By Stephani Dingreville
In the 4 years since Ex Novo broke ground in Corrales, the village has changed dramatically. Joel Gregory, the proprietor, and his plans for the brewery, have not. Gregory has steadily moved toward his goals for the site, in spite of the normal setbacks all service industries face, and the extraordinary ones the pandemic presented. Back in 2018, the plan for Ex Novo had two phases. The first was to build the distribution center and the small taproom. This accomplished, and met with incredible success, phase two began.
Originally, phase two included a beer garden and a restaurant, but Gregory has changed his mind about the latter, saying, “honestly, the food truck thing has gone better than I thought it would.”
“I had heard horror stories, but [the food trucks] have been consistent. I’m not taking the restaurant thing off the table, but it’s not in any current plans.”
“The pandemic was really rough on the Oregon restaurants” he concludes, referring to the other two older Ex Novo locations in Portland and Beaverton, Oregon.
In Corrales, Ex Novo was innovative and flexible during the pandemic restrictions, offering curbside pick up when a steady stream of cans and filled growlers flowed from its taproom, and then opening up a large patio for safe imbibing when restrictions were lifted.
This march of progress led to the completion of phase two, and the ineffable beer garden that has shifted the hub of evening activity in Corrales northward.
With space for 140 people to sit, numerous heaters and shady spaces to cope with the elements, and its own bar, the beer garden, called The Corral by the business, has quickly become the place to be for villagers and tourists alike.
“We hoped [The Corral] would bring more people down here, because it’s a really amazing setting to enjoy a drink and conversation. And with the increased seating, people are more likely to get a spot, so they’ll make the drive.”
While finding a place to sit, even with a large group or family, isn’t a problem at the Corral, finding a place to park might be.
Even though the brewery doesn’t have plans to expand the parking lot, Gregory does encourage villagers to bike and walk, and those who live too far away to carpool. “We’re working on that,” he says in a reassuring way.
There is another thing Joel Gregory is always working on, and that is philanthropy. Since Ex Novo began in Oregon, in 2014, the company has donated over $100k to charities.
Here in New Mexico, the charity Gregory works closest with is Somos Unidos, whose goal, according to their website, is to create “positive outcomes for every New Mexican.”
Ex Novo has developed a beer in collaboration with Somos Unidos, called ‘Stay Golden’, and donates $1 of every pint sold to the charity. As of the end of September, over $6k had been donated.
Gregory wants to do more, and dreams of one day being able to donate all net profits to charity.
This philanthropic mindset is just one of the ways Ex Novo is contributing to the village. It is also one of its largest employers, with 25 people working in the taproom or distribution center, nine of whom are villagers.
Concerns that the distribution center would take more water than it was originally leasing through the San Juan-Chama allocations have been quelled. Gregory says “we have all the water that we need,” and the running count of cans produced in Corrales is now over 2.7 million.
Getting back to the beer garden, Gregory says Ex Novo is still working out the exact details of when it will be open, but he is pretty sure it won’t be during weekday lunch hours. “It doesn’t make sense to have both sides open on the weekdays, but for the evenings… the space has the potential to stay open all winter.”
For the moment, The Corral is not available as extra taproom seating and is off limits when the bar is closed.
The space can be booked for events. In fact, another reason Gregory wanted to open it is to have the ability to keep the taproom available to the public while The Corral is being rented, and vice-versa.
One such event is planned for Dec. 4 and is open to the public. Ex Novo will be hosting a fundraiser that will include a pay-what-you can Christmas tree lot.