Pecan Grill and Brewery, Little Toad Creek Brewery and Distillery, High Desert Brewing Co, Spotted Dog Brewery, Bosque Brewing Co, Picacho Peak Brewing Company
Pecan Grill and Brewery
We arrived into the lovely college town of Las Cruces fresh from visiting the stunningly glacial White Sands National Monument. To our delight, we found that there were a mighty seven microbreweries in town, and took it upon ourselves to visit the six that were open on our brief overnight visit. Our first stop was the Pecan Grill, located slightly out of town in a large retail park.
The set-up is very corporate-restaurant, and we later discovered that this isn’t a favourite spot with locals for precisely that reason, but putting aside the pleather banquettes and mood lighting, this was a positive experience. Bar staff were friendly and helpful, and there was a decent beer selection. Flights were divided into dark and light beers, although we chose to build our own, and of the four beers we tried all were of a solid standard. The pecan ale was delicious-sweet, nutty and moreish, and my first green chilli lager was light and crisp with a hint of spice. Outside seating was conveniently divided into smoking and non-smoking sections, and while you couldn’t really escape the feeling of being in a hotel or restaurant bar, at least they had some decent beers, our first since leaving Texas!
Little Toad Brewery and Distillery
We headed back downtown to Little Toad next, and were ever so impressed to find live music on a Tuesday night. The place was packed with a mix of locals and visitors as the band knocked out classic rock hits, and we settled in with a flight and chatted away with another out-of-towner. They have about 12 beers on draft at any one time, including some local guest taps, and flights come in fives. My favourites of their beers were the rich, nutty Big Ditch Brown and the easy-drinking Little Toad Lager, overall their beer selection wasn’t our favourite, we found the pale and the IPA were somewhat unremarkable, but this is a great spot to hang out in. Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to sample their spirits, but there are plenty of varieties available and I am now rather regretful I didn’t try the green chile vodka – what a schoolchild error!
Little Toad also has a branch in Silver City.
High Desert Brewing Co.
Our final stop for the night was High Desert Brewing, a cool local spot in a residential neighbourhood with approximately 10 taps. They cover a broad range of styles, with varying degrees of success, the Belgian strong ale was my pick of the bunch -sweet, malty and potent so say my Untappd notes! Their barleywine was unfortunately rather overloaded with sweet holiday spices, and the fresh hop IPA, while tasty, was closer to a green IPA – intensely dry and piney. That said, it’s a friendly spot and they were open accommodatingly late on a Tuesday night, not kicking us out til midnight, and I’d certainly recommend a visit. They also serve food, which looks ever so tasty although we didn’t arrive in time to partake.
Spotted Dog Brewery
We were up early, refreshed and raring to go, ready to check out the remaining three breweries on our Las Cruces agenda. Our first stop was the Spotted Dog Brewery in the small town of Mesilla just outside Las Cruces. A few streets away from Mesilla’s historic town square, the Spotted Dog is a superb local brewery with an exciting range of inventive beers. As we were pressed for time, we had just the one flight but would have been happy to spend a lazy afternoon quietly working through their full tap list, impressed as we were with what we had.
The prickly beaver was a delicious prickly pear wheat ale, perfect for a sunny afternoon, and honestly I could have put away a fair whack of it. The sweet-sour fruit flavour on a light, creamy wheat base was absolutely delightful. The raspberry-coffee Truffle shuffle stout was also glorious. Rich, full flavours and a creamy texture but light enough to be quaffable in the sun. The white stout was also beautiful, so light and gentle in texture with a heavenly white chocolatey flavour, and a robust APA finished off this hugely successful $5 flight. The taproom itself is a simple, laid-back affair with monkey nuts on the table and a cute patio, and everyone was super-friendly, advising us on beers and other places to visit. We could happily envision our future as retirees strolling down to the Spotted Dog and filling up our growler of a Wednesday lunchtime, as were one couple we spoke to!
Bosque Brewing Co.
Sadly, we had to push on in order to complete our brewery agenda, and heading into the student area to visit Bosque Brewery’s Las Cruces outpost. Bosque is an Albuquerque institution with three branches in the city, but we wanted to get a jump on and check them out in Las Cruces before hitting up the 60+ breweries Albuquerque has to offer! Across the road from one of the two Las Cruces colleges, this is a venue designed specifically for students with long benches for large groups of youngsters, big screen sports and a food menu of sufficient standard to be acceptable to visiting parents. Our flight of six beers set us back **** and we sat outside taking in the campus vibes. Bosque’s IPA is a New Mexico staple, and it’s fruity, balanced hops go down a treat, which set the standard pretty high for our taproom visit. However, our flight met with mixed success, and in unexpected places. The Down In The Hollie ESB was a surprise favourite, deliciously smooth and nutty, and the Wet Hop Red IPA and Scotia Scotch Ale were both happily quaffable. The Beer-mosa bore too much of a resemblance to a champagne-free mimosa and felt a bit like drinking orange juice and lemonade, not my thing at all, and I was really disappointed with the Brut IPA where the champagne element was again missing and it ended up palate-scrapingly dry. While we may have been better off in for both beer choices and atmosphere visiting the Albuquerque Mother Ship (or one of them at any rate!), it was good to see a different side to the Las Cruces beer scene, even if we’d rather have stayed in the Spotted Dog!
Picacho Peak Brewing Company
With time running out, we were in two minds about squeezing in a visit to Picacho Brewing but goodness me, we were glad we did! Picacho is the real old-school deal, with a jolly crew of regulars propping up the bar for Wednesday afternoon’s $2 Pint Day, where everyone knows everyone and the Country tunes are flowing along with the beer. We were immediately made welcome and settled at the bar, where we were regaled with tales of hunting triumphs and near misses, given Country music recommendations and made to feel completely at home. We didn’t want to leave! Of the five beers we tried, my favourites were the delicious full, sweet and nutty Oktoberfest and the big traditional American Twisted Windmill IPA, but honestly all their beers were as contented as we were. We were sorry to miss the Black IPA, which is apparently a blinder, but the savoury, moreish Smooth-N-Stout was more than adequate compensation. Picacho is Western hospitality at its finest, and the beers are eminently drinkable across the board. Miss out at your peril. We were so sad to leave Picacho and Las Cruces was an unexpected highlight of our New Mexico tour, for both beer and culture. If you have the time, I’d recommend at least a two day stop. Soak it all up!