Us Colorado folk can sometimes be a little dismissive of other states. Some might even consider us a tad cocky. It’s not that we don’t think other places can be cool, it’s just that where we live is so ridiculously fantastic that we simply assume other states (especially the adjacent ones) are, uh, inferior.
Let this blog post set the record straight: New Mexico is easily the most under-rated state I’ve ever been to, and every Coloradan should start planning their next trip accordingly. Is it as wonderful as Colorado? Well…we’ll leave that discussion for another day.
But first, we had to drive about four hours south just to get there, and fortunately for us thirsty beer-types, a new brewery in Trinidad offered some respite from the tedium of I-25.
Only eight weeks old, Dodgeton Creek Brewing Company on the outskirts of town (which is a bit strange considering “town” is so small) was the answer to our prayers. As a most fitting precursor to the trip ahead, Dodgeton is housed in a cool little adobe-style structure more suitable for Santa Fe than the Centennial State. While not “real” (it was built in 1990) it still gave the place a nice vibe we weren’t accustomed to seeing up north. Plus, the odd isolation of it made us feel like we’d ventured far from the Mile High City and were truly distant from any urban center. Suffice to say, the unique nature of the building itself added to the ambiance.
For a brewery as young as they are, the selection on hand was impressive: 8 in-house brewed beers on tap. We tried the pale, kolsch, IPA and Scotch 4oz samplers and all were totally up to snuff.
Where DCBC truly shined, though, was in the spectacular service. Our beer-tenders supplied us with tons of information about our New Mexico destinations and generally offered up great conversation all-around. The taproom was small, so we were given especially dedicated service and were made to feel like we were the only customers in the world.
Long story short, Dodgeton Creek is a very welcome respite from the I-25 slog and a lovely way to wave goodbye from Colorado before crossing the border. A visit is mandatory.
Once arriving in Santa Fe we set about the task of locating some local breweries, of which the town has five: Santa Fe Brewing, Marble Brewing, Duel Brewing, Blue Corn Brewery and 2nd Street Brewery. Unfortunately, our trip was a mere 4-day weekend so we had to skip a few places and only made it to 2nd street.
That was a mistake.
While the beer was very good – I had a wildly smokey Rauchbier and my girlfriend had an authentic-style ESB – the atmosphere was loud, crowded and somewhat obnoxious. Furthermore, the service was perfunctory at best, outright rude at worst.
Overall, the place lacked any of the New Mexico-style charm we became accustomed to later in the trip. If you’re looking for true Southwestern hospitality, try one of the myriad other places we (unfortunately) missed.
The next day was spent at Bandolier National Monument about an hour west of Santa Fe and it was glorious. Something we quickly discovered in this part of the country was the embarrassment of riches on hand — there’s really no way to see even remotely as many things as are available to admire in a short trip.
Take note: you should plan a week’s stay as a long-weekend will leave you with painful decisions of what to skip and what to see.
Our third day of travel landed us in Taos, and fortunately most of the sites (and breweries) are all easily accessible and nearby, thus granting us the opportunity to hit virtually everywhere on our visit list.
Our first stop of the day landed us at Taos Ale House, and were were instantly over the moon at what the delightful town had to offer.
Housed in an authentic adobe-style building (mud brick/stucco and massive log beam supports), the taproom may not have been built in 1600 like a great many of the buildings in the area, but it may as well have been. There was nothing remotely inauthentic about the space, and it was absolutely beautiful.
Being early in the day, we opted for a single glass of their seasonal pumpkin ale. While I tend to fall on the “pumpkin-flavor is over-used and usually gross” side of the Great Annual Pumpkin Debate, theirs was excellent — neither overpowered by artificial pumpkin spice additives, nor lacking in real pumpkin flavor.
Our service was attentive, fast and enthusiastic and the over-all vibe was that of a small-town full of art-inclined weirdos — basically, our kind of people.
The kicker, though, was the incredible food on the menu: a wide variety of giant hamburgers topped with great southwestern ingredients such as Hatch chilies, cactus jelly and habanero peppers, plus a “dip bar” that served up six different dip sauces that even the most jaded foodie would adore — including a smokey ketchup, a marshmallow sauce (!!) and some of the finest porter mustard we’ve ever had the good fortune of tasting.
Taos Ale House is an absolute must-visit when in town, no two ways about it.
Next up was Taos Mesa Brewing Company, which luckily happened to be right on the way to Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.
Yep, a mere five minutes away from the brewery lies the stunning and huge canyon you may recognize from the “wedding” scene in Natural Born Killers. So, if you’re a movie freak like us, this brewery is a bad-ass two-fer.
Fortunately, even if the gorge had not been a hop-skip-and-a-jump away, Taos Mesa is still worthy of your time. The building itself is a wonderful, artsy hodge-podge of disparate styles, materials and construction, and is a perfect reflection of the attitudes and mentality of the Taos region. What’s more, it’s so isolated on the vast mesa that you’ll feel like you’re drinking on a set from Mad Max. Suffice to say, it’s very, very cool.
Beyond the incredible setting and stunning vistas, they even (gasp!) feel it’s necessary to give outstanding service and serve quality beer. Our server was quick and friendly despite the busy atmosphere and our extra-high alcohol ESB hit the spot perfectly. This is the kind of place people travel to specifically — it’s just that unique and captivating.
And on the way back to town there’s the UNESCO World Heritage site of Taos Pueblo. No biggie, just an extremely culturally and historically significant site minutes from downtown. Yep, Taos is so casually magnificent it’s almost silly.
Our final Taos brewery stop (and, sadly) our final stop of the weekend was Eskes Brew Pub back in “town” proper. Proving that Taos can apparently do no wrong, Eskes was virtually as cool as the other two places in the area: more classic adobe style, another gorgeous beer garden, more small-town-friendly service and a green chile beer that pleased even us seasoned green chile fanatics. While not bringing the heat whatsoever, the chile flavor shone through boldly and deliciously, making for an ideal hot summer day brew that one will want to order a second pitcher of.
While my poor cell phone photos and brief descriptions do little justice for the staggering beauty on hand, hopefully they help to convey a small amount of what’s in store for visitors. Northern New Mexico, and Taos in particular, are bucket-list worthy destinations that just so happen to also have some damn fine breweries. Just go.