Taos Trek II: The Wrath of the $20 Cover

Posted: July 1, 2013 by cjax33 in Brewery Reviews, Out-of-Town Brews
Tags: , ,

This heat sucks. It’s probably the most repeated line everyone in the ABQ metro area has heard since early last week. Shilling and I, Stoutmeister, had heard quite enough of it so we decided to do something about it. Specifically we decided to head up to the (slightly) cooler climes of Taos and do our due diligence visiting breweries.

Like a beacon in the night, Taos Mesa beckons patrons despite being in the middle of nowhere.

Like a beacon in the night, Taos Mesa beckons patrons despite being in the middle of nowhere.

We hit Blue Heron, Taos Ale House, and Taos Mesa on our trip. It was a good trip which we’ll go into detail about below. However, the end was not ideal. Upon arriving at Taos Mesa we were told there was a $20 cover. That’s just downright ridiculous, but apparently Neil Young’s band was playing, something we were unaware of. Still, this is New Mexico, and the thought of a $20 cover at a brewery was mind-boggling. They allowed us to go in and have one beer without paying the cover, then we had to leave. This denied us the opportunity to try and review all of Taos Mesa’s beer and left us both angry and frustrated. The biggest point of this excursion was to try the newest brewery in Northern New Mexico.

So to Taos Mesa, might I offer a suggestion: next time you have a band requiring an ungodly cover, create two entrances. Have your staff man the gate at the back patio and let people sit out there who do not want to pay the cover and are just there for the beer. Then tell anyone that goes inside, save for a quick trip to the bathroom, that they have to pay the cover. This would make life a lot easier for those of us who want to try your beer and would never, ever pay $20 to listen to a geriatric former rock star. Sound good? OK, let’s move on …

Blue Heron

The La Llorona Scottish Ale on the back patio at Blue Heron is a great way to beat the summer heat.

The La Llorona Scottish Ale on the back patio at Blue Heron is a great way to beat the summer heat.

E-Rock and I visited this little gem of a nanobrewery over a year ago. It’s still in the same quaint location in Rinconada, on the road between Espanola and Taos. For Shilling and I it was initially our intent to just grab some beer to go, as Blue Heron has bombers for sale of their most popular beers. But upon arrival we just had to sit down and enjoy a pint. Sure, we could have tried something new, but the La Llorona Scottish Ale beckoned. It is still the same, wonderful elixir, with a great balance, a thick body, and even some coffee hints that set it apart from the Scottish ales you can get at places like Bosque, Il Vicino, and Nexus down here. It still ranks as my favorite Scottish in the state and is arguably the finest beer in the state.

But I digress, since this was Shilling’s first trip to Blue Heron (he had only enjoyed the La Llorona at Septemberfest and when I brought him back a bomber last year), so I’ll let him share his thoughts on the beer and the brewery: Without a doubt, one of the best Scottish ales in the state. The first time I had this was back at Septemberfest a couple of years ago and it was a beer that truly stood out to me and left me wanting more. The brewery itself is truly unique. The storefront resembles one more of a coffee house or small cafe that would be serving a quaint brunch. We were making this trip to “beat the heat” of ABQ and this was a perfect place to kick back and relax for a little bit. The patio, again not one of a traditional brewery, was a small, partially covered setting surrounded by the forest.

Taos Ale House

The Dirty Brown at Taos Ale House is a nice variation on the brown ale style.

The Dirty Brown at Taos Ale House is a nice variation on the brown ale style.

The Ale House had a small crowd on hand for a Friday evening by the time we arrived. They only had two of their own beers on tap — others were fermenting in the back — but they did have a lot of other New Mexico beers available that their customers were enjoying. We came for the (literal) House beers so we each grabbed a pint of the Dirty Brown. There is no sweet in this brown like you might find at Il Vicino or Chama River. Instead there is a medley of nutty flavors that blend together well. The strong initial flavor dissipates and leaves a smooth, clean finish. For a stronger brown, it still fits in the warm summer month. If you make it up to Taos before the Dirty Brown runs out, make sure to grab a pint and let us know what you think.

Here’s Shilling’s take on his first visit to the Ale House: Drove by this place back in March on a short vacation with my girlfriend. We fully intended to stop but had to cut that plan short as my lady was suffering from car sickness. Anyway, I had a sample of what I believe was a very flavorful porter back at Hopfest last year and it left me curious about what the new guys in Taos were about. This go-around I went for their Dirty Brown Ale, a pleasantly nutty brown that rivals many of the more well-known browns from Santa Fe, Il Vicino, and Chama. It was an inventive change-up from a “normal brown.” As far as the brewery goes, the facility looks smaller from the outside, but don’t let that fool you, there is plenty of room inside. I would like to check this place out during ski season.

Taos Mesa Brewing

Putting aside the $20 cover annoyance, we were each able to sample one beer at TMB. Now, the location itself is unique. TMB is located far outside of Taos along Route 64 toward the Rio Grande Gorge. It lies on the north side of the street in what appears to be a former airplane hangar, which is fitting since the Taos Airport is on the south side of the street. The back patio is huge, with lots of tables and room for even more. Why the band was playing inside instead of outside was a mystery.

To properly capture the Superstitious Stout in low lighting at Taos Mesa, one must be willing to blind Shilling with the flash.

To properly capture the Superstitious Stout in low lighting at Taos Mesa, one must be willing to blind Shilling with the flash.

For my beer I had to go with the Superstitious Stout. It is not a summer beer by any means, but by the time we got there (FYI, we stopped at Taos Pizza Out Back, which was wonderful for dinner) it had cooled off into the low 70s and the stout seemed more fitting. It checked in at a reasonable 5.5-percent ABV. There is the classic smoky flavor, with a robust mouthfeel and some chocolate hints on the back end. This is a strong, burly stout that I’m sure sells very well in the fall and winter months when the skiers come by. For the only beer I tried, it has at the very least made me want to go back to Taos Mesa whenever I can.

Shilling tackled the Fall Down Brown and had this to say about the beer and the brewery: This place was rad. Good use of property by using the old hangar. The Fall Down Brown had a lot more of the traditional flavors comparable to SF, IVC, and Chama River. It was light and not incredibly filling. It was much sweeter than the Taos Ale House’s version. I’m interested in trying what else Mesa has to offer. I think next time, I’ll make sure there is no band playing that night …

* * * *

Overall we enjoyed our second trek up to Taos. We highly recommend taking a trip north to beat the heat. Blue Heron, Taos Ale House, and Taos Mesa are all worth visiting. Just make sure to either space out the drinking or designate a driver or, provided you have more money than we do, get a room and stay the night. The winding roads up there are tough enough as it is to navigate.

We will head back to Taos Mesa, and make sure to check for hefty covers with traveling bands, when we get the chance. But next time, guys, try to help the beer drinkers out and give us an alternative to feeling rushed by having separate entrances for the music crowd and the non-music crowd.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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