Three Rivers Brewing, 550 Brewing
Visiting some of New Mexico’s oldest and most compelling historic sites involves heading away from the big cities and out into oil and gas country. The landscapes are incredible, but towns are few and far between. Fortunately, where there are humans, there is local craft beer!
Three Rivers Brewing, Farmington NM
After a truly magical visit to the Chaco Canyon, certainly one of the great wonders of the ancient world and stunning evidence of the intelligence and sophistication of Native American civilisation over 1,000 years ago, we were, of course, ready for some beer. Chaco is situated on a remote site over an hours’ drive from any towns, at the end of a 30 mile dirt road, and after juddering our way up and down it drinks were certainly in order. The oil and gas town of Farmington was our stop for the night, and their independent brewery Three Rivers is a major feature of town life, having expanded from their taproom and restaurant down Main Street to include a pizzeria, cocktail bar and games room all serving different selections of their beer. We stopped by the friendly games room and enjoyed an exquisite Atramentous Imperial Stout – a roasty-chocolatey extravaganza that was so tasty I managed a full pint of all 9% of it! Needless to say, we called it a night after that, but returned the next morning for a meal and flight in the brewpub.
We were met with a jolly reception shortly after they opened at 1130am, and while beers weren’t available til 12pm we got started with some much-needed bottomless coffee. The building is an old drugstore from the 1930s with its beautiful original ceiling and a rich array of memorabilia to take in, and the speed at which it filled up indicated that we’d hit on the best brunch spot in town. Flights came in pours of six 4oz for $12, and apart from a slightly chemically Kolsch, my choices were all excellent. The ‘Merica APA was a nice smooth, hoppy Sunday morning beer, while the Guava Wheat was fresh and juicy. The En La Lista Negra was a coconut-chocolate delight that I saved for dessert, and the Chaco Nut Brown had a lovely rich flavour. Food was also excellent, our burgers were cooked to order, juicy and filling, if a little on the pricey side. A vast accompanying side salad ensured we had our five-a-day too! Three Rivers might have a monopoly on the Farmington beer scene, but they certainly don’t shy away from their responsibilities – try that Atramentous if you can!
550 Brewery, Aztec NM
Having been utterly enthralled by Chaco, we were very keen to head up to Aztec to check out the pueblos and the largest reconstructed Kiva in North America. Coming away completely awed once again, we were in luck to find 550 Brewery, Aztec’s very own microbrewery, just a few minutes’ drive from the site. Located at the edge of Aztec’s town centre, just where it turns residential, 550 is super-cool spot with a huge, bright beer garden. The inside is filled with eclectic retro memorabilia including foosball and pinball tables, old fashioned electronics and news clippings celebrating the end of Prohibition. In one of the many quirks I love about small-town America, the taproom wouldn’t look out of place in the centre of Shoreditch. 550 have six taps – five of their own beers and one guest tap – as well as local wine, hot drinks and a free popcorn machine, always a winner for JB. There’s also an attached pizza restaurant which we didn’t visit, a fact I now regret on revisiting the rather exciting menu.
The taproom was understandably quiet on a Thursday early afternoon, which gave us the opportunity to chat with the very helpful lady serving us about the different beers available. Although they don’t serve flights or short pours, she was happy to let us sample a few brews before committing to a pint, and I was very impressed with both the piney Sasquatch and honeyed Mile High IPAs, with the Mile High just having the edge. The Irish Red and Honey Blonde were also decent, and I was disappointed none of their tasty-sounding stouts and porters were available during our visit. In a town the size of Aztec, I would anticipate 550 being pretty lively during evenings and weekends, and a schedule of events including live music and community fundraising is available on their website. We would happily have lingered at 550 and if you’re visiting Aztec Ruins you couldn’t pick a better spot for a refreshing post-sightseeing beverage.