Meet Draft Station, maybe the least territorial taproom in town.
But Draft Station, located at 1720 Central SW, is more than a Chama-orama. Its 14 taps actually represent six different New Mexico breweries.
Chama River and its Santa Fe-based sister brand Blue Corn combine for about half of the lineup, but Draft Station also pours selections from Albuquerque’s Marble, La Cumbre and Bosque breweries and one out of Rio Rancho’s Turtle Mountain.
“We wanted to do something that nobody else is doing with taprooms (and) hopefully take it to the next level,” says Robert Griego, vice president of operations for Draft Station/Chama parent company Santa Fe Dining.
While many describe the local craft beer scene as friendly and collegial, Draft Station’s strategy points to some even deeper connections. The head brewers at Bosque, La Cumbre, Marble and Turtle Mountain each worked previously at Blue Corn or Chama, two of the state’s most established brewing operations.
“We know them all, and they’re highly respected,” Griego says.
That kind of history isn’t a requirement for inclusion at Draft Station, and the beer selection will evolve based on customer demand, Griego says. But there is one hard-and-fast rule about what’s on tap – it has to come from New Mexico.
While pints are paramount at Draft Station, bellies aren’t neglected. Customers can order from a short, beer-friendly food menu – buffalo chicken flatbread ($7) and red chile pulled-pork nachos ($10), for example – or buy grub from neighboring Garcia’s Kitchen. The hunger-taming options will continue growing when the planned Five Star Burgers opens next door.
Griego says he envisions the 60-seat space appealing to sports fans – there are six TVs now and two more coming – but says he also wants Draft Station to become the friendly, accessible neighborhood haunt. It has garage doors that open onto a 40-seat patio, and Nicole Kuller, the company’s marketing director, says the property will feature multiple bike racks.
“We’re a neighborhood pub, basically, and you don’t see that too much in Albuquerque,” he says.
Draft Station is open daily from noon-midnight every day except Sunday, when the hours are 11 a.m.-midnight. The phone number is 247-0193.
And then … ?
Draft Station’s recent debut marks what could be a series of food/beverage additions to Country Club Plaza, Jay Rembe’s new mixed-use development now underway along Central between Downtown and Old Town.
As I’ve previously reported, Five Star Burgers has chosen the development for its next Albuquerque location. The restaurant should open later this year, according to NAI Maestas & Ward’s Brett Hills, the leasing agent for the project.
And Hills says he’s in discussions with a few more food-centric “strong, local, cool concepts” that have expressed interest in the development. The plan is to focus first on food and then look at adding other retail.
“(There’s) a lot of activity, a lot of excitement,” Hills says of the project, part of the evolving Central corridor. “Obviously, the success of Vinaigrette (nearby) has paved the way.”
Still in fashion
Raise a glass for Elsa Ross: The Nob Hill mainstay currently is commemorating its 25th anniversary, a hard-earned milestone in this era of point-and-click shopping.
Owned by the mother-daughter team of Elsa Ross and Emma Del Frate, the boutique originated in 1989 as a shoe store, but it soon veered toward clothing.
While it still deals in some heels, Elsa Ross is known today for its selection of higher-end, contemporary women’s apparel. Think of labels like Rag & Bone, Helmut Lang, J Brand and the kind of carefully distressed jeans that can run a few hundred bucks a pair.
The store – with its signature wintergreen exterior paint – has been in the same location since the beginning, though it did expand into a neighboring space in 2007.
Much has changed in 25 years, as evidenced by the 1990s and early 2000s fashions currently displayed as part of the anniversary celebration.
But Elsa Ross has had to keep up with more than just the latest trends. With consumers increasingly turning to the Web for their handbag and night-on-the-town tops, Del Frate says her boutique is now working on its own e-commerce site. It should launch this fall.
Del Frate says attributes Elsa Ross’ longevity to something the Internet isn’t known for – individual, hands-on service and attention.
Del Frate generally makes five buying trips annually – usually to LA – and says she often makes decisions based on specific customers who have frequented the store for years.
“Customers who love the relationship they have with us and love the feeling of coming into a boutique and being helped in every way and trying things on, feeling the fabrics, knowing that we can help them and edit things down for them from what comes into our store and build what they need – those people will never give it up,” Del Frate says. “We have a fantastic customer base, and we just really enjoy our customers.”
Elsa Ross is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. The address is 3511 Central NE. The phone number is 265-2070.
One more round
How about a little more beer news before we wrap things up this week?
B2B Bistronomy, the Nob Hill gourmet burger restaurant nearing its second anniversary, recently introduced its own beer. Brewed in a small room behind the restaurant, the in-house options were conceived as an alternative to the more customary IPAs and hefeweizens of the world.
The current output includes a PB&J – an amber ale base brewed with puréed raspberries – as well as a cherry stout and coconut porter.
“A nanobrewery with megaflavors is what we’re calling it,” marketing manager Ruby Santos says.
Kyle Baxter, Gary Small and Callie Benjamin are handling the brewing duties, and owner Sham Naik encourages them to get creative. Future plans include a watermelon ale, maple bacon ale and chai stout.
B2B will try to keep eight to 10 of its own brews available at all times, leaving plenty of room for more traditional selections within its 34-tap system.
B2B Bistronomy is located at 3118 Central SE. The phone number is 262-2222.
If you have retail news to share, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 823-3864. For more regular updates on Albuquerque shopping and restaurant news, visit my blog at abqjournal.com or follow @abqdyer on Twitter.