It’s that time of year again, when lots of folks from outside Albuquerque and New Mexico descend upon the Duke City for the Balloon Fiesta. While a lot of us locals grumble about the increase in traffic, even we’re big softies for the Fiesta (assuming we wake up in time). Well, we are, our dogs are not. They’re huddling in the corner thinking the end times are upon us.
Anyway, with all these newcomers visiting ABQ, and balloons not flying 24-7, they will all need something to do. So for our regular readers, there won’t be much here that you don’t already know. But if you have people in from out of town asking you, “What else is there to do here?” well now you have this post to show them that there is more to this town than balloons, green chile, and “Breaking Bad.”
If you have been here before and are just looking for some awesome seasonal beers at your favorite breweries, just check out E-Rock’s The Week Ahead in Beer. It publishes every Tuesday or Wednesday, so there will be a new entry next week.
Breweries near the Fiesta
Bosque Brewing: Located at 8900 San Mateo, Bosque is by far the closest to all the balloon action. Heck, you can walk there if you want to. The easiest directions we can give is that Bosque is to take I-25 and get off at Alameda and go west. San Mateo is the first red light you’ll encounter and if you take a right and go north, Bosque will be ahead on your right. Bosque is not a huge place, so don’t be surprised if it gets crowded around happy hour. They have a menu of sandwiches and other items to munch on to keep your belly full. On the beer side, Bosque is more malt-forward than hop-forward. That does not mean Bosque beers lack flavor (their slogan is “Flavor is Boss”). We would recommend trying the popular Ember IPA, Cumulus Wheat IPA, Scotia Scotch Ale, and our favorite, the Olde Bosky Porter. The current seasonals are topped by the Far Darrig (Irish) Red Ale.
Kaktus Brewing: Just to the north of Albuquerque is the small town of Bernalillo, which finally got a brewery of its own when Kaktus opened last month. Located at 471 South Hill Road, you can access it easily from the Highway 550 exit off I-25. Head west on 550 and then take a left and go south at Hill, which is the first red light you will encounter. Kaktus will be down the road on your right. One of the smallest breweries around, Kaktus has a small lineup of five quality beers and a small menu of food. We recommend the ESB, London Porter, and the Helles, which is one of the better lighter (in color, not flavor) beers around.
Sandia Chile Grill: Located near the intersection of San Antonio and Wyoming, SCG is a small restaurant with a small but excellent selection of beers. If you get off I-25 at San Antonio and head east, there is a shopping center on the northeast corner of SA and Wyoming just a mile-plus up the road. SCG is located near a Subway and the Sports and Wellness, behind the McDonald’s and Walgreens. We endorse the Rio Negro Stout, Red Ranger Irish Red, and Smooth Move Amber Ale.
Breweries along the I-25 corridor
Most of these breweries can be accessed off the freeway between the Jefferson, Montgomery/Montano, and Comanche/Candelaria exits. Two are visible from the freeway, the others are tucked away but are very much worth making an effort to find.
Chama River: Right next to the Century Rio 24 movie theater is one of ABQ’s oldest and most respected breweries. You can access it via the Jefferson exit and the southbound frontage road. Chama is a restaurant with a full menu featuring a wide array of food. If you’re on a budget, it’s a good place to splurge. Personally, I think they might have the best BBQ ribs in town. On the beer side of things, Chama’s selection is plentiful but not overly heavy. The Sleeping Dog Stout is a personal favorite. The Jackalope IPA, Rio Lodo Brown Ale, and Rio Chama Amber Ale are also popular. If it’s IPAs you want, the top seasonal available is Hop Slap! (their exclamation point, not ours).
Nexus Brewery: Located on the east side of the freeway, you can access Nexus via the northbound frontage road beyond the Montgomery/Montano exit. Also a restaurant, Nexus is unique in New Mexico for its soul food-style menu. The chicken and waffles is among the most popular dishes you will find in town. The food alone is well worth a visit, but make sure to try the beer while you’re there. The Scotch Ale, Cream Ale, and IPA are all popular with customers. The current seasonal lineup is excellent, topped by the Beam Me Up Scottish, which tastes nice and sweet but packs a serious punch (11-percent ABV).
Il Vicino Brewery Canteen: One of two breweries tucked away in an industrial area located between Candelaria to the south and Comanche to the north, you can find the Canteen on Aztec Road. If you take the frontage road northbound, Aztec will be on your right as you go from Candelaria to Comanche. Head east a few blocks and the Canteen will be on your left. There are other Il Vicino locations in town, where you can get a pizza and a pint of regular beer, but the Canteen is your best spot since you get to try their huge selection of seasonals. There is a small menu of sandwiches (try the Piggly Wiggly, a pulled pork monstrosity) and other snack items. For beer, you can go with the popular Wet Mountain IPA, Slowdown Brown, and Dark & Lusty Stout. The current seasonal lineup includes the Milk Chocolate Cherry Stout, which won a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival last year.
La Cumbre: Just around the corner from Il Vicino is La Cumbre, one of the fastest-growing and most highly regarded breweries in the state. If you love hops, this is your place to visit. The easiest way to find La Cumbre is to take Candelaria east from I-25 and then take a left to north on Girard, which is the last street before you reach an overpass to cross a diversion channel. La Cumbre will be just north of Candelaria on the left side. Parking is mostly restricted around La Cumbre by the other businesses, so be careful not to park anywhere you might get towed. There is usually a food truck parked out front, but for the most part La Cumbre is a place to enjoy a pint or buy a growler. The award-winning Elevated IPA tops the list of regular beers on tap, though I would also recommend the burly Malpais Stout. The current seasonal list includes the awesome Witch’s Tit, a spiced pumpkin beer, as well as the ultra-hoppy Project Dank: The Return of Pharoah, a monster IPA.
Breweries on the West Side
If you are staying west of the Rio Grande, there are fewer places to visit, but still three worth checking out.
Broken Bottle: Located in a small shopping center just north of the intersection of Coors Blvd. and Irving Blvd., Broken Bottle is a fairly new establishment with a unique take on beers. The official address is 9421 Coors Blvd. NW. There is some food available, plus there’s a Subway and a sushi place located in the same shopping center so you can keep your belly full. On the beer front, I definitely recommend The Incident Black IPA, which should satisfy both dark beer lovers and hopheads. The David Hasselhefe (wheat beer) and AFD Red are also popular. The current seasonal lineup includes the Nacho Brau (a personal favorite of Brew Crew member Franz Solo), Oktoberfest, and Highway 6 Scotch Ale.
Cazuela’s Seafood & Mexican Grill: Located on Sara Road just east of Rio Rancho Blvd./Highway 528, this new Rio Rancho-based brewery is a full-on restaurant that has only recently started brewing its own beer. The beer lineup changes from time to time, but at present we know the Chupacabra IPA, Panama Red Ale, Robusto Porter, and our favorite, the Piedra del Fuego Stoned Cream Ale, are all on tap.
Turtle Mountain: One of the oldest and most respected breweries around, TMBC is located on Southern Blvd. just west of Highway 528 in Rio Rancho. Offering a full menu of awesome pizzas, calzones, sandwiches, and more, TMBC has plenty of culinary delights to go along with a strong lineup of beer that changes with the seasons. Regular favorites include the Red Rye, Cabo Lager, Mr. Hoover’s Steam Ale, and Hybrid IPA.
Breweries in Uptown
The area around Coronado Mall and the Uptown Shopping Center, located between I-40 to the south and Menaul to the north along Louisiana Blvd., this is a popular destination for shoppers both local and visiting. There are not a lot of options here for beer, unfortunately.
ABQ Brew Pub: Featuring beers from Moriarty’s Rio Grande/Sierra Blanca Brewing (for those not in the know, Moriarty is a small town east of the Sandia Mountains along I-40), the Brew Pub has a solid food menu and more. Located on Uptown Blvd. just west of Louisiana, it shares a building with Uptown Sports Bar. Regular beers on tap include Rio Grande Outlaw Lager, Roswell Alien Amber, and the Pancho Verde Chile Cerveza. The Sierra Blanca Nut Brown won a gold medal at last year’s GABF, so make sure to check it out, too.
B.J.’s: It’s the big chain brewery/restaurant. It’s not local, so you can do better. Support local while you visit ABQ.
Breweries in Nob Hill
This is a very popular area located along Central between Girard on the west and Washington to the east. There are lots of shops and restaurants to visit.
Tractor: While the brewery is located in Los Lunas, a town south of Albuquerque (though they’re moving that north soon), the tap room has quickly become one of the most popular destinations in Nob Hill. Located at 118 Tulane SE, you can find Tractor fairly easily if you’re on Central. Just look for the Arby’s and/or Starbucks on the south side of Central. Tractor is located just behind Starbucks. The joint is jumping during happy hour and almost every night after 10 p.m., especially on weekends. Because they do not brew on site, Tractor can stay open until 2 a.m., unlike the breweries where they have to close at midnight. The staff at Tractor is among the friendliest and funniest in town. There is no food on site, but the restaurants around Tractor are no dummies; many will deliver your food straight to the tap room. On the beer front, the regular menu includes the popular Almanac IPA, Farmer’s Tan Red Ale, and our favorite, the Double Plow Oatmeal Stout. You can also find Tractor’s IPA and Red in six-packs at local liquor establishments all over town.
Kelly’s: One of the older and more popular establishments, Kelly’s features a full restaurant menu of favorite American and Mexican dishes. The insides features dozens of televisions showing sports from around the world, too, though most folks prefer the spacious patio to relax and unwind after a long day or week. The beers are decent, though not our personal favorites. The Red Ale, Scottish, and others are worth sampling. Kelly’s is best for the atmosphere and if you want to watch your favorite team in action on TV. For great beer, head elsewhere. Kelly’s is located on the south side of Central on Wellesley.
Breweries in downtown
ABQ’s downtown underwent a major cleanup/renovation over a decade ago. There are lot of restaurants and more traditional bars worth checking out. Plus there are some good establishments for live, local music, such as Launchpad, Burt’s Tiki Lounge, and the Sunshine Theater. The best beer bar downtown is Sister, located on Central near 4th Street. It features a wide array of out-of-town (and out-of-country) beer on tap. For local beers, there are three options.
Marble: Located on Marble Street just north of Lomas Blvd. along 1st Ave., Marble is the largest local brewery. You can find Marble beers on tap at numerous other bars around town, plus you can buy six-packs and bombers of Marble beers all over the place as well. The downtown pub is attached to the brewery. It features a comfy patio out front with a music stage, and a small interior. There is a limited in-house menu of food, including chips & salsa, but there is almost always a food truck out front. On the beer front, the IPA, Red Ale, Wildflower Wheat, Double White, and Oatmeal Stout are among the most popular regular beers. For seasonals, make sure to try the Red Light Lager and Thunder From Dortmunder. Marble also does a special cask beer every Friday.
Back Alley Draft House: Located on Central in the back of J.C.’s New York Pizza Dept., BADH is a small establishment that brews some of its own beers and also offers beers from other local breweries. You can order some pizza from NYPD and they will bring it back to you while you enjoy some solid local offerings as well as some unique out-of-state/country beers on tap. The current BADH lineup includes an Imperial Russian Stout, IPA, and a special beer called the White Ryeno, a hybrid of a Belgian white and a rye beer.
Chama River Microbar: In addition to its main location off I-25, Chama has a small tap room located next to the Sunshine Theater on 2nd Ave. just south of Central. Space is very limited, and there is only beer here. Check in via Chama’s main site to see what’s on tap. They usually have four to five regular beers and two seasonals on tap.
Breweries in Santa Fe and further north
If you are taking the time to head north to our state’s capital, don’t fret, there are plenty of beer options. Santa Fe Brewing, the oldest and biggest brewery in the state, is located south of the city along I-25 (there is also a second location in town). The tap room is small and cozy and features many of the brewery’s finest beers. You can also find SFBC beers almost everywhere in the state on bar taps or in bottle form at liquor stores. The most popular are the Happy Camper IPA, Nut Brown, and Pale Ale. The current seasonal is Oktoberfest.
Within the city limits are two breweries that give you two locations apiece to visit. Blue Corn combines a restaurant and brewery that has recently been racking up the accolades. Blue Corn became the first non-ABQ brewery to win the annual IPA Challenge. Among its current beers on tap are a Scottish Export, Smoked Plaza Porter, Paonia Wet Hop IPA, and starting tonight, a Pumpkin Ale.
Second Street is a favorite of the Crew and has two locations, one on Second Street and one at the Railyard. While their IPAs are solid, our favorites at Second Street include their Kolsch, Cream Stout, and whatever variety of English bitter that brewer Rod Tweet has come up with. They are now brewing a slew of German-style Oktoberfest beers as well. Second Street has a full food menu at both locations.
Duel Brewing is the newest Santa Fe brewery. Brewing Belgian-style beers, Duel features some (very) high ABV beers, so be careful when you visit. There is a food menu to help you out. We recommend the Dark Ryder, Titian, and Grunewald Imperial Porter.
If you feel like heading up to Taos, make sure to stop along the way in Embudo to visit Blue Heron. A small establishment located along the main road on the left/west side, Blue Heron has a small interior and cozy patio in the back. They also sell their beer in bottle form if you don’t have time to enjoy a pint. We highly recommend the La Llorona Scottish Ale, though at present it’s only available in bottles. Make sure to try the Aurora IPA and Penasco Porter if you have time for a pint.
In Taos itself, stop by the Taos Ale House near the north end of town. The beers change fairly frequently, but if they’re available snag a pint of the Porter or Brown Ale. You can also visit Taos Mesa west of town. It’s a new place and they’re still working out the kinks, but the beer is solid, particularly their Stout and Brown.
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If you have any questions, leave a message here on our site, or you can contact us on Facebook or Twitter (@nmdarksidebc), or even via email at email@example.com.
We will be at the New Mexico Brew Fest on Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. For more on that event, you can find our preview with (almost) full listings off all the local beers that will be poured.
Welcome to ABQ and we hope that you all have a great time this week!