Editor’s note: Yes, we added another writer to the Brew Crew Bullpen. Please welcome Jerrad to the team. — S
As is the going tradition, and for my first contribution as part of the Dark Side Brew Crew, we continue the yearly Look Back/Look Ahead Series examining the hustling and bustling breweries across the Albuquerque metro area.
Recently, I had the great pleasure of visiting what I would call a wonderful but slightly hidden brewing gem, Drafty Kilt Brewing Company. Don’t let the off-the-beaten track location fool you. To get there, take a quick westbound turn onto McLeod Road from San Mateo, and then a left on Hardware Drive will land you right out front of the well-branded building. The taproom is warm and inviting with its heavy use of wood and bold tones, lofted ceilings, some modern artistic touches, and an incredible drinkware and can collection that adorns just about every wall. All of this is the pride and joy of Mike Campbell, a veteran brewer and long-time man of influence in the Albuquerque beer scene.
After a tour of the taproom and brewhouse, we sat down and had a chance to start our discussion with how things have been going for the business in its first year. Drafty Kilt officially opened its doors last November and just celebrated its first anniversary. This anniversary certainly didn’t come without its fair share of hard work.
“The highlights, for one was St. Patrick’s Day, it was a busy, crazy fun day,” Mike said. “Each of the festivals this year, too, were great. You have to take every chance to get out there in front of people and be seen. There’s enough festivals where it can be a real burden to give away that much beer. At least I can make enough at one time, where’s it’s not so bad as dealing with it on (other breweries’) 2- or 3-barrel systems. That’s a lot of free beer to be giving away, but that’s just how it is, pay it out in the front and hope to collect it (when it) comes back.”
Making an observation from his standpoint as the brewer and owner over the past year, Mike shared the obstacles the brewery has faced and is still facing.
“One of the biggest hurdles, I guess, is that now there’s 30-plus breweries and taprooms and another 50 (locations) to get craft beer in town,” he said. “We’re sharing customers, but you know a lot of people like to drink close to their home, and if there’s a taproom they may stop there instead of here. Finding the place the first time can be difficult, but then once you’re here you realize you have four exits out, highway access, and returns back onto San Mateo.”
I asked Mike about his current and previous selections on tap and what fates they may hold in the near future.
“The beer names are probably going to stay the same,” Mike said. “The Groundskeeper Willie, our cream ale, is a real hit. It’s our biggest seller. We use the hot rocks in brewing that. It’s an old technique they would have to use in old wooden mash tuns; it’s definitely not the cream ale your dad drank. Another beer that jumps out is my IPA; it’s a more balanced beer. I’d never depredate some of the others that are, you know, 100 IBUs plus. It’s got every flavor you look for in an IPA, I just find it’s not as drying.”
In terms of the future for the Drafty Kilt, Mike said he has his eyes set on upping his production capacity in terms of the cold side brewing materials.
“We just want to be able to produce more beer faster to help get kegs out to some more locations and restaurants and get some more handles out there,” he said. “Right now it’s just a logistics thing. I’m not looking to build an empire, I just want to sell fresh beer to Albuquerque and the surrounding areas … I’m looking to double production. Once we can buy some more tanks that will be entirely possible.”
They will also continue to host their weekly events — Geeks Who Drink on Tuesdays, Open Mic Night on Wednesdays, and the Blues Jam on Thursdays, all starting at 7 p.m.
“We are excited for several other things as well,” Mike said. “We have the Highland Games coming up, along with several other festivals. It’s always nice to be out in front of people.”
The biggest change coming to Drafty Kilt in the new year will be the name of the brewery itself. The brewery received a cease-and-desist order from a brewery in Atlanta, which trademarked the name Drafty Kilt for one of its packaged beers. The Brew Crew offered its readers a chance to submit name suggestions, and coupled with those from friends, family, and patrons, Mike ended up with a list that was seven pages long. Mike said he has narrowed it down to a final page and an announcement will be forthcoming.
Hopefully year two will great the soon-to-be “Formerly Known as Draft Kilt Brewing Company” with some positive news. With the lessons and progress over the last year, Mike and his dedicated team are sure to be bringing even more awesome experiences to your glass.