In February it will have been five years since Andrew and Ashley Kalemba opened High and Dry Brewing on Lomas Blvd. With the help of some other business partners—including Mark Baker of Humble Coffee and 505 Central Food Hall—the Kalembas have transformed a quiet corner of Adams St. into a popular neighborhood hangout. Now they've turned their attentions to another enterprise, an upscale casual wine bar in nearby Nob Hill. Public House ABQ opened officially to the public on Sept. 17 and, in just over two months, has already become the hot new hangout in Nob Hill for food and drink.
According to Andrew Kalemba, who serves as managing partner and head brewer, High and Dry was his first professional brewing job. "Previously to that I did CRM sales process consulting for high tech." Years ago, brewing was just his "side hobby," but Kalemba dreamed of being on the front end of the hospitality industry. Although going from working with client management software to owning a bar might seem like a drastic career change, Andrew feels there were "lots of transferable skills. Lots of project management, running businesses, operating businesses."
The Kalembas view Public House as an expansion of their other bar. "It's one of our satellite taverns from the brewery," explains Andrew. "We still carry some High and Dry beer here, but we're really drawing focus to New Mexican wine."
"Our brewery scene here in New Mexico continues to grow. And it's easy to show off breweries and taprooms," says Ashley Kalemba. "But with the wineries, they're really hard to get to sometimes, because they're rural. And here's not many tasting rooms in the metro areas of New Mexico. So that's why we were like, 'Let's showcase what New Mexico has to offer with wine and partner with these great wineries.'" Shifting their focus from beer to wine was a natural evolution and fit perfectly with the Kalembas' plans to spotlight New Mexico products.
"There's so much good wine out there," says Andrew. "There's so many wineries that I didn't even know about, not being a wine expert. We're constantly finding new ones. ... I think one of the hardest things to hear regularly is that, 'Well, New Mexican wine is not good.' Maybe you're comparing it to something different. There are many things to be very very proud of. A lot of people think, 'Oh, it's all just sweet wine.' That is not true. Not at all."
The Kalembas are planning to stick with a seasonal menu, switching among local wineries every three months or so. "We're working with approximately two wineries at a time," says Andrew. "That way we can go a little bit deeper into each one of their portfolios and show the customers a little bit more depth into what these places are doing. Instead of us picking 12 different things from 12 different places. Every couple months we're gonna change that up. And as we're doing this, we're building good relationships with these producers and growers." To start things off, Public House is showcasing Sheehan Winery from Red River and Albuquerque's own Vara Winery. In future, Public House hopes to host wine tasting classes and other educational events from their winery partners.
But wine isn't the only draw at Public House. The property, one block off Central Ave., extends from Hermosa Dr. to Carlisle Blvd. and contains two "suites," one of which is occupied by Public House, the other by the restaurant Butter. "What we've done with the property is we've used our license to have the liquor license for the whole property," says Andrew. At Public House LLC, you can get a drink inside the restaurant or food inside the bar. Or sit outside on the deck and order from either. "Kinda go all around and choose your adventure," as Andrew puts it.
Butter serves up comfort food like soup and sandwiches from 11am to 3pm, then the owners of the restaurant—Danielle Lamphier and her daughter, Alex—turn the kitchen over to their "sister" business, Meateor Burgers, for dinner service from 4 to 9pm. Burgers and wine? Why not? "When you think of food and wine, you think it's gotta be this high-end pairing," laments Andrew Kalemba. "And it doesn't. It goes well with so many things."
At the end of the day, concludes Andrew, "We want this place to be a very approachable environment. You don't have to be a wine expert to come in here. We're not wine experts. We enjoy wine and we like sharing that with everybody."
Public House ABQ is located at 201 Hermosa Dr. NE. For more information go to publichouseabq.com.
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