During a recent visit to The Grill restaurant on Menaul, my friend and fellow culinary sensuist Larry McGoldrick received a very warm greeting from proprietor Phil Chavez who mistook Larry for me (not that Phil wouldn’t otherwise have welcomed Larry warmly as he does all his guests). My good-natured friend didn’t return Phil’s warm welcome with a frosty retort as some people might have done. It was, after all, an honest case of mistaken identity. Larry and I are practically doppelgangers for one another–at least in terms of our passion for mom-and-pop restaurants throughout the Land of Enchantment.
In a karmic example of “turnabout is fair play,” my Kim and I were looking for a downtown area restaurant to visit whose doors we hadn’t previously darkened. When we espied the Marble Brewery on First Street, I commented, “Larry really likes this place. We should try it.” Another case of mistaken identity. The brewery Larry holds in such high regard is the Nexus Brewery though we didn’t figure that out until perusing the Marble Brewery’s menu and not seeing any of the dishes Larry recommended so highly.
Situated on the northwest intersection of Marble and First Streets, the Marble Brewery will never be mistaken for a restaurant which also happens to produce award-winning beers. It was never intended as such. Its stated mission is “to provide bold, hand-crafted ales and lagers to New Mexico.” Sounds simple enough, but the proof is in the imbibing. In 2010, Draft Magazine listed the Brewery’s “From the Wood” as one of the “top 25 beers of 2010.” That’s high praise for a brewery plying its craft only since 2008.
The Brewery’s line-up includes seven house beers and a variety of seasonal draft and bottled beers, all self-distributed throughout the Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas. Distribution to other parts of the Land of Enchantment is handled by the National Distributing Company of New Mexico, a business partner. You’ll find Marble Brewery’s best on tap and in the bottle in hundreds of restaurants, bars and retail locations throughout New Mexico.
The Marble Brewery is located in the former Starco Industrial Supply Building in the McClellan Park Industrial neighborhood. Among the visionaries who recognized the area’s potential as a re-purposed warehouse arts district and magnet for locals were the scions of Santa Fe entrepreneur Gerald Peters who also owns the Duke City’s Chama River Brewing Company. The Peters brothers oversaw the remarkable conversion of the 6,700-square-foot building circa 1950s. Few vestiges remain of its previous life. Instead you’ll find a welcoming pub with distressed wooden plank floors and an outdoor beer garden.
Even though we found the Marble Brewery through a classic case of mistaken identity, dozens of patrons frequently make their to this popular watering hold–and not just locals. The New York Times Travel Magazine also managed to find the marble Brewery. In October, 2011, during 36 hours in Albuquerque, the travel magazine described the brewery as “a consummate New Mexican bar: benches, banjo players or salsa drummers, and lots of dogs and advised visitors to “rehydrate, after dancing, with a goblet of barrel-aged ale.” In a February, 2012 post on her Tasting NM blog, scintillating author Cheryl Jamison wrote about not having developed a taste for beer until a tasting event at Marble Brewery’s Albuquerque headquarters “shocked me with the number of their well-crafted beers that I found appealing.”
In a scant four years, the brewery has expanded its brewing capacity from 2,500 barrels a year to 10,000 barrels. The pub’s menu has not grown similarly, but as the online menu emphasizes, “Marble Brewery is not a restaurant, as there is no kitchen on site. All of our food has been prepared by Chef Steven Shook at the Chama River Brewing Co. Feel free to bring your own food to enjoy here, we just ask that you clean up after yourself. Marble Brewery also affords our loyal clientele the liberty of ordering deliverable food from a number of quality restaurants located in the Downtown Albuquerque area. Ask your bartender for more information.”
One of the Chama River Brewing Company’s most popular appetizers, Chama Chili is but one of three “snacks” available on the pub menu. Along with the whopping total of three grilled sandwiches, it may not seem like a formidable menu, but then most patrons don’t visit the Marble Brewery for its food. Soft drink aficionados won’t find much variety either. The only soft drink available is IBC brand root beer. The Chama Chili isn’t our beloved piquant New Mexico-style chile (as in spelled correctly with an “e” at the end). It’s a Texas-style chili (there goes my spell-checker again) made with cubes of sirloin simmered with pinto beans and red chili served with homemade tortilla chips. As Texas-style chile goes, this is actually quite good.
One good thing about a limited menu is that it won’t take you long to decide what you want to have. One very nice sandwich option is a turkey, bacon and green chile smoked turkey made with applewood smoked bacon, Cheddar and Jack cheeses with green chile on sourdough bread. Frankly it’s a better sandwich than you’ll find in many a sandwich shop. The green chile isn’t especially piquant as perhaps it should be for the quantity of melting cheese, but the blending of flavors and ingredients makes for a good pub-quality sandwich reminiscent of many of the sandwiches we had when we lived in England. All sandwich orders include salsa and chips. If you like Gil-sized scoops of salsa for your chips, you’re out of luck because there’s just not much salsa in your order.
One sandwich we didn’t see in England is one which seems to have become almost de rigueur in Albuquerque sandwich restaurants. That’s the Cuban. The Marble Brewery’s version is fairly standard with pulled pork, ham and pickles with a little twist–chipotle mayo–on a pressed Telera roll. It’s also a good sandwich (probably even better if you’ve quaffed a few pints), albeit not one which might make your “best of” sandwich list. That’s not the objective here. The point is you can have good pub quality food in an award-winning brewery.
111 Marble, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 29 January 2011
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: IBC Root Beer; Chama Chili; Cuban; Turkey, Bacon and Green Chile Smoked turkey