Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Beer travels: A look at the Albuquerque beer scene

Image credit: La Cumbre Brewing, Turtle Mountain Brewing, ABQ Brew Pub
Bosque Brewing, Tractor Brewing, Rock & Brews
I'll admit that on a recent trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, a certain phrase from the old Bugs Bunny cartoons kept sounding off in my head. Not knowing what to expect of the craft beer offerings in the city, I couldn't help but wonder if I too would be thinking I should have had taken a left turn at Albuquerque.

It turns out I need not have worried, since if you include satellite taprooms and multiple brewery restaurant locations (Il Vicino, Chama River), there are just over a dozen places to enjoy local brews from the source. Not only that, but another five or so breweries exist in adjacent cities that are no more than a thirty minute drive away.

I ended up choosing to visit breweries and taprooms both inside and outside the city. Among those I didn't make it to were the Marble and Broken Bottle breweries, the Red Door Brewing Company (which held its grand opening while I was there) and the Stumbling Steer Brewery & Gastropub (which I just happened to pass while driving, as it doesn't show up on Google Maps when you search for breweries near Albuquerque).

As for where I did end up, here's a taste of what the local scene has to offer:

ABQ Brewpub (restaurant, growlers to go): Set up in Uptown Albuquerque, this is a joint venture between an adjacent sports bar and the Sierra Blanca & Rio Grande Brewing Company in Moriarty, New Mexico. Props here go to their Nut Brown Ale, an earthy brew of English influence with hints of chocolate and roast that won medals at the 2012 and 2013 Great American Beer Festival (GABF).

Bosque Brewing Company (cafe menu, growlers to go): This brewery is nestled away in a strip mall development in the northern part of the city. It's a smallish kind of place, but they do offer a light food menu which reminded me a lot of the sort of fare you might get at the Flying Saucer. Selections were split evenly between seasonal and year-round brews, and there was a nice variety of styles among the dozen or so beers on tap. I started with an enjoyable sour called Fade to Blackberry, then moved on to the tasty Bosque's Burnin' Red Rye, the chewy Scotia Scotch Ale and the bright and refreshing Acequia Fresh Hop IPA.

Turtle Mountain Brewing Company (restaurant, growlers to go): Located outside of Albuquerque in the city of Rio Rancho, a roughly thirty minute drive to this spot takes you past Intel's sizable New Mexico site. The house beers are for the most part solid and stylistic (such as Pork 'n Brew Brown and Hopshell IPA), but if you ask me it's the wood-fired pizza that is the star of the show. I had the Adam Bomb, minus the pine nuts, which brought together pepperoni, Italian sausage, fresh spinach, green chile and some of the creamiest mozzarella I've had in recent memory.

Tractor Brewing Company (bottle and growlers to go): The actual brewery is located on the west side of town, but the taproom in the Historic Nob Hill district was a little closer to where I was staying. This place had an interesting mix of brews, ranging from a mild seasonal Berliner Weisse to what I considered to be the best beer on the board, Mustachio Milk Stout. Plus, there was the added bonus of a rather inebriated fellow seated nearby who insisted on convincing me America was doomed.

La Cumbre Brewing Company (bottle and growlers to go): When you first turn down the road to La Cumbre, you might wonder if you've made a wrong turn somewhere (and yes, I did turn "left" down this particular road). Once you get your bearings, though, you quickly learn that the IPA is king here...literally. Hopheads will surely enjoy Elevated IPA (the 2011 GABF gold medal winner), Project Dank (the 2014 National IPA Champion) and the Full Nelson (a DIPA with a final gravity that is actually lower than the others).

Rock & Brews: No, this isn't a brewery, nor is it a brewpub, but I grew up listening to the band KISS (the money men behind this operation) and the restaurant just so happened to have its grand opening while I was in town. And, honestly, it was a more than pleasant surprise. Great food, quality tap list and wide-screen TVs devoted to classic rock videos. Not only that, they had a taste of home in cans of Cedar Creek Dankosaurus. My only complaint? Merchandise. How can you have a theme restaurant like this and not offer some kind of logo glassware?

For more on craft beer in Albuquerque, check out the websites of the New Mexico Brewers Guild and Albuquerque Beer Scene.


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