Local Hero: Beverage Artisan, Beer

An Interview with Joel Gregory, owner

Before going to college in San Luis Obispo, California, where he got his degree in electrical engineering, Joel Gregory was raised in Corrales. Later, he and his wife moved to Portland, Oregon, and then in 2014, as he puts it, “in a bizarre career change, started a philanthropic brewery called Ex Novo [with locations in Portland and Beaverton].” In an effort to both expand his business to an exciting new market, and return home to be close to his family (all of whom now live in Corrales), Gregory started the third location of Ex Novo in Corrales in 2019, situated on more than three acres right on Corrales Road.

Tell us about the move from Portland to Corrales. How did your New Mexico brewery and taproom come together?

In early 2017, my wife and I decided to try to find a way to move home to New Mexico (she’s from Albuquerque), but this obviously was in conflict with the three-year-old brewery we started in Portland, which we love so very much. After a whole lot of thinking and talking, we decided we could trust our great staff to run the day-to-day operations in Oregon and make the move to start another Ex Novo in our home state. The beer market here in New Mexico has really taken off over the last seven years, and we thought the timing was right for our kind of brewery. We started looking exclusively for property with enough space for a production facility, a pub, and abundant outdoor space to enjoy the pristine weather of New Mexico. We ended up finding this property in Corrales, where I grew up, which has a storied past, ending with a restaurant and event space that burned down in 2012. I was admittedly skeptical that we would become a destination for folks living outside of the village, but I was proven wrong. After we opened, people came from all around for the laid-back and beautiful environment, and, of course, delicious beers.

Your menu features almost as many lagers and sours as ales. What are your favorite beers this season? Anything coming soon that we should be excited about?

Yes, we adore lagers for their simplicity and approachability (in the industry, you have to drink a lot of beer, so choose wisely); they are the brewers’ beer, very hard to perfect. As the weather turns, I personally open up to some maltier options, and we have some great choices, like Ruminator, a German-style doppelbock, or Nevermore, a barrel-aged black barley wine with smoked figs and cocoa nibs. Right around the winter solstice, we release Kill the Sun, a bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout with four different variants (almond, chocolate and coconut, for example).

You created Stay Goalden, an easy-to-drink, United-themed golden ale. Have you developed any other beers or cocktails influenced by the local landscape or using local ingredients?

Collaborating with New Mexico United on a beer was a lot of fun. They are a huge part of what it means to be local in New Mexico, and they do a great job at raising up other businesses and artists around them as well. We’ll be continuing to raise meaningful funds for their Somos Unidos Foundation through this project. We have two barrel-aged sour beer projects going right now, one with peaches from Velarde and the other with raspberries from Heidi’s Raspberry Farm here in Corrales.

Naming beers has become a competitive art form of its own. Who’s your acting wordsmith? What makes for a good name?

It really has, and it can be a great way to set yourself apart. We have fun with it, but try not to corner ourselves—we have some that are inspired by movies, songs, or pop culture, some that are goofy puns, and some that just sound like a great name. We have a Slack channel just for beer naming, and anyone in the company is invited to contribute; we wouldn’t want to place that much responsibility on one person 🙂

You’ve been described as a nonprofit brewery—your mission is to donate all your profits to organizations making change. Why this mission, and how do you decide which organizations to support?

The mission has always been to give back as much as we are able to, after covering costs and making necessary expenditures for growth. We are no longer a nonprofit (since 2017), but businesses structured this way provide people a “why” to the “what” and can raise funds for other nonprofits without depleting the donor pool at all. We’re also supporting organizations that move us to action on a personal level, so I felt our business should act in the same way.

4895 Corrales Rd, Corrales, 505-508-0547, exnovobrew.com

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