Plenty of breweries have stories about how difficult it was just to get their doors open. Mike Campbell might just take the unfortunate prize for top story in that regard.
The former brewer at Cazuela’s and Tractor has been trying to open Drafty Kilt Brewing since April 2015. The end of the process is finally in sight, but to say it has not been easy would be the ultimate understatement.
“We’ve had every snag you can think of,” Mike said. “The federal government was just a trip. We submitted and they tell you right on your website and on your (entry), if it hasn’t been this many days, don’t contact us yet. So, two months go by and then they tell us there’s a woman in California with the same name as my wife and with the last four (digits) of a social security number (who) likes to rob banks, prove that’s not you. And, by the way, go to the back of the line after you’re done.
“Then a couple months went by and they told us again that they just approved a brewery … well, they said we’re doing you a favor and letting you know that we’re approving an OffKilter Brewing Company in Indiana. You’re going to have to change your name. So, that’s where we went to Drafty Kilt.
“And then, time goes by, I start calling again and finally somebody calls back and says the rep that was doing your stuff died and your paperwork slipped through the cracks. Sorry about that! After that, then it went through. I was much more happy with the performance of my federal government.”
Now that the majority of the paperwork has gone through, Drafty Kilt is moving ever closer to opening.
“We can brew this weekend,” Mike said. “Then we’ll go back in there and start dealing with all that (taproom setup). If I can get three beers in the fermenters, we’ve got three weeks to play around get the bar set up. There’s all sorts of stupid things I still have to do. We have to get the wireless, get the TV, the cable. The list just keeps going on an on.”
This will be the fifth brewery that Mike has run, though it is a bit different from Rio Bravo (1990s version), Tractor, Cazuela’s, and one in Memphis.
“Even though I’ve put together four breweries, this is the first one that has all been my decisions, my money,” he said. “It’s been real easy to tell some of the previous people that I need this and voila, it appears.”
The brewery is located at 4814 Hardware Dr., a street just west of San Mateo. It is between McLeod and Lumber, a street that would only be familiar to anyone who has ever gone to Movies 8 to see a second-run flick for $1.
Drafty Kilt has come about thanks in large part to a generous family member.
“My mother-in-law inherited some money,” Mike said. “For tax purposes, she’s purchased a few houses and stuff to reinvest the money. She pretty much said she knows I don’t have a retirement plan and she doesn’t drink, but she has heard the accolades and knows that I can make good beer. She’s loving it, making curtains for the windows, loves the bar.”
Drafty Kilt purchased the 15-barrel brewhouse that La Cumbre started with in 2011. It fills up a good portion of the brewing area, with three fermenters and a cold room also present. Mike and his staff dug their own trench drains, converting a former office/industrial space into a functional brewery.
The front of the brewery, which faces west, will feature a no-frills taproom.
“Just kind of a soft and warm, not dark, not bright, just a safe space to drink some beer,” Mike said. “Once again, we were kind of thrown from OffKilter, because that kind of fit with my personality. Where with Drafty Kilt we actually need to have some Scottish stuff in here. I’ve got some old wooden golf clubs.”
Still, the cost of renting the building and not being able to do anything with it for almost a year did put a dent in one part of the budget.
“We’re going to have to, not scrimp, but not be as ornate we would like the bar to be, the taproom,” Mike said. “The beer we’re not going to scrimp on, but I think we’re going to need to get (creative). We bought these chairs cheap. We still need to find some bar stools. But, we’ve got to get open and get some income, because I’ve been hemorrhaging money, especially the long (delay). Just the extra time of renting this place, I’ve already renewed my city licenses for another year.”
One item that may adorn the walls would tell of the struggles of just getting open.
“We were talking the other day of making a mirror with the logo, putting ‘open 2015’ crossed out, ‘spring of 2016’ X’ed out, ‘summer of 2016’ X’ed out,” Mike said. “I like to kind of say that I just don’t see when they say there will come a time when we will look back on this and laugh. I spent $100,000 here, people.”
Drafty Kilt can now focus on the beer, with plans already drawn up for the first three that will go on tap.
“I’ll start with three beers and we’ll have to work our way from that,” Mike said. “I’m not sure I’m a fan of guest beers, especially when I’m first opening. It would help to have other beers, but I’d rather not.
“I’m going to make my stoned cream ale, same as over at Cazuela’s, we’ll just have to find a different name for it (than Piedra del Fuego). That’s just an easy-going, calibration beer just to let me see how the brewhouse works. And, then an IPA and a Scottish, a wee beastie.
“Scottish ales are great because you can make four of them with the same type of ingredients, just different proportions. 60 shilling, 90 shilling, 120 shilling, Scotch ale, wee heavy, peat is good. God bless the man who invented peat malt.”
Mike won a medal at the World Beer Cup in 2014 for his oatmeal stout, Beer For My Horses. Expect to see a new version of that beer in the near future as well.
Drafty Kilt will keep the focus internal to start, though eventually they could sell kegs to bars and restaurants.
“ I’m going to go off-site (eventually), but I don’t have much room for expansion,” Mike said. “But, I can certainly sell some beer. Actually, two (distributors) are willing to take me on, knowing what I’ve done in the past. I’ll have no problem. The biggest problem I could see would be getting spread too thin, going too many places and then running out.”
We wish Mike nothing but good luck from here on out. When Drafty Kilt is ready to open their doors after such a long, long wait, the Crew will be there to raise a pint in celebration.