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Albuquerque Beer Guide - 2019 Edition

Discussion in 'Southwest' started by denver10, Jan 1, 2019.

  1. denver10

    denver10 Poo-Bah (2,439) Nov 17, 2010 New Mexico

    It appears the 2018 ABQ Thread has been closed out, as this site looks to minimize clutter. Figured I'd go ahead an open this new one for the upcoming year, so the few of us folks who wish to discuss ABQ Beer, or New Mexico beer, have a place to do so. Not much has changed in the landscape locally since the last thread, though maybe a few tweaks to who has been making some good beer lately (looking at you, Bosque) and those who have taken a bit of a step backwards for me (looking in your direction, Canteen).

    Putting this out there: Everything I am posting below is just my opinion. You don't have to agree with anything I say, I won't take offense. My opinions are my opinions and often my opinions do run counter to the norm, so feel free to stick up for someone/something that I might be more negative towards, or visa versa.

    Tier 1: Best

    La Cumbre Brewing. Most consistent, best beers in New Mexico, IMO. In a state with some great IPA’s, these guys continue to offer the best. If you like West Coast styled IPAs, you are doing things wrong if you come to New Mexico and don’t try Elevated. And don’t forget about Dank. They have also jumped aboard the hazy train and people love that stuff too. I really can’t speak to it as I don’t care for that style and have given up trying those offerings, for the most part. Not to get lost in the shuffle are their lagers, which are always great and probably what I most enjoy from them (though I will note, while I have grown to like Beer it has been one of my least favorite lagers they do..South Peak Pilsner remains my favorite). Their pilot offerings are a little more limited than others breweries, but that has allowed the quality of the beer to remain high, quality over quantity. I continue to think they outgrew their taproom but that is not an issue that should ever deter someone from hitting it up, just go expecting it to be lively and likely crowded. Service is fine, no issues with them.

    Update: They do have a West Side Taproom, I have found it has not effected the popularity of the original taproom. Of the 2 taprooms, I prefer the original. It's also the more convenient of the 2 for me, FWIW.

    Marble Brewing. My introduction to New Mexico beer, so I have a soft spot for them. I think they offer the best flagship lineup in the state, personally. I have drank more of their Pilsner than any other beer since living here (maybe Elevated can give it a run for its money). They are always offering a wide selection of pilot offerings and they seem to be carving a niche for themselves with goses. Like with the hazy IPA’s I am not much of a gose drinker so can’t attest to their quality so much. They do lagers very nicely as well, which makes me happy. I forgot to mention in the 2018 Guide that these guys have my favorite barrel aging program in the state (which, admittedly, is a VERY small field) and do offer occasional brett beers. In general, not everything they release is a winner, there can be some duds, but the good and really good and great is plentiful. The taproom can be just as crowded and lively as La Cumbre’s, maybe even moreso when the weather doesn’t allow for the rooftop patio to be open but I really like the set up they have. I find it warm and aesthetically pleasing. They also offer a couple TV’s with sports always on which I like to pair with my beer, personally. And the rooftop deck, weather permitting, can offer the best views from any brewery in the city. Service is fine, no issues with them.

    Bow & Arrow Brewing. These girls and guy have come a long way since first opening. My goal has always been to give a new brewery 1 year to figure things out, I almost closed the door on them well before that because their beer at the get go was a big miss for me. Starting just prior to the introduction of their new head brewery, but largely since he came aboard, their beer has turned a huge corner and they are now one of my very favorites. I generally find their beer to be good, some can be really good, and the occasional can be great (like their most recent seasonal release, a baltic porter). The big deal for me is that they offer saisons, which had always been the one style this state was lacking in and also happens to be my favorite style (along with a good German Pilsner). Their Cosmic Saison (a brettt saison aged in wine barrels) has developed into, what I think, is a great beer and their standard flagship saison is quite nice (not to the level of a Funkwerks Saison or Prairie Standard, but easily good enough to have me returning for more). These guys offer some great variety overall, so something for everyone is generally available. They do seem to ride the latest trends, which can be good if those trends are one's you like. Their taproom/beerhall is also a huge selling point for them. It's big, open, well laid out, and laid back. Probably the brewery I stopped into the most in 2018. Service there is good.

    Bosque Brewing. This is my big change from my prior list, Bosque making it into the top tier. They had been all the way down in Tier 3 before. But now that they are don't building new facilities, they have been able to return their attention on the beer again. And, I am pleased to say, the beer they have been making has been good. Their Bosque Lager remains the only great beer in the flagship lineup for me, but I do suspect they have tweaked their Bosque IPA recipe ever so slightly (more hops?) so that its become a nice option as well. Their rotating pilot beers have certainly grown in quantity since opening their new production plant, which is nice because many of the rotation pilot beers have been quite good. I loved their recent Shwarzbier, which I think they need to make into a flagship offering. Having a pale lager and dark lager in their portfolio would be pretty cool, IMO, and something unique. I also don't get why they can't just put Scaletipper IPA into their everyday lineup, one could argue best IPA in the state (though I continue to give that honor to La Cumbre's Elevated), but it is what it is. Taproom works well for me, I like being able to watch sports when I drink and there is plenty of TV's to keep me happy. Service is terrible when I sit at a table, but when sitting at the bar the service has become good.

    Update: Their new destination and production brewery with taproom has opened up in Bernalillo. Nice spot with some beautiful views of the open space and mountains. That place, though, could really, really, really benefit from an outdoor beer garden.

    Tier 2:

    Sidetrack Brewing. One of my favorite places to drink a beer in Albuquerque. Personable service with a casual, relaxing atmosphere. Definitely a neighborhood bar/brewery. Beer is solid but not great, with cask offerings. Small tap list with small production batches. What is on tap from one week to the next is rarely the same. I think they are a tough place to promote to a traveler as I think their beer, as @ONovoMexicano has so accurately stated, lands on the mellow and low-key side of things and that creates understated first impressions. I think it takes a couple visits (or at least it did for me) to fully understand and appreciate what these guys bring to the table. And I can only imagine coming here after having first visited another brewery, one that likes to go big in their beer. As much as I have enjoyed the CoMO IPA, try drinking that after having your first Elevated IPA. No way it can stand up to that. End of the day, I have become a fan and think they deserve to recognized for one of the best options in ABQ.

    Santa Fe Brewing (ABQ Taproom). They used to be the definition of mediocre, but now I really like them. Across the board I think the new stuff they put out is decent to really good, with their Pilsner and 4K being great. I tend to think of them as the local economical brewery as I think they design their recipes to allow for their beer to be a couple dollars cheaper than most other craft beers, which they are, and I am pleased with those results. For the past year+, I have not tried anything bad or poorly made from them and think their past reputation is holding them back a bit in the beer world. For me, I don’t care for the container yard in ABQ so I don’t care for their ABQ taproom and that really limits my visits. As does the fact that half the time I visit they are out of their Pilsner AND 4k IPA and that always pisses me off. Service is fine.

    If in Santa Fe, I would put visiting their downtown taproom, The Brakeroom, as a must visit.

    Boxing Bear. Sometimes I forget about these guys because they are so out of my way. Is that really still Albuquerque? People dig them, I always leave and say to myself I would drink a lot more of their stuff if they were closer. I barely ever drink their beers, in all honesty. Putting them in Tier 2 for others, I probably enjoy them more along the lines of those in Tier 3. Taproom is middle of the road for me, not bad but nothing specific about it that I like. Service is fine.

    Tier 3:

    Canteen Brewing.
    I go up and down with these guys, sometimes liking them more than other times. I generally find their beer to be anywhere from good to poor, usually landing somewhere in between. Exodus IPA, though, is great and one of my absolute favorite IPA's. High Plains Pilsner is damn good too, maybe even great. I still need to check out their newest standard release, Panama Joe Coffee Stout, which I have high hopes for. You can usually visit their room and expect 4-5 rotating pilot offering to be available, expect the quality of each pilot offering to vary. Lately they have largely been duds for me though. Occasional sours, even had a brett beer from them, but expect more standard beer offerings in general, both ales and some lagers. I really dig their taproom which is more old school in its aesthetic IMO. If they were close(r) to me I’d visit more frequently, but given their current location, if I want to travel that far to a brewery I usually go elsewhere (typically La Cumbre, which is right around the corner). Service can vary between fair to poor from my experiences, too often landing on the poor side for me.

    Dialogue Brewing.
    They produce some really good beer, they produce some bad beer. They need to become a little more consistent, IMO. The stuff they have done that I have liked, I have really enjoyed though. And I like their effort/focus on brewing a lot of more sessionable, lower abv beers, which falls right into my wheelhouse. The taproom and outside patio is really nice, they put some effort into promoting the local art community I believe which is cool. Service is fine.

    Tier 4:

    Steelbender Brewing. These guys really haven't done much for me. They are newer and their program is still developing, to be fair. They have started to offer some barrel aged products and their Whiskey Barrel Aged Dubbel I had was the best thing i have tried from them, so that is promising. But, overall, the best stuff I had tried from them prior to that was solid but forgettable, while most of the stuff had at best fair and often worse. Their location is more restaurant than brewery, which never works in my interest. Service is generally quite spotty. Location wise, another one who is not convenient to me, FWIW. I have probably not been here over 6 months at this point.

    Ponderosa Brewing. Their beer can be solid at best, their beer can be forgettable. And the place feels more generic restaurant than taproom to me, which as I already mentioned doesn’t really sell me. As a traveler, I probably don’t bother going out of my way to come here. As a local, worth an occasional visit (though its probably been at least a year since i was last here myself). If I lived within walking distance to this place, I am sure I would be happy with it as a neighborhood joint, as is there are too many better options to drink at, most more conveniently located to me.

    Tractor Brewing. They really aren’t my thing but their stuff seems on par with Ponderosa’s. Their beer can be solid, more can be forgettable, some can be a dud. I prefer their Wells Park location to their Nob Hill one. Service was fine. Another place I haven't been to in forever, well over a year at this point I would guess.

    Tier 5:

    All the rest.

    1. Quarter Celtic has their following. They did a dortmunder that was great, I haven't tried anything else by them that impressed me too much.
    2. High & Dry. Really dig the location and vibe, a great place to grab a beer and chill out at. Even do some work with a beer. But the beer still needs a lot of work.
    3. Red Door, been a while since I last bothered with anything from them. Back when I did I was happy when something was fine, too often it was a miss for me.
    4. Boese Brothers never worked out for me.
    5. Same with Duel.
    6. Nexus is a miss for me, people love the food there but if you want some chicken & waffles and southern styled comfort food, go to Frank’s Chicken & Waffles instead, worlds better, IMO.
    7. Toltec another kid on the block, another place I thought I might need my Passport to get to. Former head brewer for Nexus, others had better first impressions of it than me (we also tried different beers, FWIW).
    8. Rio Bravo. This board seems to hate them, I think you guys polluted my thinking about them. I haven't had any issues with what I have tried, nor have I ever been all that impressed by it either. Seems like I should give them another shot, their tap lists always seems to look appealing.
    9. Palmer Brewery, Bombs Away Brewery, 377 Brewery, CanterosHops Brewery, Hops Brewery.....alll places I have only hit up once, but none have yet to get me back there.

    Beer Stores: Jubilation is where I shop. Total Wine is here too.

    Bars: Don't come here for the bars, stick with the breweries, IMO.
    #1 denver10, Jan 1, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2019
    eppCOS, vurt, Jawnnm and 1 other person like this.
  2. pjeagles

    pjeagles Initiate (140) May 29, 2005 New Mexico

    Well done writeup by denver10. I can't argue with his opinions. I'd add that Boxing Bear's Space Bear Oddity was local hazy IPA of the year in my very relevant opinion, and Murky Milkshake and the other hazies done there are worth the drive. Also, Ponderosa has a very underrated Kolsch on tap that makes me wonder why they can't elevate the rest of their lineup. Support Jubilation Wine and Spirits. Local business that always has more guys working the counter than it seems like they need and they're always happy to help with beer questions for people who need help with that sort of thing

    As for bars, Nob Hill Bar and Grill competes with Sister Bar for best tap list of national brands but NHBG hasn't updated their list online since Nov. 14. They are awful about updating. And Sister doesn't list their taps at all, so F 'em for that.
    ONovoMexicano and denver10 like this.
  3. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,405) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    The Brakeroom in Santa Fe has become my local when I visit. One correction, it is 7k IPA.
    eppCOS and denver10 like this.
  4. deadwolfbones

    deadwolfbones Initiate (88) Jun 21, 2014 Oregon

    Really happy to hear Bow + Arrow are coming along. I loved the three beers I tried from them last spring (all sours).
    sdhopaddict likes this.
  5. ONovoMexicano

    ONovoMexicano Poo-Bah (2,831) Jun 14, 2012 New Mexico

    @denver10 You have unlocked a new achievement by getting the endorsement of @pjeagles :sunglasses:
    pjeagles likes this.
  6. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,405) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    I saw that Duel is closed. Comments?
  7. aaronyoung01

    aaronyoung01 Defender (691) Oct 1, 2012 New Mexico

    Surprised they lasted that long
    hopfenunmaltz, pjeagles and denver10 like this.
  8. Longhorn08

    Longhorn08 Initiate (179) Feb 4, 2014 Texas

    Can cans of La Cumbre and Marble be found pretty easily throughout the state? Like at a decent gas station? Or would I need to go to a grocery store? Or would I even find them there? Just looking for normal year round offerings.
  9. denver10

    denver10 Poo-Bah (2,439) Nov 17, 2010 New Mexico

    I've never beer shopped at the gas stations to be able to answer, but at least in Northern NM you should not have any issues finding those beers at grocery stores.
  10. sdhopaddict

    sdhopaddict Initiate (77) Oct 9, 2016 California

    I am visiting ABQ on the 23rd and 24th and now also visiting Santa Fe briefly. Any suggestions for Santa Fe breweries I must visit besides Rowley Farmhouse Ales? I've done most of the current top tier ABQ list with the exception of Bow and Arrow during a previous trip so I am mostly looking to explore new spots but I'm also happy to revisit Bosque and/or Marble.
  11. sdhopaddict

    sdhopaddict Initiate (77) Oct 9, 2016 California

    Also, you can find La Cumbre even in Arizona! So I would say probably easy to find throughout NM. I found some cans in Page AZ while passing through much to my delight.
  12. deadwolfbones

    deadwolfbones Initiate (88) Jun 21, 2014 Oregon

    Tumbleroot in Santa Fe is pretty good and getting better all the time.

    I've always found Second Street's beer to be generally mediocre, but apparently their new Rufina St. location is a nice place to hang out.
  13. deadwolfbones

    deadwolfbones Initiate (88) Jun 21, 2014 Oregon

    Not beer, but if you're into spirits, Santa Fe Spirits is worth a stop.
    Ponzu4u likes this.
  14. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,405) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    If you are near the Capitol building, try the Santa Fe Brewing taproom known as the Brakeroom.

    Tumbleroot was getting some positive buzz in Nov., but we didn't get there.
  15. denver10

    denver10 Poo-Bah (2,439) Nov 17, 2010 New Mexico

    Bosque with a facelift.

    New can designs with new 2 year round can offerings and Scale Tipper coming out tomorrow (still a seasonal).


    vurt, eppCOS, adamauden and 1 other person like this.
  16. Longhorn08

    Longhorn08 Initiate (179) Feb 4, 2014 Texas

    During my family ski trip I’ve been able to find Marble IPA and wheat, Bosque IPA, and Santa Fe IPA (I’m on and IPA kick). All have been enjoyable with Marble IPA being my favorite so far. Hope to visit Cloudcroft brewery and Noisey Water winery today.
    denver10 and Bigrock like this.
  17. Longhorn08

    Longhorn08 Initiate (179) Feb 4, 2014 Texas

    Didn’t make it to the brewery, my family ran out of gas, but did stop by the winery. Friendly staff with a generous $5 tasting. Highly recommend Noisey Water Winery if ever in Cloudcroft.
  18. PerfectPorter

    PerfectPorter Initiate (77) Jul 30, 2010 Colorado

    Is that Strata in the new La Cumbre Altimeter IPA?

    Looking forward to another clear IPA to try today. Too many hazies in AZ for me.
  19. denver10

    denver10 Poo-Bah (2,439) Nov 17, 2010 New Mexico

    I don't know but I do have to say that Alttimeter has been the best new IPA I have tried in a good while.
    kaartman and PerfectPorter like this.
  20. PerfectPorter

    PerfectPorter Initiate (77) Jul 30, 2010 Colorado

    Had it last night at Ermano's in Tucson. It's fantastic. I just guessed Strata from the name.
  21. eppCOS

    eppCOS Champion (804) Jun 27, 2015 Colorado

    Altimeter is not a replacement for Elevated, just an addition from what I understood when I talked to the owner of Cumbre.
  22. sdhopaddict

    sdhopaddict Initiate (77) Oct 9, 2016 California

    Short summary from my visit:
    Bow and Arrow was excellent. Brett saison was solid and raspberry sour was very good. Bought bottles of the raspberry sour to bring home. House amber was also impressive.

    Rowley was pretty good. I did not care for the herbal hops they seem to use in a lot of their saisons. The 2nd Anniversary beer was solid and the berliner was the most impressive beer I tried.

    Bosque's new spot was lovely sitting on the patio. The lager and hazy IPA were both solid beers. Loved the view of the mountains.

    Stopped by La Cumbre to pick up cans, the new hazy IPA with strata was fantastic. Soft and pillowy, super juicy, and hides the alcohol well.
    vurt, denver10, Jawnnm and 1 other person like this.
  23. denver10

    denver10 Poo-Bah (2,439) Nov 17, 2010 New Mexico

    Bow & Arrow just released a new beer series, single hopped pilsners. First off is Rad Vista Pils with Vic Secret hops. I thought it was really good.

    Also, I know there were some past comments on the pricing of Tumbleroot's offerings. Like $14 for a 16.9 oz bottle of a IIPA, right? If so, looks like they have started distributing their beer down here to Albuquerque and they have tweaked the pricing. I grabbed a bottle of the Dry Hopped Sour Ale with brett and lacto that was aged in wine bottles for $10.99 at Jubilation, which falls in line with the pricing for others in the style. The beer itself isn't anything special but I can see some promise with some more practice with it. Seems really sweet for a brett beer, probably would benefit with some aging?

    And for as much as I have enjoyed Altimeter, if it was a replacement for Elevated I would have hated the world.
    #23 denver10, Mar 3, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2019
    Jawnnm and aaronyoung01 like this.
  24. dangsdunks

    dangsdunks Initiate (27) Jun 13, 2017 California

    I'm heading down on Tuesday for a day trip from the San Francisco. Have a meeting with Sandia, and will be in town. I went to La Cumbre a couple of years ago. Only have time for 1 brewery this time. Primarly interested in haze and sours and bringing back some stuff. La Cumbre is releasing haze a few days after i leave :slight_frown:, so looks like Bow & Arrow is where im headed. Might bring some stuff if anyone wants to trade!
    sdhopaddict and aaronyoung01 like this.
  25. aaronyoung01

    aaronyoung01 Defender (691) Oct 1, 2012 New Mexico

    Bow and Arrow is the right choice if you only have time for one stop.
    Jawnnm likes this.
  26. sdhopaddict

    sdhopaddict Initiate (77) Oct 9, 2016 California

    Agreed, Bow and Arrow is the place to go. Fantastic beer.
    Jawnnm likes this.
  27. pjeagles

    pjeagles Initiate (140) May 29, 2005 New Mexico

    Agree on Bow and Arrow for the sours, definitely not the haze. I appreciate that they continue to try examples of the style but those attempts are fair to decent at best. We don't have one brewery that has more than one really good hazy on at a time, save for maybe Bosque with that new Resto hazy pale (in cans now) and that Marahute DIPA. right now, I think the best hazy on tap now is Totally Cereal IPA at Boxing Bear. Their best hazy IPA since that Space Bear Oddity collab with Odd 13, and that was fabulous.
    Jawnnm and Ponzu4u like this.
  28. denver10

    denver10 Poo-Bah (2,439) Nov 17, 2010 New Mexico

    Speaking of Bow & Arrow, they just released a new red saison with brett, Coyote Cool. Grabbed a pour of it last night and I am really stoked about it. First impression is that it is the first and only red saison I have tried that I have liked. And I really liked it.

    And Steel Bender recently released a dry hopped brett saison, Cinderella Story, that is also really good. $3.99 for a bottle of it, definitely worth a try for fans of the style. I'd call it more of a Belgian Styled Saison than a brett beer, or dry hopped beer, but that works fine for me. The brett and hops are there, but its nuanced and not at the forefront. Between this and their whiskey barrel aged dubbel, they might be starting to show some promise.
  29. elNopalero

    elNopalero Poo-Bah (2,987) Oct 14, 2009 Texas

    I'm looking forward to visiting Bow & Arrow on an upcoming trip.

    Love love LOVE La Cumbre. Packed my suitcase with all sorts of goodies from them the last time I visited.
  30. adamauden

    adamauden Initiate (76) Jul 8, 2010 New Mexico

    For this one the Brett was just used as the bottling yeast, so the Brett character will continue to develop over time. If you you like it brettier you can sit on it for a bit.
    denver10 likes this.