Kellys Brew Pub has sometimes been referred to as the great missed opportunity of Albuquerque breweries. Despite the history, the great location, the huge patio, and more, it had fallen far behind the more modern breweries around the city and state. Even so, it still drew plenty of followers, though the beer geeks had long since migrated to the various craft taprooms and beer bars in Nob Hill. Now, there may finally be a reason to go back.
Santa Fe Dining completed its purchase of Kellys earlier this month, bringing the old joint under new management. This means a new plan is in store, with some big changes on the way. To find out about all the beer-related moves coming down the pipe, I sat down with SFD director of brewing operations James Warren and the Kellys staff on Tuesday afternoon.
“The plan for Kellys is we’re going to pare down the house beers from the 19 or so that they had down to eight,” James said. “Eventually, two seasonal beers going all the time and 20 draft lines from the 67ish that they had here, so that we can have some Blue Corn, some Chama, some Marble and a couple other guys, maybe Quarter Celtic and Bosque down the line.”
Those changes are already underway.
“We won’t be brewing again probably until October,” James said. “We’re rearranging the brewery and selling the home-brewing equipment we have back there. We’re getting rid of all of that.”
Kellys head brewer Dan Cavan and assistant brewer Ben Lenetsky will remain in their roles.
“We’re going to send these two guys around to Blue Corn and Chama, learn a little bit about Santa Fe Dining and the way we like to brew things,” James said. “Then we’ll get going again and hopefully we’ll sell out of our current inventory of Kellys beer and then we’ll start over again.”
There are still about 40 beers on tap. As each one runs out, it will simply be taken off. Eventually the area with all the taps will be remodeled just like the rest of the building. The smaller TVs have been removed, leaving just the bigger screens. It feels more open and welcoming inside.
“All the Budweiser signs are gone,” James said with a smile. “The distributors took back all the neons.”
The types of dishes on the food menu have not been changed much, but how the food is made is being changed. The ingredients will be more local, and everything will be made in house.
The beer, though, is what most people have complained about over the years. As the local scene evolved, Kellys remained stuck in the past. How old were the recipes?
“They date back, let’s see, we’ll go through them,” Dan said. “Blonde is relatively new. Golden, that’s 10 years, at least. Apricot is basically the Blonde with apricot extract. Amber, gosh, that’s probably older than 15. Session IPA is six, seven years old. IPA again is same as Amber for the most part, probably 12 to 15 years old. Mars DIPA is brand new. Scottish Ale, that one I’ve tweaked a lot, but basically it’s about six to seven years old. And then the Oatmeal Stout, I’ve tweaked that a lot, too, so that’s basically a couple years old.”
The styles of beer will not change, but how they are made and what they are made with will change to make them more comparable.
“There’s some good history to it,” James said. “We want to keep those same styles of beer to honor those ideas, but we want more of a modern brewing approach.”
The three canned beers — Amber, Apricot, Session IPA — will remain the same. For Dan, though, it will mean a new opportunity to make other beers as well. He reflected on a conversation with Zach Guilmette of Canteen, where Dan asked how many seasonals Zach has made so far in 2016. Zach could not come up with a number, Dan said, while Kellys made less than he could count on one hand.
“It’s a breath of fresh air for me, honestly, just because that menu was so overwhelming, I couldn’t break free from it,” Dan said. “It was that and the way the old owners liked it.
“I’m just looking at it as a clean slate type of thing. We have a decent base of beers, let’s just tweak them. This is not 2000, you don’t have to have 17 styles. You don’t have to have a red, brown, and amber on tap at all times. Getting back into brewing, is what I like to call it.”
Kellys has always drawn a crowd from the general public. Now it may be able to bring back the craft beer geeks who have moved away.
“It has tons of potential,” James said. “What we have here in this area that nobody else has — a brewery. There’s lots of taprooms and stuff, but nobody is making the beer right here (in Nob Hill). At this time right now, to be able to reorganize these beers, focus more on a modern idea of what beer is to New Mexico, to dial in these beers, we’ll make them more modern, we’ll make it more interesting.”
The Crew will head over in October when the revamped beers are ready. We look forward to seeing what a modern brewing setup can do for Kellys.