ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Last summer, Ted Rice and his crew stood in the baking heat outside Marble Brewery and turned a ceremonial heap of dirt signifying the start of a significant expansion at the Downtown production facility.
But that groundbreaking turned out to be just the start of a major Marble growth spurt that has fanned out across the city and is expected to culminate — at least for now — with the planned debut of Marble’s Northeast Heights taproom, 9904 Montgomery NE, at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
The Heights launch will cap an intense 13-month stretch for Albuquerque’s largest craft brewery that has included:
— The $4 million production facility expansion, which added enough square footage and new equipment to more than double Marble’s annual production capabilities to about 35,000 barrels.
— Doubling the size of the West Side taproom.
— The construction of the Heights location in an old post office, and subsequent $5.6 million purchase of the property at Montgomery and Eubank.
— Debut of a new rooftop deck at the Downtown pub.
Rice, Marble’s president, said he did not necessarily set out to make everything happen at once, noting “it’s just the way it played out.”
The surge in activity has necessitated other changes, including staffing levels. Marble now employs 105 people, up from about half that a year ago.
Revenue should grow, too, though by how much remains to be seen. Rice said Marble did $6.7 million in 2015 when it was bursting at the seams to make the 14,700 barrels of beer it sold. Rice anticipates hitting about 20,000 barrels this year. Almost all of it should remain in New Mexico, where Marble has had ongoing trouble producing enough to meet local demand.
Marble will not embark on another project for at least the rest of the year, Rice said. Even though its small brewer’s permit would allow for another off-site taproom, Marble is not currently seeking a location.
“We’ll tune up each aspect of the operation before we make our next move,” Rice said.
That includes getting everything running at the Heights location. The onetime post office — reimagined by Modulus Design — can accommodate nearly 300 people between its pub and outdoor beer garden.
Customers get a view into the on-site brewery, a smaller-scale facility where Marble’s brewers will have the freedom to get creative. That includes Rice, who said he will seize the opportunity to start brewing again. Marble’s founding brewmaster hasn’t touched the equipment in the last two years due to his mounting administrative responsibilities.
“We’re going to experiment with every possible aspect of the brewing process … It’s just going to be a fun flavor lab,” Rice said of the Heights production space, which could yield up to 2,500 barrels per year.
Marble will bring in food trucks to serve the location, as it does at other sites, said Barbie Gonzalez, director of taproom operations. She said there will also be some kind of arrangement so that customers can order pizza from neighboring Slice Parlor.