Few things equal the pure pleasure of a cold beer on a hot summer day. Whether at a barbeque, working in the garden or sitting out after a monsoon rain, a beer makes the perfect summer companion. That is, unless you count my girlfriend who, over these last few weeks, joined me at many of Albuquerque's finest brew pubs to see what seasonal beers they had on tap.
We stopped by Tractor Brewing Company (118 Tulane SE) on a busy weekend walking through Nob Hill. Tractor had a long list of summer beers, and we started with the Otter IPA. As IPAs go, the Otter is more subtly hopped than you might expect, making room for plenty of nice floral notes. Overall a well-rounded ale and a great choice for someone looking for a light, but flavorful IPA. The Maibock Lager is a beautiful mahogany color in its glass and a fruity, wine-like start gives way to a chewy malt finish. The Bourdain Bruja Roja, or “Red Witch,” didn't quite live up to its name. Sweet, malty and herbal though it is, I found myself wanting the Red Witch to be a tad more mischievous.
After escaping from the midday heat at the movies, we next went to Marble Brewery (111 Marble NW) for a few seasonal pints. The Red Light Lager is a refreshingly mild beer (a mere 4.5 percent ABV) with floral hints and a touch of orange. The Iron Horse Extra IPA on the other hand is considerably more complex, though it continued a theme with some orange blossom touches: hop-forward, bubbly and grassy. My hands down favorite, though, was definitely the Double White, a Belgian witbier that seems to lean in the direction of the lambic style. The lemon-colored, unfiltered Double White has a creamy mouthfeel and a pleasingly sour flavor with touches of cardamom. Highly recommended.
The Iron Horse Extra IPA on the other hand is considerably more complex, though it continued a theme with some orange blossom touches: hop-forward, bubbly and grassy.
It was a lovely, warm evening when we biked up the North Diversion Channel to La Cumbre Brewing Company (3313 Girard NE). The Chinook Pale Ale is a mildly hopped, honey-colored brew with some hay and spice (maybe cloves?) on the tongue. Miles from Cologne, La Cumbre's seasonal Kölsch, is served traditional in a thin stange (German for “stick”—though a test tube is more what comes to mind). A thirst quencher through and through, the Miles is clean and crisp, with a light effervescence. In a word: delicious. The California Common is a steam beer—malty, well-rounded and full-bodied with a nice hop finish. It was so good we took home a growler.
It's not often that we get out to the Westside, so I hadn't been to Broken Bottle Brewery (9421 Coors NW, Suite K) until just recently. After driving around in the hot sun, it was a pleasure to get out of the stuffy car and into their well air conditioned storefront. Their Don Cherry Wheat delivers a tart pie-cherry start and a wheaty finish—the fruit is there, but it doesn't overwhelm. The Black Star Stout is an unusual summer offering: a modified version of their house stout. With deep chocolate stout flavors combined with star anise, the bright flavored Black Star is velvety and sweet (the anise makes it a good potential companion for a bowl of pho). My favorite, though, was the awkwardly titled Ju-Rye 4th Brown. Brown ales can often be so balanced and round that they fail to leave any impression. This was balanced, but the rye gave it a hearty, pronounced, barley wine-like flavor.
There were so many others we didn't get to. Good thing there's still plenty of summer left and many, many more seasonal styles to sample.