ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO
One of New Mexico’s first and best microbreweries (active since 2005), located in an exquisite siena-hued terracotta barnhouse off Pan American Freeway, Albuquerque’s silver-roofed CHAMA RIVER BREWING COMPANY serves upscale pub fare (steak, seafood, pasta) to pair with its well-designed traditional brews.
Easy to spot from the freeway due to its large sidled grain silo, Chama River Brewing’s interior wood design, foyer-bound water feature (with resin pheasant), stone hearth and tiled front patio provide crystalline elegance. Its copper-clad center bar (with 10 tap handles, several stools and TV) services a private lounge and booth-laden Porter Room. Sterling glass-encased brewtanks store most of the nine proprietary offerings tried during my April 2016 sojourn.
For starters, rounded Class VI Golden Lager regaled German pilsner malts with raw-honeyed sour lemon musk, maize-dried graining and grassy hops.
Then a few moderate-bodied ales sufficed. Rio Chama Amber brought light honey spice to tangy navel orange briskness and toasted carafa malting. Mild India Pale Ale-like citric fruiting guided Copper John Pale Ale, a floral-perfumed dry libation with zesty grapefruit-pineapple-orange juicing embittered by piney hop resin to contrast sweet sugar-spiced crystal malts.
IPA overtones also embrace soft-toned Vermilion Red Ale, a red and orange fruit-spiced nicety not far removed from Chama River’s most popular item, Jackalope IPA. Named after a mythical antlered rabbit, its tangy yellow grapefruit freshness and bitter lemon rind pucker overload the zesty tropical sureshot as pine-lacquered perfume hops contrast crystal-malted mango, pineapple, orange, tangerine and guava sweetness.
Orange blossom-honeyed coriander tweaked Broken Spoke Honey Wheat, a mildly citrus-spiced moderation backed by torrified husked wheat minerality, grassy hop astringency and floral daubs.
A fine collaboration with neighboring Nexus Brewery, nitro-injected The Darker Fare Irish Stout fortified its softly creamed black chocolate fudging with coffee-roasted espresso and charred nuttiness. Nearly as dry and arguably better, Sleeping Dog Oatmeal Stout coalesced sugary molasses oats with coffee-milked black chocolate, walnut, pecan and hazelnut illusions.