With our headquarters in Washington DC and the bulk of our correspondents found near America’s top producing craft beer regions on the coasts, it only makes sense for us to start a new series giving all the states their due, featuring breweries large and small, plus the histories behind them.
For the sake of clarity and with an eye toward avoiding any bias, we’re doing this thing alphabetically. We’ve apparently swilled out way to the 31st state on our list, Land of Enchantment, New Mexico. The state’s official nickname was emblazoned on license plates starting in 1941 (becoming the official nickname in 1999), not only to denote it’s scenic beauty but to also drum up tourism. It has many other nicknames though, including The Cactus State, The Spanish State, The Land of Sunshine, The Land of the Delight Makers, The Land of Opportunity and The Land of the Heart’s Desire.
New Mexico ranks 36th in total population (just over 2 million), is ranked 45th in population density and houses 45 craft breweries as of 2015 (an increase of 20 since 2011) who are represented by the New Mexico Brewers Guild. The state ranks 27th in total breweries (including D.C.) and 11th in breweries per capita as of 2015, according to the Brewers Association.
Evidence suggests that the first brewers in New Mexico were members of the native Pueblo tribe. The first settlements in the area occurred around 1000 AD/CE, including members of the Apache, Navajo, Tarahumara and Pueblo. In 2007, researchers discovered remnants of what appeared to be a fermented corn beer dating back 800 years.
It wasn’t until after New Mexico became a state in 1848 that smaller breweries started popping up as settlers appeared during the mining boom. The first record of a brewery was in Sante Fe around 1855, which was destroyed by a flood. Breweries in the 1800’s were a boom and bust business correlated with the success and failure of towns that cropped up during gold and silver booms.
For the most part, brewing in the state was a limited enterprise until state prohibition started in 1918. The most successful brewers of the era, Illinois Brewery in Socorro and Southwestern Brewery and Ice Company, barely made it into the Great Depression and ceased operations in the 40’s and ‘30s respectively. Ultimately, the technology of refrigeration and transportation enabled market domination by the big lager brewers of the mid-west and Coors in neighboring Colorado.
The first brewery to open since 1909 and the first craft brewer in the state, Santa Fe Brewing, opened in 1988. They are the largest in the state (20,000 barrels annually) and are a pioneer in the region when they began canning in 2010. The oldest brewpub in the state was opened in 1992 by Steve Eskeback in Taos, named Eske’s Brew Pub & Eatery, and is still in operation today.
Since 1991, the state has garnered 64 GABF medals for their craft and 6 this year, most recently including Boxing Bear Brewing being awarded Mid-Size Brewpub and Brewer of the Year for 2016.
5 More New Mexico Breweries We Like and You Should Check Out
Bosque Brewing (Albuquerque, Las Cruces) – Opening their original location in October of 2012, they’ve already opened two additional taprooms and gone through multiple expansions. Having already won 2 GABF medals, the Brewing News National IPA Challenge, not to mention creating over 130 unique brands in
4 years, Bosque is already a force to be reckoned with in the state.
Boxing Bear Brewing (Albuquerque) – One of the first full-scale breweries on ABQ’s west side, Boxing Bear has been knocking out stellar beers since July 2014. In that short span they’ve earned GABF Gold and Silver medals for their Chocolate Milk Stout, plus a Gold this year for The Red Glove (Double Red Ale). With great variety available, from classic German styles to clever Wild Ales, they’re slowly building a legacy worth fighting for.
Chama River Brewing (Albuquerque) – Coming onto the scene in 2002, originally operating as The Blue Corn Café and Brewery, Chama River has become one of the most established brewers in the state. Collecting 8 GABF medals alone (5 Gold), they’ve proven their craft to be dialed in with an emphasis around classic German styles, as well as tasty stouts and porters. Be sure to check out their excellent menu that includes beer-pairing recommendations as well.
La Cumbre Brewing (Albuquerque) – In 2011, having only been open 10 months, La Cumbre shocked GABF by winning 2 golds and a silver at their first showing. Over the past 5 years, they have created over 110 different styles, in the process, becoming one of the best rated brewers in the state. Featuring live music and a rotating schedule of food trucks, La Cumbre is alive with variety, qu
ality and culture – definitely not to be missed.
Marble Brewery (Albuquerque) – Up and running since 2008, Marble is one of the best known brewers outside of the region, aside from Santa Fe Brewing. Having won the Small Brewery and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year award in 2014, plus 9 more GABF medals over the past 5 years couldn’t have hurt either. Known for their award winning Pilsner, Imperial Red Ale and delicious Imperial Stout, Marble is worth getting your hands on.
Huge thanks to John C. Stott and his book New Mexico Beer: A History of Brewing in the Land of Enchantment for historical context.