Kaktus Brewing had the unfortunate timing of opening its Nob Hill taproom just as construction began on the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project. Now, as the last of the orange cones have been removed, Kaktus is looking to finally find its niche with a taproom remodel.
“As you know, right when we opened this location, they started A.R.T.,” owner Dana Koller said. “We were just up against it hard, the challenge right there for a while. We just got motivated as they were completing A.R.T., supposedly they’re about to run any day now, we decided to recreate ourselves along with that. All of our changes would be done December 1. So, we didn’t close to make the changes, we’ve been incrementally creating them, and then December 1 is when it’s like this is where we’re at.”
Kaktus tossed out the old, almost 1960s-style mod furniture. The bar is now one solid piece with a concrete counter top. The new vibe is almost a sort of throwback style, but mixed with a little bit of the eclectic fun that the original brewery in Bernalillo has been sporting since day one.
“We’ve been trying to figure out our niche here,” Dana said. “We’ve got an incredible niche in Bernalillo. I mean a niche in the whole industry, a brewery on the way to Santa Fe, on the way back from the Jemez. So we’ve been trying to figure out our niche here. We decided to go with this really aggressive social environment. We’re pushing those social hours between 2 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.”
Kaktus is moving away from being seen as a restaurant with beer, Dana said.
“That’s the niche we’re trying to create, a social environment more away from the restaurant to focus more on the taps and the drinks,” Dana said. “Before you walked in and we felt like people weren’t too sure if we were going more restaurant or more taproom. Now we’ve just decided to go much more taproom, more bar oriented.”
The menu is quite different from anywhere else in Nob Hill.
“Our menu is all about those fine hors devours and flatbreads, more bar menu style, but pretty nice,” Dana said. “It’s something you’re not going to find anywhere else. We’re doing duck wings, squash and goat cheese flatbreads, a unique grilled cheese.”
The changes have not been limited to the downtown taproom space. Head on upstairs for a new experience as well.
“We did the same thing with the rooftop patio,” Dana said. “We added some new lights up there. It’s all lounge furniture from one end to the other. It’s super comfortable. We’ve even got new staff coming on board this week. It’s almost a full overhaul, to a degree. We have a nice new feel, so when people walk in it’s going to be a whole new experience.”
Capturing some of the Bernalillo experience, but also giving the taproom its own voice, has been the goal.
“That was the other thing, we tried to match our Bernalillo spot with its eclectic-ness, and we still did, but we’re definitely taking it up a notch at Nob Hill to identify ourselves more,” Dana said. “Bernalillo is outdoorsy, kick your feet up, chickens are running around the property. This is going to be nothing like that at all. We’re going to be the opposite of that, a real clean, fun environment, the start of your social night.”
The timing could not be better for Kaktus to make these sorts of moves. A.R.T. coming to an end is one thing, but this Saturday will feature the annual Twinkle Light Parade, and the following Saturday will feature Shop and Stroll.
“I thought we offered something different to begin with, but it wasn’t enough for people to talk about,” Dana said. “It wasn’t enough for people to be like oh, my experience was great there. We started the aggressive changes with the menu. The day after Thanksgiving, we were open that Friday and Saturday and that’s it, we already got a really good response to the style those two days. People walking in the door were so positive. I’m so excited about this week.”
All of us in the Crew wish Kaktus luck in finding that niche. We look forward to chilling out with pints like the delicious new Oatmeal Raisin Stout in the near future.