Editor’s note: Another new Bullpen member makes her debut with the Look Back/Look Ahead Series entry on Bernalillo’s only brewery. Let her know how she did in the comments. — S
It was a big year for Kaktus Brewery, as 2016 started with the grand opening of their taproom in Nob Hill, and they don’t plan to slow down in 2017. I had the chance to sit down with owner Dana Koller and head brewer Mike Waddy to discuss the excitement of the year gone by, and what we can expect from them in the coming year.
“Opening a taproom has definitely been my proudest moment of 2016,” Koller said. “You know, we expanded to one of the busiest areas of Albuquerque. It’s been challenging in many ways. Our company is self funded, so we do everything organically. It’s really nice, but it limits us in ways because we can’t grow as fast as some of the other breweries. Moving to the new location has allowed us the opportunity to stay competitive, and prove that there’s still an opportunity for smaller companies to grow.”
The new taproom isn’t the only change that 2016 has brought Kaktus. They started experimenting more with beers, ciders, and kombucha. For those of you unaware (you’re not alone, I googled it on my way to the Bernalillo taproom), kombucha is a fermented sweet tea with an active culture of (good) bacteria and yeast. This particular brew is less than 0.5-percent ABV, but it’s more commonly consumed for the tea’s suggested health benefits. It is said to help increase your immune system, lower cholesterol, and strengthen your digestive system.
“I used to hate kombucha, but my girlfriend loves it,” Waddy said. “Actually, she drinks it like a fish. Our kombucha bill was off the charts! So, I started making it at home. That turned out so well, I decided to do it full scale at the brewery. It’s fun and it’s funky, but I’ve developed a taste for it. The public loves it! It’s actually been hard to keep it in stock.”
Waddy has also gotten to play more with his specialty beers.
“One of my favorite projects that we started this year was a small barrel-aging project,” he said. “We started it with a beer called the Ship’s Hull IPA, and that was awesome! It went really, really quickly. We originally bought these barrels because we were going to start a sour program, and we just kind of started doing IPAs into them and never really got into the sours. So, this barrel (with the Ship’s Hull) is slowly, just naturally propagating brettanomyces, so we’re gonna have a Brett IPA fairly soon. Then, eventually, we’ll start inoculating pediococcus and lactobacillus to do a true sour, but right now we’re just kind of letting it naturally sour.”
So, what’s in store for 2017?
“2017 is gonna be awesome,” Koller said. “We’re excited about the Bernalillo location. We’re gonna start marketing it towards weddings and special events. We have such a unique location out there. We did our first wedding there a couple months ago, and it turned out really well.
“As far as the taproom goes, we realize the diversity that Nob Hill has to offer, and we are planning to capitalize off of that. Obviously, we have opened up the (World Travel) Cafe. The Cafe is also owned by Kaktus Brewing Company. We are going to be adding a New Mexico wine bar, which will be hosted within the Nob Hill facility as well. So, that location will offer three incredibly high quality productions, which is our craft beer first and foremost, and adding organic coffee and the New Mexico wines. That’s all really exciting!”
Another notable feature coming in 2017 is that Katkus is looking to start distributing.
“We just filed for our distributors license,” Koller said. “Granted, we will be distributing on a small scale. We realize that people want our beer. We want to establish ourselves in that setting so that we can be more available to the public. We also want to show (the public) that even though we are a small brewery, we are still a strong and growing brewery.”
“We have slowly started expanding our equipment,” Waddy added. “We’ve been ordering more kegs. We’ve been upgrading our fermenter sizes. My hope for 2017 is that we basically double what our system is now. I think that would be awesome for us.”
I spoke with Waddy a little bit about the idea of collaboration. I was interested to learn that he’s really excited for the opportunity to collaborate with another local brewery.
“I’d like to collaborate! I like a lot of local breweries. Nobody’s ever asked us to collaborate, and I think collectively, maybe we’re too shy to ask,” Waddy said with a laugh. “But, it would be really fun if we are given the opportunity in the future. It’s definitely something I’d like to do.”
Overall, 2017 is poised to be an opportunistic year for Kaktus. Stay tuned for more information on the New Years/One Year Anniversary Party at the Nob Hill taproom.