This past Saturday was the third anniversary party for Kilt Check Brewing Company on 4814 Hardware Drive in Albuquerque, near San Mateo and McLeod. I wanted to specify the address because owner Mike Campbell said he still gets local people who come in and say they didn’t know the brewery was there.
If you are one of those folks who haven’t been over to Kilt Check, it’s not just a brewery — it’s also a beer memorabilia (especially beer can) museum of sorts. You see, Mike, who is an avid collector, has been in this business a long time. He and Daniel Jaramillo from La Cumbre both brewed at the original Rio Bravo Restaurant and Brewery on Central back in 1996.
As an aside, a funny story Mike told me is that he used to sell hot tubs over on Central and Eubank. At the end of his shift, he would walk to the gas station across the street and grab cans of mostly malt liquor, and come back and sit in the nicest demo hot tubs overlooking Central (what a view, ha!) and watch for the transients to head toward their sheds to try and camp out. You had to check every one of those sheds every morning before you opened, he said.
At a recent New Mexico Brewers Guild meeting, one younger member brought up that Mike and a few others around town are part of the 20-year club. People assume it was easier back then to sell beer without all the competition, but that was not the case at all. Nobody wanted to buy craft beer in the beginning of the modern era in the 1990s. They were begging people to at least try it; Mike said he was going to local restaurants and handing out samples.
I was there before the band started playing, so since it was not too crazy busy yet, I cornered Mike and asked him if he would talk to me about this year and what might be coming soon next year. He joked and said, “Well, we are still open! And, we are still selling beer!” He said they are trying to stay relevant with so many breweries in town now. (P.S., it is becoming stout weather, and theirs is very good.) Mike said he probably has the least bitter IPA in town, and that Kilt Check can be accused of being malt-centric.
For this anniversary party, Mike was able to have his neighbors sign off on use of the space in between the buildings for the music and beer garden-type of use. They are considering a permanent outdoor area, but probably would only be able to use half that space, situated longways alongside their building. That is probably the major plan for the next year. Recent funding had to be spent on licensing issues, a name change, and ADA compliance updates.
I did notice their new and unusual chairs. I feel they really freshen up the place. Mike said they are made using pages out of old Time and Life magazines that he picked up at a yard sale. His nephew, Kolton Huerta, who manages the brewery, actually made them.
Upcoming beers include an imperial red. Their core beers are so popular that Mike said he has to concentrate on keeping them on tap. We are happy to see them keep plugging along. Thanks to Mike and his always hospitable wife and co-owner Sheryl for taking time during the anniversary to talk and provide some good conversation and beers. Happy third, Kilt Check!