New Mexico might not be the first place you think of when you think of beer. Truly, it might not be the first place you think of when you think of states in the Union. (No joke: Before Breaking Bad upped the state’s visibility, I was once asked by a customer service rep, “Y’all use pesos out there?”)
And yet. There’s a vibrant and thriving craft brew scene out here. Craft is the only beer scene out here—there are no mega breweries in the Land of Enchantment. Like every other good thing in the state, the breweries of New Mexico are powered by DIY, bootstrapped, independent people who do what they want.
In this case, what they want to do is make innovative, superior quality beer. We wish we could include all 102 craft breweries in New Mexico. Instead we went with ten of the best to keep things manageable. Read on, then head to the land of sun and vistas to get yourself a pint.
La Cumbre Brewing Co. – Albuquerque
One of New Mexico’s largest breweries is also one of its best. La Cumbre brews in an industrial stretch of Albuquerque, and their Elevated IPA grabs most of the attention—deservedly so, it won Gold at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival a mere year after the brewery opened. If you want a powerful, expertly executed take on craft beer’s poster child, you will not be disappointed. Yet just about everything they put in a can is golden, from a summertime Strawberry Gose to a depths-of-winter, taproom-only Choco Lux chocolate stout.
Bow & Arrow Brewing Co. – Albuquerque
They say you drink with your eyes first so I just want to take a moment to give proper recognition of Bow & Arrow’s sublime design aesthetic. The Foederland label that looks like a Terrence Malick movie poster. The brilliant can (and name) for Denim Tux blue corn lager. The giant paper buffalo head in the brewery’s beer hall. Native-owned and relatively new (they just started canning in 2020), Bow & Arrow makes precision-crafted brews with subtle, innovative twists on the classics and a wide portfolio of wild, sour, and foeder-aged beers. The layers and notes in their Fast As You sour red ale might prompt you to start tossing out fancy wine tasting terms. But keep in mind: this is beer, just drink it.
Second Street Brewery – Santa Fe
Out Santa Fe way, Second Street Brewery has been steadily making award-winning and devotee-garnering beer for 25 years. Their three locations in the city are all popular gathering spots serving top-notch pub food alongside their always-good brews. Their Boneshaker Amber is, unlike its name would suggest, reliably comforting, and interestingly gluten-free. When wintertime rolls around, go for the Low Winter Sun sour ale. And if you see anything on the beer menu with brewmaster Rod’s name in the title, order it up.
Rowley’s Farmhouse Ales – Santa Fe
Don’t let the tiny location make you think otherwise, Rowley’s crafts beer with big flavor. Focusing on farmhouse and sour ales, their rustic brews go down swimmingly with the elevated gastropub offerings served out on the patio or in the 12-seat interior space. For full mouth bliss, pair Fields of Rye Saison with blue-cheese-laced Mac & Cheese then order up a Germophile Berliner Weisse to cap it all off.
Bosque Brewing Co. – Albuquerque
A bosque (say “bow-skay”) pretty much means “a big grove of trees near a river in the Southwest.” Go to Albuquerque and, running through the middle of town, you’ll see a massive expanse of cottonwood trees along the banks of the Rio Grande. A textbook representation of a bosque that’s known, fittingly, as “The Bosque.” Bosque Brewing taps into that heart-of-the-city vibe with five brewpub locations (plus a pizza joint) and their distinctive silver-bottomed cans. Their year-round staples include a fruited wheat called Elephants on Parade and a dill pickle gose named Pickle Down Economics.
Ex Novo Brewing Company – Corrales
While the New Mexico beer scene continues to blow up, Oregon has been doing this craft brew thing for a while now. Ex Novo is a joint venture between the city of Portland and the New Mexico village of Corrales. The NM location sits on three acres just north of Albuquerque and brews local-flavor varieties like a prickly pear sour and Threat Level Turquoise, a West Coast IPA brewed with all the big “C” hops. Their Stay Goalden golden ale supports the Somos Unidos Foundation, the art/sport/community non-profit connected to New Mexico United, the state’s pro soccer team.
Santa Fe Brewing Co. – Santa Fe
The oldest and biggest brewery in New Mexico, Santa Fe Brewing creates solid, reliable expressions of classic craft brew styles. I’m fairly certain it’s illegal to go camping in the state without packing their Zia-emblazoned yellow cans of Happy Camper IPA. In the game for 30-plus years, the newly opened massive beer hall and forays into the hard seltzer market prove they’re not content to sit still.
Marble Brewery – Albuquerque
Of all the Land of Enchantment beers, Marble beers are probably the easiest to find (seriously, if a Southwestern restaurant has a beer list, Marble will be on it). Like Second Street, Marble is named after the street where it first opened its doors. At that location, they brew their regular rotation including the popular Double White, a traditional spiced Belgian wheat. At their smaller brewery, they get experimental, coming up with brews like the Pumpkin Noir, a dark, dark take on a beer made with fall’s favorite gourd.
Abbey Brewing Co. – Abiquiu
Out in the vast and stunning Chama River Canyon Wilderness in Northern New Mexico, down a 13-mile dirt road, you’ll find the Benedictine Monastery of Christ in the Desert. It was the first monastery in the US to start commercial brewing after Prohibition and they currently brew four year-round beers under their Monk’s Ale label. Production happens both on the grounds of the monastery and in a joint Alternating Proprietorship with Sierra Blanca Brewing (makers of the very excellent Alien Amber) out in Moriarty, NM.
Boxing Bear Brewing Co. – Albuquerque
Since their opening in 2014, Boxing Bear keeps racking up the awards, both for their brews and for their particularly welcoming brewpubs. With four locations and six regular brews, Boxing Bear is helping to elevate the craft brew scene in New Mexico by carefully crafting traditional beers, including a particularly “punchy” Uppercut IPA that has a beautiful citrusy hoppy aroma that never disappoints.