A wintertime hankering for an adult beverage is likely to send most of you walking, lurching or sashaying toward a peaty scotch, a proper rye or some fancy Malbec. Not me, dammit. I'm primarily a beer man, m'self, and dedicated SFR readers might remember that typically means a faceful of hoppy IPA every chance I get. But that chill we've been feeling in our marrow of late—complete with some actually remarkable snowfall—inspires me to peruse the seasonal menu upon entering a saloon. This time of year, that means something darker, something more ill-tempered, something that more closely resembles a meal in a glass than my usual proclivities. So for this-here Winter Guide, I sampled a pair of Santa Fe cold weather beauties along with the best seasonal beer on the planet, which, to all of our good fortune, is celebrating three decades of existence and is available in some of our city's finer spirits shops. Bottoms up!
Second Street Brewery
Jack Plane Porter
1814 Second St., 982-3030
1607 Paseo de Peralta, 989-3278
2920 Rufina St.,954-1068
Second Street doesn't expressly bill this as a cold-weather seasonal, but the brewery's menu-advertised admonition that it pairs best with "winter adventures and holiday feasts" got it close enough for me to have a crack. It's a truly unique porter. Sure, the appearance in the glass is an impenetrable darkness, and the malts overwhelm at least three of the drinker's senses as the full-mouth feel does its thing. But this beer is all about the cherry wood—and we ain't talkin' maraschinos. Real, tart cherries are the main event, so much so that the promise of hops at the end of a sip show up as a mere afterthought. I had a Cuban sandwich and Second Street's cajun tots as a food pairing, which turned out to be an odd but quality choice. Drink. This. Beer.
Santa Fe Brewing Company
Winter Warmer Brown-Style Ale
35 Fire Place, 424-3333
500 Galisteo St., 780-8648
Cocoa and red chile. The words are right there on the beer list behind the bar tempting drinkers to sample this, what we believe is the truest-to-form winter ale brewers in the City Different are churning out in Santa Fe this year. Let's just get it out of the way now: I had two of these at a recent "lunch." Two wildly disparate drinking experiences ensued. First pint, first sip: chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, straight from the introduction of ale to tongue. Five to eight seconds later … Is that really red chile? Why, yes, it is! Then I hold my pint up to the light. It almost looks like an amber, but the overall feel in the mouth is a true brown-style ale: not sticky, but enough time on the tongue to know this ain't no Sam Adams claptrap. Pro tip: Do as I did and drink two of these. You'll feel the chile on your lips as you wait for the second one, which offers the true blend of cocoa and proper spice. As with that Second Street porter, you gotta work for the hops. But this is a brown-style ale, so who gives a damn? Santa Fe Brewing Company is canning this gem, so you don't have to hit a taproom to enjoy. A prayer to the powers that be at Santa Fe's OG craft brew shop: Forget the Nut Brown Ale and make this one all year. Please and thank you.
Samuel Smith Old Brewery Tadcaster
England or something
As I'm approaching my word count here, I'll leave some to the imagination. In short, this is an amber-colored ale that's richer than that Bezos guy who owns The Washington Post. Not much by way of hops, but unbelievably well-balanced caramel, brown sugar and maybe even some banana just destroy the palate in the best way. This year's edition marks the 30th anniversary of this treasure, and I personally don't care if you wanna toss rotten vegetables at me for reviewing a non-Santa Fe beer. Instead, you should visit Susan's Fine Wine and Spirits (1005 S St Francis Dr Ste 101, 984-1582), Total Wine and More (3529 Zafarano Drive, 428-4262) or Kelly's Liquor Barn (2885 Cerillos Rd, 471-3960) and pick up a 550 mL bomber. Now. They go fast. William Shakespeare is quoted on the label, for the love of God: "Blessing of your heart, you brew good ale."