There were 178 car accidents in Albuquerque on December 26. Ruth & I arrived there mid-afternoon and had little trouble getting from its international airport to our downtown hotel. Some overpasses were closed and several streets were ice-covered, but the worst was yet to come. The girl who checked us in told us that the city was paralyzed with fear since this storm was unprecedented. Albuquerque was on the western edge of the storm that covered two-thirds of the state and closed I-40 from Arizona to Texas.
It was not wise to leave our hotel, so Ruth & I had dinner in its huge, mostly deserted restaurant, Forque Kitchen and Bar. Despite its too cute name, the food was excellent and the staff eager to talk. As I drank a Marble IPA, the waiter/bartender told me that it was just one of several local brews. My education about Albuquerque had begun.
I quickly learned from an expert that this city was home to many craft breweries. In fact, it might be argued that Albuquerque is the beer capital of the Southwest. My host told me that I should visit La Cumbre Brewing Company, and he called to find out if they’d be opened on the 27th. Despite the weather, they expected to. He also told me to check out El Vicino, a restaurant on Nob Hill that made its own beer.
The next day a few businesses began to open around 11 am. We were able to visit Old Town, explore the balloon and rattlesnake museums, and dine at Il Vicino, where I had a startlingly great dark beer called Slow Down Brown. The food was superb too. I learned that Il Vicino is a small, and, hopefully, growing chain of restaurants that specializes in wood oven pizzas and craft beers with locations currently in Colorado Springs, Wichita, Santa Fe, etc.
During this freezing day I picked up the official New Mexico Beer Map and learned that there were already about 30 breweries in Albuquerque with more planned. They had names like Bosque, Boxing Bear, and Broken Bottle. The New Mexico Brewers Guild called this state, pretty appropriately, the “The Frontier of Beer” and recommended “Liquid Tourism” that would include visits to more than 50 breweries, brewpubs, etc.
This is such a fast growing industry in Albuquerque that the city has established a Brewery District, the first in this state. “Our cerveza will blow your cabeza,” it promises.