LOVINGTON — A previously vacant lot situated in downtown Lovington is now Drylands Brewing Company, Lea County’s first brewery.
The restaurant that employs 30 people and offers a variety of craft beer and pizza.
Drylands, 322 North Main, opened its doors last month, but officially marked the milestone Friday afternoon with a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by Lovington Chamber of Commerce.
For the occasion, co-owners Daniel Torres and Andres Arreola were joined by a crowd of family, supporters and representatives from the City of Lovington, Lea County, Lovington MainStreet and Economic Development Corporation and New Mexico Main-Street gathered at the roughly 5,400 square-foot business to celebrate. “Brew Crew” employees bustled about serving beers to some attendees and other appetizers were served.
Torres said it’s “been great” so far and thanked the community for supporting the new business, which boasts 30 full-time and part-time employees. “We opened July 18, I believe, so we’ve been going at it,” he said. “Just perfecting things as we’re going through and we’re hoping to attract more people for our lunch hour,” Torres said. “So, we’re working on a new menu which we can get people — get you your food within 10-15 minutes when we order it.”
One customer, Isaiah Arenivas of Lovington, sat at the taproom bar during the event and dined on Zia pizza, Sriracha wings and drank a stout.
“I love it. I love craft beer. I love pizza,” he said. “They’re my two favorite things. It’s a great place to hang out with your friends and grab a pint.”
Arenivas’ dining experience was years in the making with several local and state entities involved along the way. The City of Lovington approved the land sale in November 2015. In April 2016, the city approved Lovington EDC’s recommendation to use $80,000 in local economic development funds for brewing equipment and infrastructure development. Drylands broke ground in September 2016.
Earlier this year in May, the city approved agreements with New Mexico Economic Development Department and Dry-lands to act as a fiscal agent for the transfer of $100,000 in state funds to the brewery.
Lovington City Manager James Williams described the team effort that made the project happen as the “perfect storm” and compared Drylands to rain, as it makes “things green.”
“In order to have that perfect storm occur, you’ve got to have several ingredients and the first one is these two guys’ vision,” he said. “They had a vision of bringing something different to Lovington. This vision became a reality and we’re standing in it right now.”
New Mexico MainStreet director Rich Williams, Tabatha Lawson, the former executive director of Lovington MainStreet, Mayor Paul Campos and others joined James Williams in praising the entrepreneurs’ vision and public-private partnership.
Before the ribbon cutting, Rich Williams told the audience that Drylands is one of New Mexico MainStreet’s “showcase projects” they love to “brag about,” while Lawson congratulated the co-owners’ families, Lovington Main-Street, as well as the City of Lovington for the “fantastic addition” to the community that’s the “first of its kind” in Lea County.
“Who would’ve ever thought that we would have a brewpub and pizzeria in little old Lovington?” she asked. “Very few people until a couple of years ago and now look at this beautiful multi-purpose space we have right here. The first new construction in many, many years in downtown Lovington — what used to be vacant lots is now a restaurant, manufacturing facility and catalytic business development project already employing (30 people).”
Lovington may not be the limit for Drylands. The owners have an eye on expanding to Hobbs in the future with a taproom, but have plans to bottle beer for distribution in southeast New Mexico businesses and add more of its own beers on tap.
Drylands is entering its craft beer into the Great American Beerfest this October in Denver, according to Torres. It already took home a People’s Choice award at the second annual Corks and Kegs Festival earlier this year.
“It’s going really, really well,” General Manager Heather Laney said. “We have a great staff that’s working really hard for us. Everyday just gets a little bit smoother and a little bit busier, so we’re really excited.”
Laney described Drylands’ menu as “fresh.” She cited the Zia and Sabertooth as being “incredibly popular,” which she described as a taco pizza and a Meat Lovers-like pizza respectively. The menu includes pizzas, salads, appetizers, desserts and other items.
“Almost everything is house made — our dressings,” she said. “Our pizza dough is from scratch. All of our sauces are all made from scratch here. Really fresh, which is a nice change for Lea County.”
Drylands Brewing Company is currently open from Monday through Saturday. The taproom opens at 11 a.m. with the lunch hour. Lunch is served from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. From 3-4 p.m., the taproom is open with light snacks available. Dinner is served from 5-9 p.m., while the taproom remains open until 10 p.m.
“Come give us a try,” Laney said. “Be open-minded. Our beers are not what they’re used to, so I think if people will come with an open mind and a willingness to try something different, everybody can find something that they really enjoy.”
Visitor Facebook page: @drylandsbrewingco for more information.