ABQ Brew Pub opened quietly this past week (with its grand opening slated for March 19), and it was near empty during my visit. So empty that the hostess and two servers were dead asleep at a table when I walked in. Well, not asleep—but they may as well have been for all the action was going on at the bar. Maybe four people were sitting around 20 or so bar seats. Fine with me; it gave me the chance to look around without making people feel like I was ogling their dinners.
The space has high ceilings that remind me of a ski lodge bar, with an upscale feeling but less colorful sweaters. You'd never know it shares a wall with Uptown Sports Bar. When glancing at the first appetizer on the food menu, marinated ahi tuna for $10, I debated sneaking over to less-fancy Uptown to eat instead. ABQ Brew Pub’s kitchen boasts black cultured mussels in court-bouillon fumé (those mussels sound 10 times more cultured than me), a $32 steak with Chimayó chile rub and something called "airline chicken breast." ( ... If it’s anything like the “airline chicken" I’ve eaten on U.S. Airways, I'd opt for food court McNuggets instead.) My friend Marcus ordered cheesecake with crème de cassis sauce, and though seemingly pricey at $7, it was a huge piece of cake that he declared “Fucking good, man!" (Marcus may be lagging behind the black mussels as well.)
Four-ounce samplers go for $1 each. All the sizes fit nicely on high-tech, built-in coasters that keep drinks frosty.
Enough about the food! We all know food impedes a proper bender, so on to the beers. Ten taps host Sierra Blanca / Rio Grande offerings, available in 10-, 16-, or 22-ounce glasses ($3.25, $4 and $5.50). Four-ounce samplers go for $1 each. All the sizes fit nicely on high-tech, built-in coasters that keep drinks frosty. They may not turn blue when your beer is cold enough to drink, but they do have a neon ring that changes colors. I chose the 420 IPA, which started sweet but grew on me enough that I ordered another. I also tried the Imperial Stout. While it was thin for the style, its great coffee flavor had me wondering if I would need an Ambien to get to sleep later. (Turns out I just needed to drink a lot more. So I did.) Other taps: Alien Amber, Pancho Verde Chile, Outlaw Lager, Pilsner, Nut Brown, Pale Ale, Rio Grande IPA and Monk's Ale. While this list may not drop the jaw of a jaded, beer-savvy traveler, it offers a variety of flavors that will appeal to the entire spectrum of beer drinkers.
To appease beer geeks, Sam Adams Longshot winner Ben Miller [News, “Homebrew Hero,” Oct. 15-21, 2009] will be crafting guest beers on a small brewing setup on the premise. Daily specials, including half-price drafts on Tuesday, should ensure a good turnout. Once the pub gets its package license, it’ll offer six-packs of its beers for $8. The pub will also fill growlers for $10, or $13 with growler purchase.