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.”
We’ve updated this for 2014, since we’ve added just a few new breweries. If you’re just interested in the current slate of seasonal beers, as always, check out The Week Ahead in Beer. That feature runs every Wednesday.
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 way to get to Bosque is to take I-25 and get off at Alameda and go west, just like you would go to Balloon Fiesta Park. 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 Cumulus Wheat IPA, Scotia Scotch Ale, and our favorite, the Driftwood Oatmeal Stout. The current seasonals are topped by the Olde Bosky Porter, formerly a regular, and Rebel Brit (Brown 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. A quaint, unique setting, Kaktus has rotating lineup of quality beers and a small food menu. We recommend the Oyster Stout, Honk Ale, and the Helles Lager, 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 restaurant with a small but good 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 Barb’s Barrel Hefeweizen, though the lineup tends to change a lot.
Breweries in the far Northeast Heights
Lizard Tail: If you feel like getting away from the more crowded areas, head east on Montgomery until you reach the intersection with Eubank. Located in a shopping center on the southeast corner with a Pelican’s and the Dirty Bourbon Dance Hall (for country music lovers only), Lizard Tail is a new neighborhood pub. They have a little food, but it’s mostly about the beer, which is more malt-forward than hoppy. The Belgian Abbey and Rye Stout are worth trying. If you do need some hops, go for the IPA or India Black 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. The current seasonal lineup includes the tasty Wee Bit Loco Scottish ale and the Hardscrabble ESB.
Nexus Brewery: Located on the east side of the freeway, you can access Nexus via the northbound frontage road just north of 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, Chocolate Porter, and IPA are all popular with customers. Nexus tends to be a more malt-forward brewery.
Canteen Brewhouse: One of two breweries tucked away in an industrial area located between Candelaria to the south and Comanche to the north (now officially known as “The Brewery District”), you can find the Canteen Brewhouse (formerly Il Vicino Brewery 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. The Canteen usually has a 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 popular Irish Red, as well as the Pumpkin Porter and Pumpkin Saison, giving you some options for your fall palate.
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 (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 or some bombers or four-packs of cans. 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 IPA. If you’ve never had an imperial pilsner, La Cumbre has one for you in the form of Levitated.
Red Door: One of the newest breweries in Albuquerque, Red Door just opened. It’s on Candelaria just west of I-25 on the north side of the street. There is usually a food truck parked out back for your culinary needs. Inside the spacious taproom, Red Door has its initial lineup of beers and sometimes guest beers from other local breweries. The Red Door staff has discovered keeping up with thirsty Burquenos is no easy task. The Roamer Red, Threshold IPA, and Paint it Black Milk Stout (served on nitro) have all been hugely popular. Red Door also has one of the more potent ciders you can find in the Unhinged Cider (7.9% ABV).
Breweries on the West Side
If you are staying west of the Rio Grande, the beer options are only getting better.
Broken Bottle: Located in a small shopping center just north of the intersection of Coors Blvd. and Irving Blvd., Broken Bottle has 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 Oktoberfest and Cactus Juice, which is made with prickly pear cactus.
Pi Brewing: This new brewery is operational, but all beers are served next door at Nicky V’s Neighborhood Pizzeria (same owners). They have a small but solid lineup, including the Unchallenged IPA, West Coast Red, and Robust Porter. Of course, you can also chow down on lots of tasty Italian dishes at Nicky V’s. As for how to get there, Nicky V’s is located on Coors Blvd. just north of Paseo del Norte. The address is 9780 Coors on the east side of the road.
Boxing Bear: The newest joint on the west side is Boxing Bear, which took over the old Elliott’s Bar space in the shopping center on the northeast corner of the intersection of Alameda and Coors/Corrales Road. There is a small menu of sandwiches and snacks. Brewer Justin Hamilton has made an immediate impact with some big, bold beers. The Uppercut IPA packs a punch, while the Glassjaw Double IPA is just what hopheads want. The Standing 8 Stout and Hairy Mit Hefe are there if you don’t want to pummel your palate with too many hops.
The Stumbling Steer: If you need a gourmet meal with your craft beer, it’s hard to go wrong at the Steer. (Pardon the rhyming pun.) The menu is extensive, and boy oh boy do we love the Pork Bites (aka BAG OF MEAT) for an appetizer. The Steer is still assembling the in-house brewery; for now they are brewing out at Sierra Blanca/Rio Grande in Moriarty east of Albuquerque. Still, those are brewer Kirk Roberts’ recipes, and they are quite tasty. The brown ale and imperial stout are tremendous. A recent black IPA specialty beer was excellent as well. The Steer is located on Ellison on the southeast corner of the intersection with Alameda.
Cazuela’s Seafood & Mexican Grill: Located on Sara Road just east of Rio Rancho Blvd./Highway 528, this Rio Rancho-based brewery is a full-on restaurant that also brews 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 created by new brewer Tim Woodward. Regular favorites include the Heidelberg Helles, Piedra Lisa Porter, Parasol White IPA, and McDay’s Cream Ale. The Monochrome Milk Stout and Oktoberfest top the current seasonal list.
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. 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 Bonechiller Brown won a silver 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 near downtown (see below), 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. And there is always at least one food truck outside. 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, Red, and Mustachio Milk Stout in six-packs at local liquor establishments all over town.
Kellys: One of the older and more popular establishments, Kellys 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. Kellys is best for the atmosphere and if you want to watch your favorite team in action on TV. For great beer, head elsewhere. Kellys is located on the south side of Central on Wellesley.
Breweries around 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) beers on tap. For local beers, there are five 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 Rescue Craft Draft, an English-style pale ale. 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 Soroche IPA, Red Ale, Berliner Weisse, and Octoberfest.
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.
Tractor Wells Park: Tractor moved its brewing operation to this huge space at 1800 4th Ave. from Los Lunas, a town south of Albuquerque. While the brewing is humming in the back, the taproom has become a popular place with an external patio as well. Tractor hosts live music and other special events pretty frequently. The beer list here is extensive, with traditional favorites like those listed above with Nob Hill are always on tap. You can also find multiple seasonals, including Tractoberfest, Tupac Cali Red, and La Llorona Dry Hop Amber.
The Draft Station: Located on Central just west of downtown before you get to Old Town is this taproom owned by the same folks as Chama River and Santa Fe’s Blue Corn Brewery. There is a rotating selection of local brews on tap. It’s a fairly new place.
Ponderosa: Another new place (which I forgot when I first typed this up, sorry), Ponderosa is owned by the same folks behind Portland’s PINTS Brewery. It opened recently on Bellamah near the Natural History Museum and Explora. The easiest way to get there is to take I-40 to Rio Grande. Head south on Rio Grande and as you approach Hotel Albuquerque on the left, you’ll see the light for Bellamah. Turn left (east) and head to where the road curves south. Before the curve, turn into the parking lot for the brightly colored apartment building/retail complex. Ponderosa is on the first floor. They serve a full menu of food and a wide selection of beers, including a seasonal Oktoberfest and a Chocolate Pumpkin Porter.
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 Java Stout. 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 in 2013. Among its current beers on tap are Gold Medal Oatmeal Stout, End of the Trail Brown Ale, and Alpha Reaper, an imperial red 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. 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. There is also a second Blue Heron location that opened recently in the nearby town of Espanola.
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 popular music venue, so watch out for expensive cover charges, but the beer is solid, particularly their Stout and Kolsch.
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Welcome to ABQ and we hope that you all have a great time this week!