2021 Balloon Fiesta tourist guide to local craft breweries

The balloons are back, and the breweries await our many out-of-town visitors!

After taking 2020 off, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is back in town starting this Saturday and running through the following weekend. This is the biggest annual tourism draw in Albuquerque, and we are all quite glad to see it back, hopefully with a nice boost for our local economy.

With all of those tourists coming into town, we figure many of them are fans of craft beer, and rather than forcing their local friends and relatives to try and help them find the best places for a pint, we are taking up that task once again.

The easiest way to help people learn about the 40 craft breweries in the metro area, plus another 20 or so offsite taprooms, is to group them geographically. Every brewery listed here will include a link to their official website, where you can find important information on their exact addresses, phone numbers, email contacts, and days and hours of operation.

Got any specific questions? You can contact us directly through our social media pages, or email us at nmdarksidebrewcrew@gmail.com.

Also, please remember that most breweries have a three-beer limit, designed to protect everyone from the risk of over-consumption and drunk driving. Like most of the country, many breweries are also short staffed at the moment, particularly in their kitchens (should they have one), so please be patient when it comes to service.

Breweries near the Fiesta grounds

You could walk from the Fiesta grounds to this gem of a brewpub on San Mateo.

The closest brewery to the Fiesta is La Reforma Brewery, located on San Mateo just north of Alameda. In addition to offering up some excellent ales and lagers (the Maximilian Dark Lager won a gold medal at the 2020 Great American Beer Festival), plus their own in-house spirits for cocktails, La Reforma has a full menu of Mexico City-style food that is among the best and most unique in town. There is no outside patio, but plenty of space inside.

There are also three offsite taprooms near the grounds. For those not familiar, an offsite taproom is owned by the parent brewery, but no beer is produced there (with one exception that we will get to later). Santa Fe Brewing has a taproom located inside Tin Can Alley at Alameda and San Pedro. The complex, which features multiple eateries as well, is made out of recycled shipping containers, and opened in 2020. There are two rooftop patios, and the one on the west side will have a clear view of the balloons as they launch, with early morning watch parties now scheduled.

As for Santa Fe Brewing, it is the oldest (born in 1988) and largest craft brewery in the state, with multiple locations, including two in Albuquerque. SFBC cans are available just about everywhere that beer is sold, with popular styles including the 7K IPA, Java Stout, and Pepe Loco Lager.

Also nearby is Boxing Bear Brewing‘s new Firestone taproom, which just opened this year. Located on the east side of Jefferson about halfway between Alameda and Paseo del Norte, this spot will eventually be home to the expanded brewing operation, but for now it just operates with a full slate of year-round and seasonal beers. There is usually a food truck parked out front. The most famous and most awarded beer on tap, and available in cans, year-round is the Chocolate Milk Stout.

The final nearby taproom is Restoration Pizza off Jefferson, which is owned and operated by Bosque Brewing. It features a full lineup of Bosque beers to go along with its menu of, well, you can probably guess.

North Valley breweries

Steel Bender is pretty hard to miss along Second Street in the North Valley.

The North Valley region of Albuquerque, which includes the Village of Los Ranchos, features two breweries along its major north-south arteries. Over on Second Street, just south of Paseo del Norte, is Steel Bender Brewyard. It features a cozy patio on the east side, a spacious interior, a full menu of outstanding food items, and a wide range of beer styles on tap, from Skull Bucket IPA to an array of unique Belgian-style beers. There are cans and bottles of many popular styles available to go.

Over on Fourth Street is Hops Brewery, which features nice patios on both sides of the building, plus a full slate of beers and a small but flavorful food menu. You can purchase crowlers of beer to go.

Westside/Corrales/Rio Rancho breweries

The awesome Ex Novo outdoor patio area is a must-visit spot in Corrales. You may even run into a beer writer, like the one pictured at the bottom left.

After many years of being a sort of craft beer desert, with one exception, the part of Albuquerque and its suburbs west of the Rio Grande is now overflowing with options.

Driving across the Alameda bridge, one will find the main Boxing Bear location, which features a small kitchen in addition to the full beer lineup. The patio here is one of the biggest and best in town.

Turn right on Corrales Road to enter the Village of Corrales, where there are now two breweries in operation. First up is Casa Vieja Brewery, an events center in a historic building with a large patio and a rustic interior. The beers rotate constantly, and there is almost always a food truck outside. Just keep an eye on their social media if there is a private event on the schedule.

Just a little further up the road is the sizable Ex Novo Brewing. Originally based in Portland, Oregon (and still in operation there, too), this location was opened by founder Joel Gregory, a Corrales native. The taproom on the northeast side of the parking lot is small, but often packed with thirsty patrons. There is usually a food truck out front, and several nearby restaurants will even deliver. The beer selection is varied, with popular regulars like the Perle Haggard German Pilsner and aptly named Mass Ascension IPA available on tap and in cans. Ex Novo just won a gold medal at the 2021 GABF awards ceremony for its Threat Level Turquoise IPA.

Turtle Mountain Brewing has been a Rio Rancho landmark since 1999.

Up on the hill above Corrales and Albuquerque is Rio Rancho, the largest suburb and third largest community overall in the state. Nestled in the heart of town along Southern Boulevard, just west of Highway 528 (the major north-south road), is Turtle Mountain Brewing. Since 1999, it has been the most popular watering hole and restaurant in Rio Rancho, so take note that it gets very crowded at peak hours. Grab a pint of Wooden Teeth Lager (2019 GABF gold medal) and one of many pizzas on the menu.

Just a block to the west of TMBC is Brew Lab 101, a science-themed brewery with a wide array of beers and ciders on tap. There is a small in-house kitchen now in operation, large patios on the south and north sides of the building, and small events like trivia contests and live music are often held at night.

Also in Rio Rancho is Cazuela’s Mexican Grill and Brewery, located east of 528 on Sara Road, near the huge Intel plant. It features a full menu of Mexican dishes and plenty of beers brewed on site.

Back in Albuquerque, Toltec Brewing is tucked away near Coors Boulevard and Old Airport Road. It has a full kitchen and beer lineup, with a small covered patio on the west side.

All of us locals are happy to read that Flix Brewhouse is reopening after a lengthy shutdown.

The Flix Brewhouse in Albuquerque is scheduled to reopen this weekend. It had been shut down due to pandemic restrictions since March 2020. Their own beers will not be on tap again right away, but they will have guest taps from other New Mexico breweries.

If you are staying on the west side and do not want to battle traffic to get to breweries across the river, fear not, because three have opened offsite taprooms here. Marble Brewery and Tractor Brewing both have spots near the intersection of McMahon and Unser. The former has a small onsite kitchen, and both often have food trucks. Each usually has live music on the weekends.

La Cumbre Brewing‘s taproom is located over near Montano and Coors, featuring its award-winning beers on tap, with a comfy patio extending eastward. You can bring in food from the multiple restaurants located in the same shopping center.

Further south are the relatively new Sobremesa Restaurant and Brewery and Lava Rock Brewing. Sobremesa is located near Coors and Sequoia, with a full kitchen, wrap-around patio, and a solid beer lineup. Lava Rock is near Unser and Ladera, also armed with a full kitchen, an east-side patio, and a varied lineup of beers.

Northeast Heights breweries

If you visit Nexus Brewery, make sure to come hungry.

The Northeast Heights is the largest part of Albuquerque, both in size and population, and is roughly defined as everything east of Interstate 25 and north of I-40. There are a few breweries and taprooms scattered throughout.

Starr Brothers Brewing is a sports-centric brewpub located on San Antonio just east of I-25, with a full kitchen, covered patio, and about a dozen beers on tap. Enchanted Circle Brewing (website N/A), which is actually based in Angel Fire in Northern New Mexico, has a taproom featuring a full kitchen on San Mateo near Osuna. Kilt Check Brewing is tucked away near San Mateo and McLeod, and while it does not have a kitchen, there is often a food truck parked outside.

Nexus Brewery is located off I-25 near the Montgomery/Montano exit (same street, just different names on either side of the freeway), along the northbound frontage road. It features one of the most unique food menus in town, a fusion of Southern-style soul food like chicken and waffles, and spicy New Mexico-style food. The beer holds its own as well, and several styles are now available in four-pack cans, including past medal winners like the Imperial Cream Ale and Honey Chamomile Wheat.

B2B Garden Brewery is located on Comanche just west of Wyoming. Its menu is dominated by all sorts of tacos, and like the name implies, it has a large outdoor area, with covered and open-air seating available.

One of the newest breweries in town is located deep in the Northeast Heights, but it’s worth the drive.

Further east is ReSource Brewing, a new spot on Eubank near Candelaria. It has the only all-vegetarian food menu among breweries, and sports a strong lager-heavy lineup in a small but welcoming spot.

The original Lizard Tail Brewing is in a shopping center at Montgomery and Eubank. It is a small neighborhood pub that recently expanded its operations elsewhere (see below).

Marble has its Heights Taproom on Montgomery just east of Eubank. This site does feature a small brewing operation, which produces Marble’s on-tap-only seasonal brews. There is a food truck outside and Slice Parlor, a popular pizza joint, is right next door.

Quarter Celtic Brewpub has a taproom on Juan Tabo just north of Indian School. It has a full menu to match its parent location, and a good selection of beers on tap.

Tramway Boulevard, the easternmost major road in town, now features three offsite taprooms. Boese Brothers Brewpub is near the eastern terminus of Paseo del Norte, featuring a small sandwich menu and newly expanded patio. Boxing Bear Brewing has a taproom at the Bridges on Tramway on Candelaria, with a large patio and a small kitchen inside. Canteen Taproom is close to I-40, with a small kitchen and a nice covered patio.

Brewery District

La Cumbre Brewing is one of the most awarded breweries in town.

This is the area officially designated by the state legislature (no, really), just east of I-25 in a mainly industrial zone. The breweries are mostly between the east-west streets, Candelaria and Comanche. La Cumbre Brewing is the third largest in the state in terms of annual production, with a lineup ranging from hop-forward offerings like Elevated and Project Dank IPAs, to more malty beverages like Slice of Hefen and Malpais Stout. Many are available in four-pack cans statewide. The brewery is located on Girard just north of Candelaria.

Canteen Brewhouse is the oldest Albuquerque brewery, established in 1994 as Il Vicino Brewing. The brewery still works in partnership with the various Il Vicino pizza restaurants around town. The main location, on Aztec, just south of Comanche, has an expansive patio, a small kitchen, and has live music every Thursday evening and Sunday afternoon. Canned beers are available, ranging from current seasonals like Oktoberfest to year-round brews like Dougie-Style Amber and Exodus IPA.

Lizard Tail Industrial has taken over the former Cantero Brewing facility.

Lizard Tail Industrial is the name of the brewery’s new production facility, on Columbia south of Aztec. Formerly known as Cantero Brewing, this spot features a full kitchen, and a small patio outside. Lizard Tail has just started canning its beers.

Palmer Brewery shares a taproom with Left Turn Distilling, on Girard south of Candelaria. Beers, ciders, and cocktails are available at the bar, and there is a small patio outside. The kitchen is now up and running.

Harmon Lane Brewing is just to the east on Candelaria, in a shopping center near Carlisle. Located inside Southwest Grape and Grain, a homebrewing shop, it features an array of beers on tap, with cans available to go. There is often a food truck outside on Fridays and Saturdays.

Just beyond the district boundaries, at Carlisle and I-40, is the second Santa Fe Brewing taproom, located at Green Jeans Farmery. Another recycled shipping container complex, the taproom is the anchor surrounded by eateries and other small businesses.

Southeast breweries

Quarter Celtic is one of the most popular brewpubs in town.

The Southeast part of town is roughly everything south of I-40 and east of I-25, featuring the University of New Mexico, the major sports facilities, the Albuquerque International Sunport, and Kirtland Air Force Base.

Far to the east along Central Boulevard, old Route 66, are Turquoise Trail Brewing near Juan Tabo and Bombs Away Beer Company near Eubank. The former is a relatively new spot that is small but charming. The latter is owned by Air Force veterans, with an obvious military theme, both in appearance and in the names of its beers, like Proximity Pilsner and Stockpile Stout. There is a small kitchen and a big patio.

The main Quarter Celtic location is located on the northeast corner of San Mateo and Lomas, in a “sunken” shopping center. There is a full Celtic-themed menu, a covered patio outside, and plenty of delicious beers on tap.

High and Dry Brewing is nearby, located south off Lomas on Adams. There is typically a food truck out front, and oftentimes there is live music, all going along with a rotating lineup of beers.

The taproom in Nob Hill was Tractor Brewing’s first location outside of its original home in Los Lunas. (Photo courtesy of Tractor Brewing)

Nob Hill is a popular neighborhood just east of UNM along Central. Tractor Brewing has its first Albuquerque location (the brewery was originally founded south of town in Los Lunas in 1999) at Central and Tulane. The taproom usually has a food truck parked out front, and a cozy patio.

Over on the north side of Central is the new Lizard Tail taproom. It just opened at the start of August.

Bosque Brewing has its Nob Hill Public House located at Central and Girard. This spot has a full kitchen, a nice patio, and plenty of beer on tap and available to go, including cans of Riverwalker IPA and Scotia Scotch Ale.

Located closer to the Sunport and the sports facilities are Differential Brewing and The 377 Brewery. Both are on Yale Boulevard, with Differential close to Avenida Cesar Chavez (the street on which the stadiums are located). The small brewery is a neighborhood pub, featuring food trucks out front, a big patio on the east side, and plenty of local art on the walls.

The 377 is just north of Gibson. It is named after the air wing at Kirtland, and has a military theme throughout. There is a sizable patio and a small kitchen. The beers are a mix of traditional American styles and some unique Belgian-style seasonals.

Downtown/Wells Park/Sawmill breweries

Sidetrack Brewing is one of the hidden gems in downtown.

There is a good mix of breweries and taprooms in and around the oldest neighborhoods in Albuquerque, which includes Old Town, numerous museums, and the Albuquerque BioPark.

The Nexus Blue Smokehouse is the second location for the brewpub, with a different menu built around barbecue dishes. It is located on Broadway just south of Cesar Chavez.

Closer to downtown is Thirsty Eye Brewing, at Broadway and Gold. It is both a small brewery and an art gallery, with live music on the weekends, and a nice patio on the east side.

Sidetrack Brewing is another neighborhood pub on Second Street, between Lead and Coal. It features a mix of English and German-style brews, and a big patio. There is usually a food truck out front.

Boese Brothers Brewing has its main location at Gold and Sixth Street. There is a patio on the west side and a permanently parked food truck. The brewery has recently begun distilling its own spirits as well.

Red Door Brewing has its primary taproom on Central between Sixth and Fifth. There is a patio on the north side, and a full food menu. Red Door also has a full liquor license, with plenty of cocktails on the menu.

Moonwalk Bev is the bar/taproom located inside the 505 Central Food Hall. It usually keeps one or two of its own beers on tap, with a full menu of beers and cocktails from around the area also available.

To the west of downtown is Old Town itself, which now has three nearby offsite taprooms. Boxing Bear has a taproom on Central near 12th Street. The El Vado Motel, on Central near the Rio Grande, has a small taproom on site operated by nearby Ponderosa Brewing. The aptly named Taproom at Old Town is operated by Palmer Brewery and Left Turn Distilling, and recently opened near Mountain and Rio Grande Boulevard. It features a full kitchen.

The Sawmill District, just north of Old Town, includes the main Ponderosa Brewing location. The brewpub, which has a full kitchen and patio, just won its first GABF gold medal for its Italian Pilsner. It is located on Bellamah, east of Rio Grande.

Marble Brewery’s main production facility north of downtown is a major draw for locals and tourists alike.

The large neighborhood to the north of downtown is known as Wells Park, and it is loaded with breweries. Marble Brewery is largest in town in terms of annual barrels produced. Located at First Street and Marble (natch), it sports a large patio with an outdoor stage, a rooftop deck, and the full beer lineup. Cans of popular beers like Double White, IPA, Red Ale, Cerveza Lager, and more are available. Food trucks are always outside, and yes, this spot gets very crowded at peak hours.

JUNO, formerly known as Dialogue Brewing, is on First Street north of Marble. It is identifiable by its unique metal “trees” on its patio. It often hosts live music and other events on the weekends.

Rio Bravo Brewing is a large production brewery on Second Street right near I-40. Its outdoor beer garden is among the largest in town, and the interior is spacious, too. There is a full kitchen, and plenty of beer on tap and ready to go in cans.

Gravity Bound Brewing opened in 2020, and has quickly become a trendy spot among the hip beer geeks. There is a lineup of rotating hazy IPAs and fruited sours, a spacious patio, and a food truck is almost always out front along Third Street, just west of Marble.

Tractor Brewing has its main location on Fourth Street, and this spot is well known for being a major hub for local music, artists, and other creatives. Tractor also has its own line of spirits called Troubled Minds, and sports a lineup of beers and ciders in six-packs.

Bow & Arrow Brewing sits along Sixth Street, just south of I-40, and has become a major destination brewery. It is one of the only breweries in the country owned by Native American women, and everything from its general motif to its beers are a tribute to the Southwest. Grab some cans of Denim Tux Pilsner or Strawberry Amigo Sour to go, or enjoy the vast interior or small patio.

Breweries just beyond Albuquerque

The Bosque Brewing production facility in Bernalillo is hard to miss.

The rest of New Mexico features another 50 or so breweries, and a few are within a short drive of Albuquerque.

Just to the north is the town of Bernalillo, which has two breweries on either side of the Rio Grande. Kaktus Brewing is a small, quirky (in a good way) brewpub located off South Hill Road, with live music, a pizza-focused food menu, and a rotating beer lineup. Bosque Brewing’s production facility is located west of the river along Highway 550. It features a taproom with a kitchen and a large patio, including a second-story deck with some of the best views in the state.

Over on the east side of the Sandias, one can hit up Rumor Brewing on Highway 14 in Cedar Crest. Formerly known as Ale Republic, it boasts a lovely patio, some tasty pizzas, and rotating beers. Further east along I-40 is Sierra Blanca Brewing, which boasts a huge beer garden outside, and plenty of beer to-go inside. You can find Sierra Blanca’s beers, which include the popular Alien series, in bottles statewide.

Further north on Highway 14, past the town of Madrid, is Beer Creek Brewing, which also sports a big patio, great pizza, and plenty of beers, many of which are now available in cans. Some of their beers are even made entirely with ingredients grown in New Mexico.

The recently remodeled Santa Fe Brewing Headquarters is pretty much a beer lover’s dream hangout.

Santa Fe is home to multiple breweries. The headquarters of Santa Fe Brewing is located just south of town along I-25, with a new outdoor beer garden, full kitchen, and expanded interior. Meow Wolf, which is fast becoming the biggest tourist attraction in the state capital, has four nearby breweries. Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery has its main taproom on Agua Fria, with a huge patio and indoor and outdoor music stages. Second Street Brewery‘s Rufina production facility is right near Meow Wolf, featuring a covered patio, a full kitchen, and plenty of beer in six-packs to go, including the recent GABF silver-medal-winning Oktoberfest. There are two other Second Street locations in town as well. Hidden Mountain Brewing, formerly Blue Corn Brewery, has a new barbecue food menu and the same great beers. Rowley Farmhouse Ales, the 2019 GABF Small Brewpub of the Year, is also near Meow Wolf, with a full kitchen and a covered patio, plus plenty of beer to go in bottles and cans.

Deeper into Santa Fe is Chile Line Brewery, located near the Plaza, with plenty of patio space and a full kitchen. There is also a nearby Bosque Brewing taproom near the Railyards.

We hope everyone attending the Balloon Fiesta has a wonderful time over the next week, that the weather is cooperative, and that no one gets lost driving around town (always remember, the Sandia Mountains are to the east).


— Stoutmeister

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