New Mexico is a magnificent state culturally, geographically and historically, and it’s popularly known as home to “Breaking Bad.” Thanks to an interest in the locavore movement, the beer culture is thriving as well, with 31 brewing operations scattered throughout the state. Given the distance between towns, focus on the I-25 corridor from Albuquerque to Santa Fe (the last leg of the historic El Camino Real linking Mexico City to Santa Fe, dating from 1598). Fly into Albuquerque’s International Sunport and rent a car. This beer trip covers some beautiful ground.
Happy Hour calls at the Chama River Microbar downtown (106 2nd St. SW) in an area that is a mix of big-city buildings and old west hominess. Albuquerque was founded in 1706, and the old town plaza is not far from here. The Microbar tucks in nicely with six beers on tap from Chama River Brewing Co. There’s no kitchen, but menus for local restaurants are provided, and they will deliver to your seat at the bar.
Marble Brewery’s Marble Pub (111 Marble Ave. NW) is also downtown. Stake out seats at the 40-foot bar or on one of the comfortable leather couches scattered around. Try a Saison de Primera, a barrel-aged sour, or one of six rotating specials on tap.
Cap off the night with a visit to Il Vicino Canteen (2381 Aztec), home of the Il Vicino brewery, live music and a classic Frito pie. Slow Down Brown Ale is the award winner that cuts through the cholesterol.
Get an early start before the desert sun begins to broil. Fortify for a day of beer and travel at The Flying Star Café (3416 Central Ave. SE) on old Route 66 in the hip urban redevelopment of Nob Hill. To the east are the run-down motels and ancient neon, west is the University of New Mexico, and in front of you should be huevos rancheros with a side of bacon or turkey green chili sausage.
Walk it off east, toward the mountains, and stop in at the old Route 66 service station with a repurposed Texaco star signing Kellys Brew Pub (3222 Central Ave. SE). It’s a nice spot to sit outside with a golden, slightly fruity Belgian pale ale, warm up and people watch for a spell.
Turn on the car, the air conditioning and the GPS and head to the Visitor Center at Petroglyph National Monument (6510 Western Trail NW; nps.gov/petr/index.htm). This is still the city but feels like another world of sand and dark desert-varnished rocks. Examine the flat surfaces and see images left by the ancestors of the Pueblo Indians pecked into rock. Animals, spirals, stars and original Kokopellis—the ubiquitous symbol of the Southwest—populate these canyons.
Next, drive on to the farm and orchard village of Corrales near the Rio Grande. Explore beautiful homes, old adobe buildings and river bottom farmland, then head to the Corrales Bistro Brewery for lunch (4908 Corrales Road). Plenty of regular pub offerings here, but the stuffed grape leaves are a specialty. Try the Rye Ale or a Chai IPA made with ingredients from the New Mexico Tea Co.
After lunch, make tracks north to Santa Fe and Santa Fe Brewing Co., the oldest microbrewery in New Mexico (35 Fire Place). Saturday is small-batch day, starting at 2 p.m., so hurry. Don’t miss the Chicken Killer Barley Wine.
You are now in the oldest government capital in the United States, home to Santa Fe Style, the Santa Fe Opera, a permanent farmer’s market and the Santa Fe Spirits distillery (7505 Mallard Way Unit I). Santa Fe Brewing Co. makes the mash for this distillery, and Santa Fe Spirits makes the hard stuff. Good stuff. Colkegan is a single-malt whiskey smoked with mesquite instead of the traditional peat. Pure New Mexico. Tasting room open until 9 p.m. for cocktails.
Escape the urban congestion of Cerrillos Road at Duel Brewing (1228 Parkway Drive), a Belgian-style tap room that opened in summer 2013 and is getting rave reviews. Have a Titian Belgian golden ale at 12.3% and a German Plate of sausages, potato salad and sauerkraut for dinner. Locals love the Belgian-style waffle with chocolate habanero sauce any time of day, but it could be the perfect dessert with a glass of Grunewald, a chocolaty imperial porter.