I recently took a trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico and let me tell you, they love their chiles down there! It was a work trip and I was being chauffeured around by my boss, so I did not have as much time to explore the beer scene as I might have liked. Though, to be honest, NM is not exactly known for their craft beer focus. Even so, I got to try some local stuff, so let’s get into it.
Just down the street from my hotel was a pub aptly named ABQ Brew Pub. This was a small place that just popped up on my Yelp app on my phone that was within easy walking distance and seemed like a place to get a real local brew. It was connected to another sports bar place, so at least I knew they were economical about their operation. Walking in, it was just like any other nondescript local bar you might otherwise walk into in Anytown, USA: a tiny waiting area by the door that led to a cocktail seating area around a small bar. There were some dining tables surrounding the bar/cocktail area behind a low wall. It was very dark inside, but they had some cool ambient lighting with neon and some fireplaces high up on one wall (presumably for effect, more than warmth.)
When I asked my server for her recommendation on a quintessential New Mexico beer selection, she pointed me directly to a green chile infused one that is apparently their signature beer. I decided to include it in a flight of four to get a well-rounded experience.
I started with lighter flavors and went with the Sierra Blanca Nut Brown. This one is the empty you see above…I was just too excited, I guess. As I said, it was very dark inside and hard to tell, but it poured a deep red-brown color with thin white head that neither stuck around long, nor laced the glass to any appreciable degree. It smelled very carmelly, with lots of malty sweetness. This maltiness came through immediately on the first taste, with some sweetness coming through after. It had a pretty thick mouthfeel that coated my palate a bit. It finished a little calmer on the thickness, but lots of lingering roasted malt flavors. I can’t quite give it a 4, but still my favorite of the night:
Number two was the Alien Wheat. It poured a very clean, clear pale yellow color with smooth foamy head that left some light lacing on the sides of the glass. As expected, there was little aroma, except some light yeasty sourness. It tasted light and had a faint refreshing lemon flavor. Otherwise, it tasted very much like your typical light beer with some bitterness on the finish. Though it finished clean for a wheat, it was unimpressive:
Next up was the Monks Belgian Ale. This one poured a golden amber color with foamy, slightly off white head that really clung to the glass like glue. It had an alarming aroma of bananas and had surprisingly little sourness. I found this odd, as Belgian beers have always left me with a pleasant yeasty sourness. The first taste was mostly masked by the rather thick mouthfeel, but it was smooth. Bananas, yeasty malts and light carbonation all combined at once to finish with a medium caramel and the yeasty sourness I had missed earlier lingering afterward. This one was complex enough to entertain my taste buds, but still:
It has been said that it is best to save the best for last. I, however, prefer to put off potential pain for as long as possible. Although I was somewhat intrigued, the potential for pain was why the Rio Grande Pancho Verde Green Chile Cerveza was my last of the night. It started off well, pouring very clean and pale, much like a lager. It had little in the way of head, save a ring of white around the edge. Placing my nose over the glass I–CHILE. There was no other discernible aroma other than the overpowering smell of roasted green chile. This gave me a pretty good idea of what I would taste, but I pressed on and was rewarded with…CHILE. Afterward it moved to a heavy CHILE flavor. It finished clean, but…CHILE lingered well afterward, leaving a none-too-pleasing burning in my chest that felt like heartburn. Though the concept was very local and somewhat interesting, there was just far too much CHILE for me:
Overall, I was unimpressed by the beer selection at this particular establishment. If I am ever back that way, I will definitely give the Albuquerque beer scene another go, but I’m good for now.