Santa Fe has just four microbreweries to choose from, and two of them are owned by the same guy (art mogul Gerald Peters). But luckily, each location—Santa Fe Brewing Company, Second Street Brewery, Blue Corn Café and Brewery and the Marble Brewery Tap Room—offers a different experience. And, of course, different brews.
Santa Fe Brewing Company
35 Fire Place, 424-3333
It’s a long drive to the outskirts of the city, but this microbrewery offers one of the better pale ales in town, with a light taste and a crisp finish. SFBC’s nut brown ale, another Santa Fe staple, is malty and not too hoppy.
The atmosphere of Santa Fe Brewing Co. is more rural, as it offers plenty of outdoor seating with views of the grand landscape. Inside, the fumes of the brewery process engulf the room, and the bartenders are sometimes grumpy servers.
But it’s worth the trip. If you’re lucky, a concert will be playing at Sol Santa Fe Stage and Grill just next door.
Second Street Brewery
1814 Second St., 982-3030
Railyard: 1607 Paseo de Peralta, Ste. 10, 989-3278
Second Street Brewery offers a bustling restaurant atmosphere at both its Railyard and original Second Street locations, with a wealth of beer and food options. In addition to enjoying $3.50 pints during Second Street’s daily 4-6:30 pm happy hour, regulars are known to gather here on Wednesdays for discounted pitchers of Second Street’s famous microbrews. The brewery also offers a variety of seasonal beers each month (Irish ales in March for St. Patrick’s Day, for instance), and SFR sampled some of April’s Belgian offerings. From its malty, sweet taste alone, you wouldn’t know that the Trappist Strong Ale is 9.7 percent alcohol by volume. If you don’t like a lot of hop and are a fan of hefeweizen, go with the Saison Ale, a spicy Belgian wheat ale with hints of ginger.
Second Street's classic and beloved India Pale Ale is only mildly bitter, with balanced hops. It's a pleasant taste that could appeal to beer drinkers who normally steer clear of IPAs and is available year-round.
Blue Corn Café and Brewery
Downtown: 133 W Water St., 984-1800
South side: 4056 Cerrillos Road, 438-1800
Blue Corn’s downtown location is subdued, with small TVs in the bar and food that’s hit-or-miss—a breakfast burrito will do wonders to a beer-filled stomach, but the ribs can be dry.
Blue Corn's larger south side location offers a more expansive menu in addition to frequent live music and Tuesday night "beer socials" when the weather's warm. Here, try brewer John Bullard's 15th anniversary Colossal Pils, which packs a punch with 8.7 percent ABV, but nonetheless achieves a clean, refreshing taste.
The best nonseasonal beer on the menu is the oatmeal stout, which won a gold medal in the 2007 Great American Beer Festival. Its taste resembles pumpernickel bread with chocolate and coffee overtones. Many stouts have a bitter aftertaste, but this one has a residual sweetness in its finish.
Marble Brewery Tap Room
60 E San Francisco St., 989-3565
Albuquerque-based Marble Brewery’s India Pale Ale is bitter with multiple hop overtones and is beloved by hop-heads across the state. Those seeking a milder, less hoppy taste (but looking for the same buzz) will enjoy Marble’s red ale, another local favorite. Located on the Plaza, Marble’s atmosphere is yuppie, with padded leather chairs and couches and two big TVs for sports in a dimly lit room. In summer, the recently expanded outdoor patio affords sweeping views of the Plaza.
One plus for Marble is that you can order from the nearby Rooftop Pizza and eat it in the taproom—and unless you do, you’re limited to drinking just three beers.
Hat tip to SFR ad rep (and former bartender) John Hanasack for his beer-tasting expertise.