning, access to industrial-scale utilities, lower real-estate costs and the proximity to the bike path. (He guesses roughly a quarter of his patrons arrive on two wheels.)

Erway said his is a generally collegial industry, and the “district” designation helps reinforce the sense of community local brewers have been building.

“We’re actually supporting each other’s businesses and making each other’s businesses stronger,” he said.