Posts Tagged ‘Kellys Brew Pub’

Tractor’s Nob Hill taproom is back behind those trees, away from much of the construction for the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project.

The Albuquerque Draft Station shut its doors on April 3, through no fault of its own. The Albuquerque Rapid Transit project had torn up Central Avenue outside, and during the construction a water line was ruptured, forcing the craft beer bar to shut its doors. Draft Station would not reopen until April 12. Nine days of revenue were lost.

It was perhaps the most extreme example of the negative effects of the ongoing construction, which has hampered businesses not only in the stretch of Central west of downtown, but also in Nob Hill, which has been torn to pieces for months. The Crew reached out to the breweries and off-site taprooms in the affected areas. While Bosque and Draft Station never got back to us, I did have a chance to sit down with Kaktus owner Dana Koller, Kellys head brewer Dan Cavan, and Tractor marketing director Jeremy Kinter. Each of their respective Nob Hill locations has had a different experience with A.R.T.

Kaktus only opened its taproom on December 31, 2015, making it one of the more recent new additions to the neighborhood.

“We only opened a few months before we really started getting into that (construction),” Dana said. “We don’t have numbers to compare it to, but it’s definitely been an uphill battle. We feel there’s a (clear) reason for that. We’re getting our high ratings, people love what we’re doing up there, but it has been really difficult to get that walk-in traffic. We see our numbers going up slowly, really slowly, but they are going up. I think we would be about 35 to 40 percent stronger if the construction wasn’t there.”

Kellys has also had a hard time discerning the exact impact of the construction, as the longtime brewpub recently went through an ownership change. Now under Santa Fe Dining’s umbrella, Kellys has revamped its food and beer menu.

“Honestly, I think it’s just slightly less than business than usual,” Dan said. “Probably the changeover had more impact than this on our sales.”

Tractor has been the most established and stable of the three, but that has not meant it has avoided a drop in sales.

“It’s been interesting, but surprisingly enough A.R.T. hasn’t impacted us as deeply as we expected,” Jeremy said. “We’ve held our own. Sales have been down, yes. We have noticed a drop, but it has not been significant by any means. We’re one of the lucky few.”

Tractor does have a couple things in its favor. First off, it has its own established parking lot out front, and many customers over the years have learned to park on the side streets like Silver and Tulane. The taproom also has a loyal clientele from the residential neighborhood to the south.

“What’s nice about our Nob Hill location is it’s more like a Cheers (style) bar,” Jeremy said. “There’s a ton of regulars and those regulars still come, mostly from around the neighborhood.”

Parking issues are still there for everyone, however.

“We’re one of the lucky few where we have parking, unlike areas like Harvard, for instance, in the Bricklight District,” Jeremy said. “That’s a lot tougher. Getting there is really tough, getting in and out is really tough. I know Winnings (Coffee) is having a tough time. They have the Indiegogo campaign for $10,000. It’s really sad to see that it’s impacting those bigger businesses as well. I don’t want to see Off-Broadway go out of business. AstroZombies won’t go out of business, but they’ve taken a hit. Everyone has taken a hit. Nob Hill Bar & Grill, they’ve taken a hit. Even Two Fools.”

It is that drop in support for all businesses in Nob Hill that has Tractor concerned.

“All in all, it has impacted us, but not bad,” Jeremy said. “We’re more concerned with the neighborhood in general. That’s our biggest concern right now, concerned with the other businesses shutting down like Red Wing (Shoes), Hey Johnny, the furniture store. We’re worried about the impact on Nob Hill in general, because that impacts all of us.”

These sorts of signs are becoming all too common in Nob Hill, worrying the breweries and taprooms.

Kaktus has made moves to try to combat that by bringing the various businesses together.

“We’ve been trying to get involved wherever we can,” Dana said. “We did that passport program recently to encourage business and encourage the businesses to come together and build that excitement. I’m happy to see that our numbers are going up, because that means we’ll probably make it, even though it’s been a struggle. Chances are high we’ll make it, especially after the construction is done. We should see some strong numbers.”

The passport program involved 19 businesses on or near Central, where patrons could get a small booklet and receive a stamp every time they made a purchase. They could then turn them in to be part of a drawing for $700 in prizes.

“It got us some positive exposure in the media,” Dana said. “It’s the perception that people are getting more than anything else, if we kind of create events, they’ll make their way down. That was pretty successful for the first one. The biggest thing was we got positive news. It was in the Journal. KOAT covered it.”

Kaktus may look to do a second go-around with the passport program, Dana said, as construction is expected to continue through July. Those construction plans extending into summer is where the Nob Hill locations could start to see a major impact.

As Dan noted for Kellys, “we’re patio driven, so we’re also weather driven,” meaning the coming weeks and months will truly show whether or not the construction will have a tangible effect on the brewpub.

“They’ll probably finish the bulk of the construction during our slow season,” Dan said. “(But) it will be interesting to see what happens when they’re working on the sidewalk on our side of the street.”

The bulk of the sidewalk construction is currently along the north side of Central in Nob Hill. It has created headaches for locations such as Il Vicino, Two Fools, Matanza, and more. Once it reaches the south side, where it could begin to affect Tractor, Kellys, Nob Hill Bar & Grill, and even close to Bosque.

The sidewalk construction is creeping closer toward Kellys.

One major casualty, events wise, has been the loss of the annual Pride Parade, which will move to Lomas this year. The uncertain end date for construction means that Route 66 Summerfest could also be in jeopardy of being relocated.

“That’s a huge loss for us, especially for Tractor and our involvement in the LGBTQR community,” Jeremy said. “That’s one of our big demographics. We have Drag Queen Bingo and we do events sometimes with the social club. At Pride we do a float and people come to Tractor (afterwards). That was a big loss for us and we weren’t too happy about it moving to Lomas, but we understood. You can’t do that on Central right now.”

Tractor still intends to be involved with the parade.

“The word as of now is next year it will move back to Central, which is good,” Jeremy said. “Also, they’re working with me to let Tractor to close down a portion of the street or block in Nob Hill and host a post-Pride Parade party. That’s a nice stipulation that they gave us. They’re working with us and Nob Hill Bar & Grill.”

The Tractor staff is thinking positive thoughts about Summerfest staying put. So far, city officials have not officially committed to keeping it in place, nor have they officially said it would be moved. That call may not come for another few weeks, so the city can better analyze the state of the construction and its progress.

“What we were concerned with, and we just had a meeting with the economic development (committee), and our biggest concern has been the loss of Summerfest,” Jeremy said. “As you know, Summerfest is a huge event in Nob Hill. It’s our number one day for sales. That’s the case for a lot of the businesses in Nob Hill. There has been some talk of Summerfest moving away from Nob Hill, but that hasn’t happened. We’re very fortunate for that.”

Kellys, likewise, will miss having the Pride Parade around and hopes that Summerfest is not going anywhere.

“Those are huge bumps,” Dan said. “Losing Pride from Central, we’re busy from 7:30 in the morning to 2 in the afternoon. That will definitely impact us. Summerfest is huge, that’s the largest event on Central. Just keep it rolling, get (the construction) done by Summerfest.”

For now, the Nob Hill breweries will keep their fingers crossed that things will keep trending in a positive direction as the construction gets closer to completion. None have been hit so hard that they are in danger of closing shop, but not every business in the district can make the same claim.

“We’re more concerned about the neighborhood in general than ourselves,” Jeremy said. “Tractor will be fine. We do things to try to drive traffic there. We have music two nights a week. We have art openings. We have those events to generate our own traffic. Scalo, I think, is bringing back music as well. It’s about that time of year. We opened our patio. Once the warmer weather is back we’ll see more traffic.”

The Crew will keep an eye on the status of all the breweries and taprooms up and down Central, as well as the ultimate fate of Summerfest.

In the meantime, get back out to the affected areas and show your support for all the businesses in Nob Hill, East Downtown, West Downtown/Old Town, and downtown itself whenever the construction finally reaches there. Let us focus on helping our local small businesses, whether they sell beer or not, keep their doors open, regardless of the status of old Route 66. Lomas and Lead/Coal are our friends!

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

The tap handles are being whittled down until only 20 are left at the revamped Kellys.

The tap handles are being whittled down until only 20 are left at the revamped Kellys.

Kellys Brew Pub has sometimes been referred to as the great missed opportunity of Albuquerque breweries. Despite the history, the great location, the huge patio, and more, it had fallen far behind the more modern breweries around the city and state. Even so, it still drew plenty of followers, though the beer geeks had long since migrated to the various craft taprooms and beer bars in Nob Hill. Now, there may finally be a reason to go back.

Santa Fe Dining completed its purchase of Kellys earlier this month, bringing the old joint under new management. This means a new plan is in store, with some big changes on the way. To find out about all the beer-related moves coming down the pipe, I sat down with SFD director of brewing operations James Warren and the Kellys staff on Tuesday afternoon.

“The plan for Kellys is we’re going to pare down the house beers from the 19 or so that they had down to eight,” James said. “Eventually, two seasonal beers going all the time and 20 draft lines from the 67ish that they had here, so that we can have some Blue Corn, some Chama, some Marble and a couple other guys, maybe Quarter Celtic and Bosque down the line.”

Those changes are already underway.

“We won’t be brewing again probably until October,” James said. “We’re rearranging the brewery and selling the home-brewing equipment we have back there. We’re getting rid of all of that.”

This old home-brewing equipment is now for sale. Interested? Contact Santa Fe Dining. (We're serious, do it!)

This old home-brewing equipment is now for sale. Interested? Contact Santa Fe Dining. (We’re serious, do it!)

Kellys head brewer Dan Cavan and assistant brewer Ben Lenetsky will remain in their roles.

“We’re going to send these two guys around to Blue Corn and Chama, learn a little bit about Santa Fe Dining and the way we like to brew things,” James said. “Then we’ll get going again and hopefully we’ll sell out of our current inventory of Kellys beer and then we’ll start over again.”

There are still about 40 beers on tap. As each one runs out, it will simply be taken off. Eventually the area with all the taps will be remodeled just like the rest of the building. The smaller TVs have been removed, leaving just the bigger screens. It feels more open and welcoming inside.

“All the Budweiser signs are gone,” James said with a smile. “The distributors took back all the neons.”

It just feels like there is more breathing room inside the bar area.

It just feels like there is more breathing room inside the bar area.

The types of dishes on the food menu have not been changed much, but how the food is made is being changed. The ingredients will be more local, and everything will be made in house.

The beer, though, is what most people have complained about over the years. As the local scene evolved, Kellys remained stuck in the past. How old were the recipes?

“They date back, let’s see, we’ll go through them,” Dan said. “Blonde is relatively new. Golden, that’s 10 years, at least. Apricot is basically the Blonde with apricot extract. Amber, gosh, that’s probably older than 15. Session IPA is six, seven years old. IPA again is same as Amber for the most part, probably 12 to 15 years old. Mars DIPA is brand new. Scottish Ale, that one I’ve tweaked a lot, but basically it’s about six to seven years old. And then the Oatmeal Stout, I’ve tweaked that a lot, too, so that’s basically a couple years old.”

The styles of beer will not change, but how they are made and what they are made with will change to make them more comparable.

“There’s some good history to it,” James said. “We want to keep those same styles of beer to honor those ideas, but we want more of a modern brewing approach.”

The brewhouse is only two years old and does not need to be replaced.

The brewhouse is only two years old and does not need to be replaced.

The three canned beers — Amber, Apricot, Session IPA — will remain the same. For Dan, though, it will mean a new opportunity to make other beers as well. He reflected on a conversation with Zach Guilmette of Canteen, where Dan asked how many seasonals Zach has made so far in 2016. Zach could not come up with a number, Dan said, while Kellys made less than he could count on one hand.

“It’s a breath of fresh air for me, honestly, just because that menu was so overwhelming, I couldn’t break free from it,” Dan said. “It was that and the way the old owners liked it.

“I’m just looking at it as a clean slate type of thing. We have a decent base of beers, let’s just tweak them. This is not 2000, you don’t have to have 17 styles. You don’t have to have a red, brown, and amber on tap at all times. Getting back into brewing, is what I like to call it.”

Gotta admit, this new display of malt, hops, and wheat is pretty cool. James Warren photo bomb not usually included.

Gotta admit, this new display of malt, hops, and wheat is pretty cool. James Warren photo bomb not usually included.

Kellys has always drawn a crowd from the general public. Now it may be able to bring back the craft beer geeks who have moved away.

“It has tons of potential,” James said. “What we have here in this area that nobody else has — a brewery. There’s lots of taprooms and stuff, but nobody is making the beer right here (in Nob Hill). At this time right now, to be able to reorganize these beers, focus more on a modern idea of what beer is to New Mexico, to dial in these beers, we’ll make them more modern, we’ll make it more interesting.”

The Crew will head over in October when the revamped beers are ready. We look forward to seeing what a modern brewing setup can do for Kellys.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister