Rowley Farmhouse Ales, Santa Fe Brewing, Second Street Brewing, Chilli Line Brewing Co, Desert Dogs Brewery and Cidery
Santa Fe may be Albuquerque’s little sister in the craft beer scheme of things, but there are a sufficient quantity of local taprooms to whet your whistle between the many cultural activities the city has to offer, including some absolute gems. It’s a funny city, small in size but very geared towards tourism and therefore on the expensive side, but as in the rest of New Mexico you’re rarely far from a decent craft beer, should you choose to seek one out.
Rowley Farmhouse Ales
We hit up Rowley’s pretty much as soon as we arrived into town, it being conveniently located close to our AirBnB, and with a rather tempting food menu to boot. When Rowley’s say Farmhouse, they aren’t messing around. Their focus is on rustic and sour beers, which they consider an opportunity rather than a restriction. We had the pleasure of trying seven of their beers while in Santa Fe, as a second visit was necessitated after I left my cardigan there, and we were really impressed with the exciting permutations of farmhouse ale we tried, as well as their interesting IPAs. Among my top picks were the Merlot Barrel Greyscale, described as a ‘funky Grisette’ and an absolute tangtastic, zingy dream, the Kaffeeklatsch coffee sour which is choc full of both flavours, and the Sonora Weisse Berliner Weisse Sour with massive chewy passionfruit – what a selection! The Agent Scully S2 Ep3 IPA (yes, that’s a real thing) was another treat, smooth hops with a delicious lactose edge and the Almost Native Spiced Gose brewed with sea salt, peppers, saffron and coriander was delightful.
The venue too has a rustic, homely feel to it and our food was fresh and delicious. Service was also excellent, with our bartenders providing thorough descriptions, advice and recommendations, essential as there was plenty to choose from! Whether you’re a fan of farmhouse ales or not, I would advise a trip to Rowley’s – this is a super little brewery who aren’t afraid to mix it up.
Santa Fe Brewing
Santa Fe Brewing have been around since 1988 and have a massive presence in both the city and the state. We visited their gigantic Mother Ship taproom, slightly out of town, one of three in Santa Fe with an additional satellite in Albuquerque, and were blown away but the multi-building event space – these guys are equipped for some serious partying. Although things were relatively quiet on a Tuesday afternoon, there were still a good few folks around relaxing in the huge sunny courtyard with lovely views of the surrounding countryside where we took our cute little five-pour flight. Of the beers we had on site, I was a big fan of the smooth, well-balanced Chicken Killer Barley Wine and the juicy-hopped Western Bloc English IPA.
Because Santa Fe are available statewide and also one of the few New Mexico breweries we get in Austin (they have distribution in a mighty nine states, as befits their size) I’ve also had the pleasure of trying some other absolute bangers. The Lustgarten Dark Lager with Raspberry is an absolute decadent dream that is one of my favourite beers of that style, and their Freestyle Pilsner is deliciously smooth and creamy, and as one of their core range you can get it all over the place – hoorah. No flies on their Happy Camper IPA either, nicely hopped and just about sessionable at 6.6%. Santa Fe are clearly a consummate brewery who can turn out crowd-pleasing core beers and crank it up for their specials (which I would love to try more of), and I’m not at all surprised they are spreading their wings beyond the confines of New Mexico. The taproom itself, aside from its size, has a very typical Santa Fe artsy décor with a bright, painted wooden interior that wouldn’t be out of place in a beach bar, and I imagine they need all that space at evenings and weekends. A visit to Santa Fe wouldn’t be complete without a trip to its namesake brewery, and these are great beers to order in local bars and restaurants too.
Second Street Brewing
With three Santa Fe taprooms, indicating a strong and successful presence in the city, I had high hopes for Second Street. We decided to visit their Railyard location, a shiny new development of shops, galleries and restaurants along the train line, which planners unfortunately neglected to provide adequate parking facilities for. Ho hum. Still, we persevered and the taproom itself is a nice sunny spot overlooking the railway line. I’d love to say that the beers were equal to the location, but it’s rare for me to have a flight as disappointing as the one we had at Second Street. Both the 2920 and Loral IPAs were flavourless, watery and lacking in character, and the Boneshaker Bitter was equally lacklustre. Even the Imperial IPA, one of my favourite styles, was a disappointment – the 9% alcohol was about all you could taste. Pairing the poor beers with rather surly service, I’m sorry to say that I can’t recommend a visit to Second Street. Whether there was an issue with the quality of the lines or whether they just don’t brew my kinda beer, we left somewhat deflated, which was a surprise as they’re clearly popular, having two locations. JB says bad flights make him sad, and it was indeed a bit of a sad experience. Still, plenty more fish in the beery sea of Santa Fe!
Chili Line Brewing Co
Ahhh, Chili Line! If only I could pick you up and transport you here to Austin – you are the stuff that sweet, smoky dreams are made of.
We arrived at Chili Line after an energetic bout of sightseeing and were warmly welcomed onto their lovely elegant, bright patio. I was positively beside myself with excitement on discovering that Chili Line is unique (to the best of my knowledge!) in brewing only smoked beers! They proudly state that theirs is the only Rauchbier brewery in the US, and the only brewery in the world to brew a red chile smoked beer (more on that later). All their beers (a mighty 87 to date, according to Untappd) are at least an incy wincy teeny weeny bit smoked and boy, do Chili Line know how to make this work.
Needless to say two flights were in order, and I’m very happy to report that there wasn’t a single turkey among the eight delightful beers we sampled. Everything from the delightfully moreish Cherry Poppin’ smoked Witbier to the gentle, creamy Helles Haze and the nicely hoppy West Coast style Pinchey Guey IPA worked in a delicious, appropriate level of smoke. The Fuego, brewed with juniper and honey, was an absolute stand-out, luscious, complex and perfectly balanced. However, the highlight of our Chili Line experience was the aforementioned Que Picante with red chile, a huge smoked, spicy Rauchbier that could turn your head with just a mere whiff. As a fan of all things hot, smoked and smack-in-the-mouth intense, this was heaven in a glass and I’m salivating just thinking about it.
As well as exceptional beers, service was excellent and we had a nice chat with our bartender about how Chili Line came about. A family enterprise, Chili Line is attached to next door’s Pizzeria Da Lino, whom I can also highly recommend (we were a bit peckish by this point!), and I would suggest making an afternoon or night of it, tucking into some superb pizza and trying as many beers as is sensibly possible. They even have live music on some evenings, you can check their social media in advance. In case I haven’t been clear enough (ahem), you’ll miss Chili Line at your peril. I may even go as far as to recommend hitting up Santa Fe just to get those beers!
Desert Dogs Brewery and Cidery
Our stop at Desert Dogs was unfortunately brief, so I risk being unable to do them adequate justice. Nonetheless, visit we did, and took rather a shine to their cute taproom which sits above one of Santa Fe’s main shopping streets, close the heart of downtown tourism at the Plaza. The lovechild hybrid of New Mexico Hard Cider owner Craig Moya and Albuquerque’s Boese Brothers Brewing Co.’s Sam and George Boese, Desert Dog serves beverages from both companies, as well as bespoke collaborative brews and local guest taps. On our visit, the dark, atmospheric bar was about half full, enabling us to have a bit of a chat with our helpful bartender. Although Desert Dogs doesn’t serve flights, samples and half-pours are available. We settled on the flagship Bellringer IPA, unfiltered and lightly juicy, and the nicely tart Sour Cherry. The ambitious Double Orange IPA was a bit too much Robinson’s squash for my liking, but if you have a sweet tooth it may work for you! Sadly we didn’t have time to explore further and partake in either the reasonably priced bar snacks or the entertainments in the games room, but both certainly looked appealing! Desert Dogs is a cool, central spot with something to offer both locals and out-of-towners – definitely worth stopping by.