High and Dry Brewing owner/brewer Andrew Kalemba has certainly enjoyed how 2019 has ended for his neighborhood pub. The little-brewery-that-could has received some significant recognition from the local media, so to catch up on that and what else has been going on at 529 Adams Street NE, I sat down with Andrew for our annual Look Back/Look Ahead Series.
“Man, 2019 was great,” he said. “We continued to see some growth. Consistency has been a focus for us. I think we really hit our stride. It’s been great. We’re super fortunate, we won a few (best of the) city awards this year. We got Alibi’s best brewery. We just got the word the other week from Albuquerque the Magazine that we’re top five for taproom and tap selection. It’s been absolutely fantastic and it’s great to be recognized.”
In a city full of bigger, more established breweries, High and Dry has managed to carve out its own niche, both through its constant rotation of small-batch beers, as well as events, charitable efforts, and more.
“We’re coming up on two years,” Andrew said. “It’s just crazy how fast it keeps moving. Getting caught up, it’s one thing after another. We very intentionally try to keep ourselves busy as much as we can with a small team and staff. We have a fantastic staff. They’re the ones that help us make sure all the stuff keeps going, staying in front of people. 2019 was even better than 2018.”
On the brewing side of things, the little 1-barrel brewhouse has been hard at work all year, churning out one batch after another. Andrew said he has been able to get into a better flow to make sure the taps do not run dry.
“There’s more of a rhythm,” he said. “I had better be on there every week and making things move through there as efficiently as they can. There’s no margin for error on that kind of stuff. It could get scary really fast. It’s really important that on a small system we’re still meeting all of our requirements, and maintaining licensing and all of that stuff, which is really important to us.”
Even though the taps rotate often, High and Dry does still have some popular beers among its regular customers.
“The Special Shapes IPA, that’s gotta be there (on tap),” Andrew said. “It keeps going away faster and faster. We’ve actually come closer to locking the recipe down on it. The idea behind that beer was it was going to evolve over time, but we’ve found ourselves going after the same recipe on it.”
Other popular one-offs included a green-chile-infused version of Ghost of the Moon Pale Ale, a chai wheat, and a pomegranate stout. Andrew also bowed to the demand and brewed some hazy IPAs and pales ales this season, but it was the sales figures for some of the more basic styles were unexpected.
“I think the thing that surprises me the most is the subtle beers that are kind of always around, how consistently they move,” he said. “The ambers and the wheats are always, they’re not the most fun beers, but they continue to be some of our most consistent beers outside of the really hoppy stuff.”
There is a plan behind how the beers roll out, too.
“In each of those kind of categories, in all the categories, we have two or three core recipes,” Andrew said. “Depending how often you come, it might seem chaotic, but it’s actually very well thought out. We’ve also started to do some one-offs. I’m experimenting with some new yeast varieties. I’m really getting to where I want to take advantage of the small system, tweak a little thing here or there, and see what sticks, because nothing is really ever around for too long.”
High and Dry was able to do more events in 2019, both at the brewery and beyond.
“We’re trying to do a little bit more consistent on music, because we love music,” Andrew said. “We’re going to push forward with that next year. The first Wednesday of the month we try to do a new infusion of some kind in a beer. We take a familiar beer and run it through some whole-leaf hops or green chile. Just hosting more and more events.
“We had a great event right before Thanksgiving. We did a little bit of a Friendsgiving at the brewery, collected food to deliver to (charity), coats, and all of that. That’s the other thing of the community aspect. Events are important, they should be fun, they should be goofy, but we try to do some good for the community when we can.”
Many of those community-focused events happened at other locations, or even involved special collaboration beers, like the La Avispa Gose with Marble, and For Your Sanitea with Canteen and Steel Bender.
“Just the relationships that we’ve been to build. … It really means a lot to us,” Andrew said. “We’re very new. As much as we’d always love to do more of it, you can only do so many. How many (collaborations) did we do this year? Let’s see if I can remember. Ponderosa, Palmer, Dialogue, Marble, Rio Bravo, and we just did the Canteen/Steel Bender for mental health awareness. That’s pretty significant when you take a step back and think about that. That’s what helps make this go for us.”
As for 2020, the biggest upcoming move could literally involve something bigger.
“We have been working on a business case and exploring a brewhouse upgrade,” Andrew said. “There’s lots of variables there, affordability and all that great stuff. I’d like to say in the next 12 months our plan is to figure out how to augment the current situation. It’s warranted that we need to do that. Plus, I might like to get a day off, or two. Jokingly, it’s mostly for my sanity. That is very, very high on my priority list.”
A 5-barrel brewhouse would be the target, but the current brewhouse would stick around as well.
“Assuming that if/when we do the upgrade, my plan is to keep the little pilot system going,” Andrew said. “It’s absolutely part of what this is at this point.
“I think it’s cool, it doesn’t really box you in. It allows you to take some pressure off and be creative. Sure, I’ve got my favorites, but I want something different every time I go out.”
There will be more events coming as well, with two more notables before the month is out, and a big one in February.
“So we’re going to do on the 21st, Saturday, is going be our second annual Ugly Sweater and Steely Dan Christmas Party,” Andrew said. “Bring your ugly sweaters, (enjoy) happy hour and good things like that. If you like Steely Dan, it’s icing on the cake. For New Year’s Eve we’re going to do a little beer release. I’m going to do a blonde ale or something light.”
For February, Andrew will get to indulge in something besides just brewing beer.
“The really big one is the (second) anniversary party on February 8,” he said. “We’ve got some pretty good stuff locked down on that one. One of my other passions is barbecue. The guys from Artisan Valley Smokehouse are going to bring the smoker out here. We’re going to do some briskets overnight. That’s going to be on the house, first come, first served.
“There’s going to be a beer release, beer TBD. We’re going to have some live music. We’re going to have Red Mesa band. We’re going to have a bunch of music, we’ve got a special pint glass coming out, a T-shirt release, there’s going to be something for everyone that day.
“After that, the rest of the year, we’re going to keep on keeping on. We’ve love the consistency and hopefully keep seeing a little bit of the growth. The neighborhood has been fantastic.”
We offer up our congratulations to Andrew and the High and Dry team for their success in 2019, plus a big thank you for the interview at the end of a busy day.