Hidden off Rufina Street, a revolution is brewing. Welcome to Santa Fe's newest hop haven, Duel Brewing (1228 Parkway Drive, Ste. D, 474-5301). A place where beer is considered a currency for camaraderie, Duel celebrates the growing, local craft beer scene. Brew pubs have a by the people for the people business model, and Duel aims to do just that, but with a twist.
Dedicated to becoming a space where art meets beer and beer meets art, the Cerrillos Corridor hang is owned by Trent Edwards, a sculptor/painter who has adheres to the philosophy that brewing, foremost, is an act of hospitality. Duel will never be a place with pricey art and little white tags polka dotting the purple walls painted by general manager Matt Onstott, a Washington lobbyist turned beer hobbyist. It's not that the brewery doesn't integrate art everywhere (the menu quotes Camus; brews are named after artists like Venetian painter Titian and Dadaist Marcel Duchamp), it's just that convincing you high art can be cool isn't the point. Educating you in the fine craft of beer culture? Now that's something Duel is happy to do.
Passion is what fueled the brewery's beginning, but balance is what sees it through. That passion is in the menu as full-bodied brews pair well with Duel's fare of simple and savory food like a generous loaf of the warmed rye bread ($5), or the Hot & Cold Plate ($11)—a Mediterranean medley of spicy marinated meats and cheese. Beer wise, the menu for now is basic but not boring. Craft suds come served up in generous tulip-shaped goblets at $6 a pour. Samples ($2) show a stylistic balance ranging between sessionable golden Belgian pale ales and darker bourbon-cask-brewed stouts—that at 11% ABV—are designed for lighter sipping. The Dark Ryder, a nirvana of smoky flavor that finishes with a whisper of chocolate, is not to be missed. Beer geeks will appreciate Duel's exploration into sours like the sparkling Duchamp that tastes sort of, "like a Sour Patch Kid chased with a Blue Moon," says bar attendant Molly, whose expertise and descriptive honesty will quickly bring a newbie up to speed with what's what in the world of craft brewing.
Finding Duel can be a challenge but rewards, like ample parking, abound. Though tucked away in an industrial complex, since its opening in July, the brewery has become beloved. A cross between a warehouse and a warm whiskey tavern, Duel unfolds like a friend's house. High ceilings, wide garage doors, concrete floors and a foosball table spaciously welcomes customers. A classic mahogany bar lined with regulars blends into a dining area where wooden tables scatter like stragglers who refuse to leave the party. Children and dogs are welcome, "as long the kids stay on leashes," Onstott jokes.
More art, more music and a steady stream of brews are what's next on the menu as the brewery explores phase two of their own duality: cultivating an identity. With hopes to become a hot new live music venue, Duel wants to do away with any ideas of being anything like any brew pubs du jour.
First, Duel wants you to know the rules. Be friendly. Stay awhile, but don't get fucked up. This isn't a broski bar. There are trends (sours are in, IPA's are overplayed), and there are things to know. "Just because the color is light in any beer doesn't mean you should drink it first," reminds Molly. But mostly, Duel Brewing wants you to come in and share their community.
"This isn't your grandpa's bar," says Onstott. He reconsiders, "Or, maybe it is. But it isn't your father's tavern... it's a democracy." Whatever it is, we say cheers!
1228 Parkway Drive, Ste. D, 474-5301
Open Mon-Wed, 11 am-8 pm;
Thur-Sat, 11 am -11 pm;
Sundays, noon-8 pm