It was back in 2016 that University of New Mexico students (now alumni) Sara Collins and Gus Pedrotty proposed the construction of a taproom on the Albuquerque campus. After years of hard work and gaining approval from university higher-ups, their vision is finally becoming a reality. The UNM Taproom began construction earlier this summer, and is set to open in mid-September. It will serve beers from several local breweries as well as a small food menu. The taproom will share kitchen space with Wise Pies, its neighbor in the SUB food court.
“It started with a conference that we went to at Colorado State [University],” says Collins, who graduated from UNM in May. “They've got a taproom in their student union building. And it is a thriving community.”
Collins and Pedrotty took this kernel of an idea and ran with it. They wanted to have a space on campus where students and staff could gather for less formal events, meetings and social gatherings. But their proposal to put a taproom on campus wasn’t met with open arms at first.
“When we started the project I wasn’t even 21. We knew we would be thought of as just some college kids who wanted to drink,” says Collins. “In a lot of those meetings we took, people were ready to laugh us out of their office.” But the students were soon taken seriously after they demonstrated how much research and legwork they were willing to do to get this project off the ground. “The amount of presentations and meetings we did to make this happen should be standard. It’s really proved that grassroots efforts can accomplish things on a tight timescale, and that the university does listen,” says Pedrotty.
“UNM is really trying to cultivate this ‘Live, Work, Play’ on campus thing,” says Pedrotty, who sees the taproom as a great opportunity to get students more involved in campus life. They hope to have poets, comedians and musicians perform in the space, and even to encourage visiting scholars to give shortened, casual versions of their academic lectures in the taproom. It could be a great way for students with full-time jobs to engage with academics on their own schedules.
The layout of the taproom is based on a design from a UNM architecture student, whose whole class presented potential designs for the taproom as their final projects. While the taproom won’t have any brewing equipment, Pedrotty hopes that there could be some partnership with CNM’s new Brewing and Beverage Management department in the future. The two alumni have put in their work on this project, and now it’s up to current students to dictate what kind of force the taproom will be in the UNM community.
Collins admits that there’s some bitter irony in the fact that she and Pedrotty are no longer students at UNM when the taproom is finally opening, but she says, “We always knew it wouldn’t open before we graduate. And we’re fine with that.”
Both alumni hope that the taproom will be an example to future students of just how much students can create change with grassroots efforts. “It’s such a testament to students being the voice of the university,” says Collins.