New Mexico doesn't have the craft brewing culture of Colorado, but the Land of Enchantment is doing some catch-up. Marble Brewery is helping lead the charge.
Marble is based in Albuquerque, but also has a pub on the plaza in Santa Fe. The two cities form Marble's primary market, but its beers can be found throughout New Mexico (Distil in Farmington has a good selection), but not yet in Colorado.
Marble recently gained some national attention when their From the Wood was named one of the top 25 beers of 2010 by Draft magazine.
I've had the chance to try several Marble beers, including a batch of the acclaimed From the Wood at Ska's 15th Anniversary Party last summer. My favorite, however, is Marble Red, a very hop-forward take on the red ale, a style that is often offered with indifferent hopping.
Marble's version is relatively strong at 6.5 percent ABV, with Crystals, Cascades and Simcoes doing the bittering. It's essentially a red ale crossed with an IPA, to wonderful results.
Marble's head brewer is Ted Rice, director of brewing operations and one of the company's five owners. He told me in an e-mail that he has been brewing professionally since 1996.
Rice started in a New York brewpub before taking the American Brewers Guild class in 1998. He moved to Albuquerque in '99, brewed for Blue Corn Brewery in Albuquerque then transitioned that location to Chama River Brewing Co. He opened Marble in 2008.
Marble is quickly growing. Rice & co. will top 8,000 barrels this year after brewing 5,000 last year. For 2011, Marble will most likely pass 10,000 barrels, Rice said.
Marble's top-selling beer is its IPA, followed by Red. I asked Rice if Marble has any plans to distribute in Colorado.
"No plans to distribute in Colorado in the near future," he said. "Maybe a year from now. We are currently brewing at capacity and selling everything in New Mexico."
Good for them. What has impressed me most about Marble is the consistent quality of their beers. Having had the Red, IPA, From the Wood and Double White, each has been an above average, well thought-out and crafted beer. It seems Rice is doing some other interesting things, including a pale ale brewed with the designer hop Citra.
Marble also has a consistent brand identity that you can see on its website. Each beer is assigned a color of marble that dominates the packaging. More and more breweries are going to some sort of systematic branding (like Upright in Portland naming their core beers Four, Five, Six and Seven). Marble's beers are easy to find in a crowded liquor store cooler.
Hopefully Marble will be in Colorado before too long. In any case, their beers are well worth trying on your next sojourn to New Mexico.
This brewery is one to watch.