With our next few stories in the Look Back/Look Ahead Series delayed for various reasons, we put out a request to our readers on Facebook for some story ideas. One that caught our eye, or specifically mine, was to type up a single, comprehensive timeline of the history of brewing in New Mexico.
Over the summer, we did a series of articles on beer history from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Between the research from those articles, and what I compiled for my 2017 book, Albuquerque Beer: Duke City History on Tap, here is just about the best timeline I can come up with for the history of beer brewing in our state.
Did I miss anything? Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The brewing days of yore (1849-1939)
1855: The earliest mention of a brewery comes from a newspaper article out of Santa Fe, where apparently a flood (yes, they had those back then) wiped out an unnamed brewery.
1864-65: The first two named breweries in Santa Fe open in consecutive years, with the Pacific Brewery first and the City Brewery second. It is possible the Pacific Brewery was later renamed as the Western Brewery, but there are no clear records as to its fate. The City Brewery was sold to a new owner in 1871, after which nothing more was ever written about it.
1868: The Western Brewery opens in Santa Fe, owned by William Carl. It would last until 1879, when Carl defaulted on a number of loans, and the brewery was seized by a bank.
1874: A slew of breweries opened in small mining towns — Schwenk & Will Brewery in Elizabethtown, near present-day Eagle Nest; John Copeland & Co. Brewery in Lincoln; Frank Weber Brewery in Golondrinas in Mora County; Thomas Smith Brewery in Silver City — and one additional at a U.S. Army base, Thomas Lahey Brewery at Fort Union. Most of them close within a few years.
1881: Christian Fischer purchases the Western Brewery and renames it as the Fischer Brewery.
1882: We get our first brewery shooting, as Fischer’s brewer, Charlie Steinberger, kills his neighbor, Antonio Gonzales, on the brewery property. The two were involved in a dispute not related to the brewery.
1883: There are three notable openings. The Las Vegas Brewery opens in that town. The Hammel Bros. Brewery opens in Socorro, and will later be renamed as the Illinois Brewing Co. Albuquerque sees the opening of its first Southwestern Brewery, located along the train tracks just north of present-day Lomas.
1884: A shootout erupts at the Southwestern Brewery, leaving brewer John Koenig dead. He had apparently been fired earlier that day. That same year, the Deming Brewery opens in Southern New Mexico.
1887: The financially troubled Southwestern Brewery burns down, but records say an investigation found lightning, not arson, to be the cause.
1888-89: A new Southwestern Brewery and Ice Company is founded in Albuquerque. Jacob Loeb is hired as the brewmaster.
1890: The Deming Brewery ceases making its own beer and becomes a saloon. The last in a series of Silver City breweries closes.
1892-93: The Fischer Brewery falls into financial disarray, and is eventually purchased by a St. Louis-based company, which renames it as the first Santa Fe Brewing Company.
1896: Santa Fe Brewing Company closes for good.
1897: The U.S. government shuts down the the Las Vegas Brewery due to the owners not paying their taxes.
1899: The Montezuma Brewery opens in Las Vegas. It would only last until 1903.
1901: A bruising legal fight between the Rankin and Loeb families over control of Southwestern goes all the way to the territorial Supreme Court before the Loebs prevail.
1905: Southwestern reaches its peak of 30,000 barrels produced per year, most of it German-style lagers. To date, only the current Santa Fe Brewing has exceeded this level of annual production.
1907: Jacob Loeb dies of acute liver failure. Southwestern hires Otto Dieckmann to run the brewery.
1909-10: The short-lived A.H. Reingruber Brewing opens and closes in Las Vegas. It would be the last new brewery to open in New Mexico before Prohibition.
1913-15: After Dieckmann dies, Southwestern is put up for sale. A group of local businessmen purchase the brewery and ice-making plant, which is briefly rebranded as the Western Brewery and Ice Company.
1917-18: All commercial brewing in New Mexico, which at this point was down to just Western in Albuquerque and Illinois in Socorro, comes to a halt due to Prohibition.
1933: Prohibition is repealed.
1936: The New Mexico Brewing Company opens on Second Street near present-day Tijeras. It would last only a few months of operation.
1937: New Mexico Brewing closes in January and is sold at auction to Paul von Gontard, the son-in-law of Adolphus Busch. It reopens as the first Rio Grande Brewing Company in the summer.
1939: Rio Grande Brewing closes in May after declaring bankruptcy. It would mark the end of commercial brewing in New Mexico for almost 50 years.
The return of brewing (1988-2007)
1988: Mike Levis purchases the original square brewhouse from Boulder Beer Company in July and moves it into an unused horse barn on his ranch in Galisteo. He begins bottling pale ale and other English-inspired styles under the name Santa Fe Brewing Company. Just seven weeks later, Mike Buckner starts up the Albuquerque Brewing Company, bottling Mike’s Golden Ale, but is never able to raise funds to open a taproom. Albuquerque Brewing ceased operations around 1990.
1989: The Sangre de Cristo Brewing Company is founded next door to Embudo Station, southwest of Taos, by brewer Mike Eskeback.
1992: Eskeback leaves Embudo Station behind and opens Eske’s Brew Pub & Eatery in Taos. It would last until 2019, though the most recent owners have vowed to reopen it again some day in the future. That same year, Russell Brewing opens in Santa Fe, though it only produces bottled beer for sale in stores, never opening a taproom. It would last until 1996.
1993: Assets Grille installs a brewhouse and hires Mark Matheson as its head brewer. The popular Northeast Heights restaurant becomes the first major modern brewpub in Albuquerque. Later that year, Rio Bravo Restaurant Brewery opens in downtown, hiring away Santa Fe brewer Brad Kraus. Kraus, in turn, would later hire Daniel Jaramillo as his assistant brewer. Jaramillo is still in the business as director of brewing operations at La Cumbre.
1994: Il Vicino, a popular pizza restaurant in Nob Hill, installs a brewing system and begins selling its own beer on draft. After the first brewer died in a motorcycle crash, Brady McKeown takes over as head brewer, beginning a long career in the industry that continues to this day. A new Rio Grande Brewing opens that same year, following the same format as Russell Brewing by only selling beer to stores, with no taproom. Elsewhere in New Mexico, the Old West Brewery opens in Mesilla, and nearby in Las Cruces, O’Ryan’s Tavern & Brewery opens. Both would last until 2000.
1996: High Desert Brewing opens in Las Cruces. It remains the oldest active brewery in Southern New Mexico. Other notable openings that year included Cabezon Brewing in Albuquerque, Volcano Brewery in Rio Rancho, and Wolf Canyon Brewing in Santa Fe. Volcano only lasted until 1998, while Cabezon persevered until selling out to Rio Grande in 2004. Wolf Canyon closed in 2000, and its location was eventually purchased by Santa Fe Brewing, which had long-since moved out of the Levis ranch in Galisteo. The most successful breweries to open in 1996 besides High Desert were Second Street Brewery in Santa Fe, and Sierra Blanca Brewing in Carrizozo. The latter would relocate to Moriarty in 2007.
1997: Kellys Brew Pub opens in Nob Hill, just to the west of its more well-known recent location. It would move up the street in 2000, and remain there until closing in early 2020. That same year, Rio Bravo changed its name to Alvarado Brewing, but it would close for good in 1998. San Ysidro Brewing opened in downtown and closed a year later. The Bavarian Lager Cellar opened in the Northeast Heights, but would also last only a year. More successful launches were that of the Blue Corn Brewery location on Cerillos, which has now been renamed as Hidden Mountain Brewing, and Three Rivers Brewery in Farmington.
1999: Even as more and more breweries closed, Blue Corn parent company Santa Fe Dining still opted to open Blue Corn Albuquerque. After the initial head brewer was found lacking, Ted Rice was hired as his replacement. That same year, Tractor Brewing opened in Los Lunas, and Turtle Mountain Brewing opened in Rio Rancho.
2000: The new century began with the opening of The Wellhead Restaurant and Brewery in Artesia, the first brewpub in Southeast New Mexico.
2001: The Milagro Grill and Brewery opened in Bernalillo. It would last until 2005.
2005: Blue Corn Albuquerque briefly shuts down, and then reopens as Chama River Brewing.
2007: Rio Grande sells out to Sierra Blanca, which had opened its Moriarty brewing facility and packaging operation. By this time, only three breweries remained in Albuquerque — Chama River, Il Vicino, Kellys — and the rest of the state included just Tractor, Turtle Mountain, Santa Fe, Second Street, Blue Corn, Three Rivers, Eske’s, High Desert, The Wellhead, Socorro Springs, and the just-opened Corrales Bistro Brewery, Abbey Beverage Company (then based out of Pecos), and Silver City Brewing.
The brewery boom era (2008-present)
2008: Marble Brewery opens in April just north of downtown Albuquerque. With Ted Rice as head brewer, it quickly becomes a hugely popular spot, and launches the modern drive of being both a taproom and a production facility. Chama River, having lost Rice, promotes Jeff Erway to head brewer.
2010: Erway leaves Chama to start up La Cumbre Brewing in December. By the following Great American Beer Festival, La Cumbre had already made a national name for itself, winning a gold medal in the American IPA category for Elevated IPA. Down south, Mimbres Valley Brewing opens in Deming. It would last until 2014. Up north, Blue Heron Brewing opens in Rinconada, southwest of Taos, and Comanche Creek Brewing opens near Eagle Nest.
2011: In an era of brewpubs in decline, Nexus Brewery opens, showing that the model can still be successful when utilizing a unique menu. In this case, it merges traditional soul food/southern dishes with New Mexico spices.
2012: The surge begins as Bosque Brewing and Broken Bottle Brewery open in Albuquerque, Roosevelt Brewing opens in Portales, and Taos Mesa opens up north. Three of those have survived to this day, while Broken Bottle closed in 2015.
2013: Notable openings include The Stumbling Steer in Albuquerque, Kaktus Brewing in Bernalillo, Duel Brewing in Santa Fe, and Little Toad Creek Brewery and Distillery outside of Silver City.
2014: Marble wins Small of the Brewery of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival, the first New Mexico brewery to capture a major award in Denver. Notable brewery openings this year included Boxing Bear Brewing, Lizard Tail Brewing, Red Door Brewing, Ponderosa Brewing, and Pi Brewing in Albuquerque, plus Blue Grasshopper in Rio Rancho. It was not all good news, however, as The Stumbling Steer closed a little after a year since opening.
2015: Notable openings included Rio Bravo Brewing and Boese Brothers Brewery in Albuquerque. The short-lived second incarnation of Albuquerque Brewing also came into existence. It would close a little over a year later. Perhaps the most unique brewery to open was Bathtub Row Brewing in Los Alamos, which became the first co-op brewery in the state.
2016: Boxing Bear wins Mid-Sized Brewpub of the Year at GABF. The first few months of the year saw the consecutive openings of Sidetrack Brewing, Starr Brothers Brewing, Bow & Arrow Brewing, and Quarter Celtic Brewpub in Albuquerque. Outside the metro area, Enchanted Circle Brewing opened in Angel Fire, Route 66 Junkyard Brewery opened in Grants, Ale Republic opened in Cedar Crest, Chile Line Brewing and Rowley Farmhouse Ales opened in Santa Fe, and Milton’s Brewing opened in Carlsbad. Later in the year, Albuquerque saw the additions of Dialogue Brewing, The 377 Brewery, Draft Kilt Brewing (since renamed as Kilt Check Brewing), and the first opening of a Flix Brewhouse in town.
2017: More openings continued across the state. 550 Brewing opened in Aztec, Colfax Ale Cellar opened in Raton, Drylands Brewing opened in Lovington, Truth or Consequences Brewing opened, and Guadalupe Mountain Brewing opened in Carlsbad. Albuquerque saw the addition of Hops Brewery in Nob Hill, Steel Bender Brewyard in Los Ranchos, and Bombs Away Beer Company in the Southeast Heights.
2018: More? Yes, many more. From Lost Hiker Brewing in Ruidoso to Callahan West Brewery in Mosquero to Elkins Brewing in Grants to Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery in Santa Fe to Beer Creek Brewing outside Santa Fe and finally to Red River Brewing up north, the map was getting full. High and Dry Brewing, Lava Rock Brewing, Toltec Brewing, and Cantero Brewing opened in Albuquerque, with Casa Vieja Brewery opening in Corrales.
2019: Rowley Farmhouse Ales wins Small Brewpub of the Year at GABF. Openings around the state included Second Alarm Brewhouse in Jemez Springs and Lauter Haus Brewing in Farmington. In the metro area, Brew Lab 101 opened in Rio Rancho and Ex Novo Brewing of Oregon opened its new Corrales brewery and taproom to rave reviews. Other locals to open included Differential Brewing, La Reforma Brewery, Black Snout Brewhouse, Thirsty Eye Brewing, and Turquoise Trail Brewing.
2020: Before the pandemic hit, 575 Brewing opened in Alamogordo. Then came the pandemic, which reduced most breweries to takeout only, or limited capacity indoors and outdoors. Still, Gravity Bound Brewing and ReSource Brewing opened in Albuquerque. It was not all good news, however, as there were numerous breweries to close, including 1933 Brewing in Rio Rancho, and Albuquerque’s Black Snout, Broken Trail, Cantero, Dialogue, and at the start of 2021, Turquoise Trail.
At this point, we have no idea what to expect of the days, months, and years to come. The pandemic has put a serious economic hurt on breweries across America. More could still close in New Mexico, even with case numbers dropping and the vaccine being distributed. All we can do is hope for better times ahead, while enjoy all the amazing beers we currently have being produced all around us by our fellow New Mexico residents.
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