Stoutmeister and E-Rock spent the last day of March in the Taos area in Northern New Mexico, which is now home to four breweries with potentially more on the way.
Our last stop on the trip was Eske’s Brew Pub and Eatery, the oldest microbrewery in the Taos area. I saved the review for last because it was the last we visited, but also because it was the weakest of the four. In fact, though I hate to say it about any brewery, it was a disappointment. If anything, Eske’s reminded me of a smaller version of Kelly’s here in Albuquerque. It had a lot of beers on tap, but few of them were really any good.
The best beer I had at Eske’s was probably the first one I tried, the Black Cat Ale. Brewed in the style of a German schwarzbier (dark ale), it was smooth, maybe a bit watered down. The flavor sits on the middle of the palate, lacking any bite at the front but also lacking any bitter aftertaste. It definitely struck me as the type of beer you would drink on a lazy summer afternoon on Eske’s patio.
Stepping up to bat second in the order was the Doobie Rock Heller Bock. Despite checking in at 6.2-percent ABV, it had almost no flavor. A single tortilla chip completely overwhelmed it. You could drink this beer like it was water, which is not a good thing for you, your liver, or anybody, for that matter.
The No. 3 hitter in the lineup was the brown ale, which the beer menu describes as a “smooth brown ale with nutty tones.” Instead all I tasted was an unusually off-kilter flavor. It almost tasted like the beer sometimes does at Bad Ass Brewery in ABQ, with that semi-metallic flavor that some members of the Crew believe comes from recently cleaned beer lines (probably from the cleaning product itself). There was no nut-brown flavor here, just an odd flavor that made this beer hard to finish.
E-Rock, who had been watching his friend play a gig next door at the Taos Inn, arrived to spare me from watching the agony of the ugly Ohio State-Kansas game by myself. He immediately ordered the Seco Stout, which he described thusly: “It’s a nice, drinkable stout. It’s only five-percent alcohol, so it’s not a kick-you-in-the-face stout which is nice. It’s just tasty. It’s got kind of a malty, roasted taste to it.”
The Victory Bitter was my last beer of the evening, an ESB by the look, smell, and taste. It was a clean, crisp beer; a major improvement over the brown. It had more hops than most ESBs I have had, giving it a nice bite. I ranked it second behind the Black Cat Ale.
Overall, I think Eske’s biggest issue is that it has been around for a long time. It has never had competition before, but with the Taos Ale House now open up the street, it needs to raise its game. Throw in Blue Heron to the south and Comanche Creek to the east, plus the possibility of at least one new brewery opening in town soon (we were told it would be called Mesa Brewing, but no one really knew the when/where of its opening/location). All of those newer breweries offered up beers with more flavor and quality. Eske’s can continue to lean on the tourists who do not know what a good craft beer is, or at least rely on folks who like its food, but ultimately to survive in a competitive brewing environment, Eske’s has to start brewing better and stronger beers.
Well, that’s it from our Taos Trek. Check back Friday for the return of Beer Weekend, which will highlight the one-anniversary of Il Vicino Canteen that takes place Saturday, and watch out for more updates from all the Crew members.
— Stoutmeister and E-Rock