Much of the work going on at breweries these days is happening behind the scenes. Some of it is geared to preparing to reopen to onsite customers, for those still limited to takeout only. In other cases, such as at High and Dry Brewing, it is a wholesale upgrade to a bigger brewhouse and new equipment.
After spotting an Instagram post about this, I popped over to the brewery at 529 Adams St. NE to talk with co-owner/brewer Andrew Kalemba and check out all of his new toys.
“This gets us to where we need to be to keep up with our entire operation,” he said. “There’s a little bit of space in here. I want to do more things on top of this. It’s significantly bigger, but it’s still not that big. It’s right on the cusp. It’s going to get us there.”
Back before COVID-19 arrived in New Mexico, High and Dry had purchased the brewing system from Blue Grasshopper. While not a huge system, it is still quite a bit bigger than the tiny 1-barrel setup that Andrew had been using.
“The system should yield each batch about 3.5 to 4 barrels,” he said. “These (tanks) are just under 4 barrels, the boil kettle is about 5 barrels. We’re significantly changing the configuration of all the stuff from how it was previously set up. The hot liquor tank we’re going to use as a boil kettle. The boil kettle we’re going to use as a hot liquor tank. We’ve got a cold liquor tank now (too). We’ll probably add another brite tank.”
The original brewhouse and its accompanying fermenters will still be around.
“You can see the reorganization,” Andrew said. “We put the former equipment over here (in the southwest corner) for the 1-barrel system. We’re going to keep it in here temporarily. We’re going to keep it over on the wall and wheel it in or out as we need.
“We’re still going to keep the little guys going. We can do smaller batches, do some cooler stuff with that. Hopefully that works out.”
Andrew had originally planned to get things up and running with the new system shortly after purchase in March. It turned out, however, that it was not just the breweries who had to shut down most of their operations.
“I’ve been looking for the opportunity to start setting stuff up,” he said. “We had pretty much a deal worked out with the bank going into this whole thing. That all got slowed down real quick. Not until a couple weeks ago did everything get back on track. Then we got everything ordered, all the additional equipment. We got a glycol chiller. This is an electrical system, but we’re going to convert it over to gas. We got the burners in. We’ve got the electricians here this week, moving some plugs around, getting everything done.”
Now that the equipment is starting to be put into place, a schedule is starting to form up.
“We’re running some glycol lines this weekend,” Andrew said. “I’m going to be conservative, but slightly optimistic that by July 1 we should be cranking away on this thing. It’s pretty damn close to working. It’s just minor things. We’ve got a keg washer now. I’m not going to be humping kegs around, which is the most exciting thing.”
In the past, High and Dry has done contract brewing at Dialogue and Rio Bravo to keep up with demand on its most popular beers.
“I think our production, our on-site production so we don’t have to contract (out), this will at least match exactly where we were,” Andrew said.
High and Dry has survived on beer to-go sales, with the addition of another piece of equipment providing a positive boost.
“We’ve got crowlers going now,” Andrew said, noting those have been “100-percent (beneficial).”
“We didn’t see a huge jump in sales, but it’s easier than (us) buying growlers,” he added. “It’s totally worth getting. We were going to do it as part of it, it was just finding the room in the budget. It took about five weeks to get here. We got the cans before we got the machine.”
Loyal customers have been keeping High and Dry going, but Andrew and his staff are hoping that they will soon hear good news from the State of New Mexico, with their patio ready to go as summer is almost here.
We can only hope that good news comes soon for all of our breweries.
A big thanks to Andrew for the interview and the quick tour, plus a taste of the new Helen: A Handbasket lager, which is available now for crowler fills.
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