A few months ago, we learned that something was up with Eske’s Brew Pub and Eatery in Taos. Its small brewer license was no longer listed with the State of New Mexico, and Google listed it as temporarily closed. There was no mention of the goings on in the local newspaper, and others in the area only had a vague idea of what was happening.
Now, per word on the street from friends and other business owners in Taos, we can report that Eske’s is no more. Google now lists it as permanently closed, and the building at 106 Des Georges is no longer called Eske’s on Google Maps.
There was never an official announcement on the brewpub’s website or on its Facebook page, so while we could be mistaken, it appears as though the second oldest brewery in New Mexico is no more.
Eske’s was founded by Steve Eskeback and his wife Wanda back in 1992, operating out of a converted house just a block or so from the Taos Plaza. It followed Santa Fe Brewing (1988), but unlike its much larger compatriot, Eske’s never moved locations. It had the distinction of being the oldest brewpub in the state, and the oldest brewery to operate continuously out of one location.
Eskeback was a home brewer and avid skier who had moved to the Taos area in 1982, as Jon C. Stott documented in his book, New Mexico Beer: A History of Brewing in the Land of Enchantment. Eskeback’s homebrews were so popular that the owner of the (long-since closed) Embudo Station Restaurant, halfway between Taos and Espanola, asked if he could purchase some bottles and sell them to customers. My, how different the liquor laws were back then. Anyway, the sale was a success, and Eskeback ended up a full-time brewer in 1989, creating the Sangre de Cristo Brewing Company. In 1992, Eskeback moved his brewing operation to Taos.
When we formed the Dark Side Brew Crew in 2012, few of us had been to any of the breweries outside of Albuquerque and Santa Fe (and, in the case of the latter, most of what we had was available in bottles). One of our first out-of-town trips for E-Rock and I was to head up to the Taos area and check out the scattered brewing outposts — Blue Heron, Comanche Creek, Taos Ale House (which no longer makes its own beer), and Eske’s.
The old brewpub was the final stop of the night, and I was not particularly kind in my review of its beers. Besides teaching me that it’s better to be a reporter than a reviewer, it may have also been a sign of what was to come. The beers at Eske’s seemed out-of-date for 2012, and I compared to Kellys in how the scene had evolved and passed it by. Well, here we are in 2019, and Kellys stopped brewing, and now Eske’s has stopped all together.
Eskeback sold the brewpub and retired some time ago. I saw him at the Taos round of the IPA Challenge last year, and meant to stop by to chat with him. That never happened, much like my promised return to Eske’s to give the beer another opportunity. Back in 2012, I did not yet have the appreciation for the history of the beer scene that I have now, and all of it just feels like a missed opportunity to learn more about the earlier era of brewing in New Mexico.
If anyone else has some Eske’s memories, be they recent or from the early days, good or bad, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, raise a glass this week to the Eskebacks, all their past employees, and their customers, for bringing the brewpub concept to our state at the dawn of our current brewing industry.