Kaktus finds their footing after adjusting to having two locations

Posted: April 12, 2016 by cjax33 in Interviews, News
Kaktus is still adjusting to life with a second location.

Kaktus is still adjusting to life with a second location.

Kaktus Brewing made the big leap into opening a second location at the very end of 2015. Since then, they have had to endure a few ups and downs, and some resulting adjustments, to finding their place in Nob Hill. To catch me up on all that has happened, I sat down with owner Dana Koller on a recent afternoon over a pint of Irish Stout.

The first thing I noticed upon entering the Nob Hill taproom was that one-third of it was closed. While the main bar area, to the right of when you walk in, and the rooftop patio are still open. The area with the booths and tables, to your left as you walk in, is closed pending renovations.

“One of the things that we learned and why you’re seeing a change in the bar area is that people started reviewing us more as a restaurant than a brewery,” Dana said. “And, to me, that was really not our goal. We want to provide food, a good, high quality food, but we didn’t want that to be the focus. So, what we’ve changed is we’ve closed down the side that looks like a restaurant, just keeping the rooftop patio and the bar side.”

Dana said profits were starting to go to a 60-40 split between beer and food, whereas he wants it to be at least 65-35 or higher.

“We’re going to put our full focus on expressing the fact we’re first and foremost a brewery,” he said. “I think where some people got confused, we’re still getting our variance to sell growlers, which will probably happen around June 1. People just not seeing that, no growlers, and (not enough) promotion of the beer, I feel like that’s where the confusion was. What we’re trying to do right now is fix that confusion.”

They moved the furniture around in the downstairs bar area, too.

They moved the furniture around in the downstairs bar area, too.

Now, before anyone thinks that Kaktus is ditching their food menu completely in favor of having just beer, that is not the case. The menu is unchanged, and some more items could actually be on the way, all at the behest of customers.

“We actually might add small items; people want french fries,” Dana said. “Just like a bar food menu, fish and chips, french fries, that was a conversation we had earlier. We’re definitely going to keep the menu, we’re proud of our food, (but) we just want people to know we’re a brewery, first and foremost and food is a plus. We just want to get that across before it’s too late, before we actually become a restaurant. We’ve seen it happen. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s not our goal.”

Kaktus has nonetheless become a popular spot in Nob Hill, which in turn has helped set the company’s focus moving forward.

“We actually finally decided on our slogan, which is ‘Kaktus Brewery, Balanced Beer, Balanced Life,’” Dana said. “And, so that’s the direction we’re going as a company. Our big focus is on an active lifestyle, a healthy lifestyle, with the reward of beer. We knew that we were going to kind of hold out on defining ourselves for a while to make sure it complemented who our customers are and who are employees are, and this does.”

Of course, the biggest adjustment has just been in terms of production. Producing enough beer to fill the taps at the original location in Bernalillo was something brewer Michael Waddy had mastered long ago. Adding all the new taps in Nob Hill has meant an increase in production and production costs.

“We did have to up our system production a bit,” Dana said. “We just spent over $3,000 on adding to our existing system. We’ll be able to produce enough with clean water to produce enough beer. We’re slowly investing in more equipment to keep up with demand. For a while there, we would be down to seven beers instead of eight, and a couple times it was down to six beers for only a couple days, but still. We got that fixed, we’re up again where it gives us a little bit in stock. But, a big event like during the Summerfests could potentially could give us a run on our system, so to speak.”

If you're gonna have an official slogan, make sure no one will miss it.

If you’re gonna have an official slogan, make sure no one will miss it.

Nob Hill also brings a different crowd of beer drinkers to Kaktus than the ones in Bernalillo.

“We definitely saw a lot more IPA (sell) up here than anything else,” Dana said. “Our lighter styles like our pilsners and lagers, they’re still selling well, but definitely the IPA. The Irish Red sold fast. So, those are our best sellers up here, whereas in Bernalillo it’s more of the house lager, the pilsner, the malty-style beers.

“But, people are loving the beers, really. The feedback is they’re all solid. What we hear a lot is they love going through a flight, and they’d be happy to drink every single one of them, not just two or three. They’re super-drinkable and that’s the feedback, people like that. They like that nothing is too over the top.”

There will be some new developments on the beer front in the coming months as well.

“We’ve been waiting on our oak barrels,” Dana said. “They’re a little bit behind schedule, but we’re excited about doing a couple aged beers to lead us into our sours. Our Kombucha is on tap, which has been a fun alternative for people. We’ll be doing a hemp ale soon, which we’re excited about. Those are probably the most fun and original things we’re doing right now. Everything else stays within our tradition of what we’ve done the past couple of years.”

Dana added that Kaktus will be participating in all four editions of Summerfest (Downtown, Nob Hill, Northeast Heights, West Side), plus the Bacon Fest, IPA Challenge, and potentially a few other events, including the Thirsty Thursday Music Series at Balloon Fiesta Park.

They will also be focusing a lot of attention on the popular rooftop patio, which figures to only get more crowded as the weather gets nicer.

“People do love it up there,” Dana said. “We’re finding areas where we need to make small improvements. We’re going to add some plants this week, well, this week is almost over, so next week we’ll add plants. Basically, you’ll see changes all summer long. We’re going to be invested in our patio all summer long. I have a particular vision of half lounge, half like communal seating, so we really want to get this fun (atmosphere). I don’t know how to say it, we want it playful up there, but comfortable at the same time.”

All of us in the Crew realize not everything always goes to plan, but it sounds like Kaktus is rolling with all of the adjustments. We look forward to seeing what else they have in store in the future.


— Stoutmeister

  1. maypex80 says:

    Can someone from Dark Side Contact Me!
    I am one of the two owners of The 377 brewery that will open soon. I love you blog” .

    Cliff Sandoval

    Sent from my iPad

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