When you visualize a brewery in a small town like Moriarty, you probably automatically think of a Mom-and-Pop-style establishment, or maybe an American version of a rural British pub. There is a sense of both in the small inside bar and the outdoor beer garden at Sierra Blanca Brewery, but this is also a state-of-the-art operation that produces an impressive amount of high quality beer.
If you’re a beer drinker, most likely you’ve already tried at least a couple of Sierra’s signature brews, like the Sun Chaser Pale Ale or the popular Alien Wheat and Alien Amber Ale. If your favorite is from the Rio Grande Brewing Company, that’s also a Sierra offering, as the Webers purchased that operation in 2007 and continue to grow the line.
Rich, whose background is in the electro-mechanical field, says that he went into the brewing business because “I always felt like I wanted to manufacture something. I figured, why not beer?”
When the Webers first opened Sierra Blanca Brewery in 1996 in Carrizozo, New Mexico (they moved operations to Moriarty in 2007), Rich says their biggest challenge was that craft brewers were still relatively unknown to the general public. “Ten years ago, people didn’t stop in a town and try a local beer,” he says. “That all changed around 2006. Now people seek us out.”
When he opened his business, he focused on a few simple tenets. “I knew persistence would be a key,” he says. “I decided to persistently focus on quality over quantity, staying small (meaning not trying to become the next Anheuser Busch), and offering variety.”
His company is a testament to how loyal he’s stayed to his original goals. The brewery now offers over 17 different beers, 20 with seasonal offerings.
While Weber is justifiably proud of the brewing operation that exists behind closed doors, he’s equally as proud of the public atmosphere he and Suzanne have created. The interior is cozy, featuring a short bar with six or seven stools and a few tables. The half-acre beer garden is idyllic and family-friendly. It includes an outdoor bar, a stream and Koi pond, swing set and play house, and a pagoda with porch swings. There are also a variety of outdoor game areas, horseshoe pits, a bocce ball court, and tetherball.
Rich says he loves being in Moriarty. “I just like the smaller, quieter atmosphere.” He shows his appreciation for the community by sponsoring sports teams and hosting a number of seasonal events in the beer garden, like an annual Halloween party and Oktoberfest weekend. Adults pay a cover charge and kids are free (kids eat for free, too).
Of course, no brewery is on the map until it wins a few national awards, and Sierra Blanca has won several. Most recently they followed up their 2012 Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal for their brown ale with a Silver Medal (also for the brown ale).
Tours of the brewing operation are free and available to all who ask.
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