Above: Capitol Bar & Brewery, in Socorro, welcomes visitors year round. Photograph by Douglas Merriam.
THE ANCIENT PLANKS OF WOOD that stretch across the barroom floor are worn smooth. They don’t creak, not even once, as I step into the 125-year-old watering hole, a clear testament to the love and care permeating this place. Decades of late-night toasts, last goodbyes, and celebrity sightings are told through old photos and keepsakes adorning the walls.
It’s 3 p.m., an hour before the Capitol Bar & Brewery’s doors swing open to welcome customers. The July heat sizzles over the quiet streets in Socorro’s historic plaza, where “the Cap,” as locals call it, is set to expand with a new small-batch craft brewery system and morning coffee service, thanks in part to a $50,000 New Mexico economic development grant.
Capitol Bar & Brewery owners Earl and Joanna DeBrine are adding a brewery and a coffee service. Photograph by Douglas Merriam.
Owners Earl and Joanna DeBrine, who took over from Earl’s parents, have run the local landmark since 1998. “It was built and opened in 1896 by an Italian winemaker named Giovanni Biavaschi,” says Earl as we sit in a comfy bar-side booth. After Biavaschi ran into business trouble in the early 1900s, the place reopened as the Club Bar, with Amos Green, Socorro’s justice of the peace, running the show, holding court in the bar and even using the back room as a jail.
During Prohibition, Green turned the place into a pool hall and thriving speakeasy, complete with a trapdoor behind the bar that would allow patrons to make their way home through an escape hatch in the basement. Earl’s father, a New Yorker attending the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, leased and eventually bought the place in 1980. “I grew up in the bar,” says Earl. “I’d come here in the summers most days, sometimes on weekends, and I’d help sweep up.”
Earl points to a framed photograph and chrome-plated announcer’s microphone above the bar. “A good friend of my father’s was the owner of the local radio station,” he says. “The station was three blocks down the street, and I would take a screwdriver over to him. So I’m seven or eight years old, delivering a drink while he’s on the air.”
Coffee, pastries, and deli sandwiches are available from the bar's kitchenette beginning at 8 a.m. Photograph by Douglas Merriam.
Over the years, the Cap has attracted visitors from around the world. Although the pandemic was hard on business, the DeBrines plan to jump-start things with a new craft brews service this summer. Housed behind the same metal bars in the back room that once confined Judge Green’s prisoners, it will launch with two initial house brews on tap: the Amos Ale (a brown ale) and Jailbreak IPA. The Capitol Bar will also serve coffee, pastries, and deli sandwiches from the bar’s kitchenette beginning at 8 a.m. and running through the day.
“This is home for a lot of people,” Joanna says. “This is where they go when they have a little extra time. It’s a great crowd.”
Capitol Bar & Brewery, 110 Plaza St., Socorro; 575-835-1193