Las Cruces is moving on up

1 Aug

Liquid Nap-at 9.2% ABV, the name is pretty damn appropriate

Well…sort of.  I guess if you have started from nothing, then anything new constitutes an ascension up the evolutionary chain towards becoming a beer destination.  In this case, I had been told that there were two new craft breweries in Las Cruces, meaning there were now a grand total of three in town.  I informed my brother that he was to take me to these new establishments immediately, so I could experience this expansion of beer choices for myself.  What I found was two locations that were touting their beer, but not actually brewing it in town.  A bit disappointing, but I was excited about the new choices none-the-less.

First up was Mimbres Valley Brewing Company, a brewery based in Deming, NM (about 1 hour west of Las Cruces).  What I had initially thought was a new brewery turned out to be a Mimbres Valley taproom.  Ok…so it wasn’t a local brewery.  I wasn’t going to flip the table and walk out, was I?  As any decent beer-lover does when travelling, I went ahead and ordered the taster flight in hopes that the place was worth trying.

German Vienna Amber Lager-5.2% ABV, 26 IBU– started off fruity with hints of apricot and clove.  The initial taste was very clearly banana and clove.  Made me wonder what the yeast strain was.  When I first saw this on the tray, I immediately thought of a Dos Equis Amber or a Bohemia.  This wasn’t nearly as dry as that, but it did have a nice finishing bitterness.

Belgian Specialty Ale-7% ABV, 55 IBU- very sweet and fruity, with hints of the Belgian flavor I have come to love.  Unfortunately it didn’t quite have the depth of a true Belgian.  A nice try, but it fell a bit short on the execution.

A picture of the worst beer I have ever had

1883 Light Lager-4 % ABV, IBU not listed– I would love to give you some positive tasting notes on this beer, but it was literally the worst beer I have ever tasted.  The beer was almost clear in color, which was disturbing.  My brother said it looked like piss, and he was right.  Not that dark yellow, “I’m dehydrated” piss, but straight up clear-yellow piss.  It tasted just like it looked: flat, soapy, and yes…slightly pissy.  I don’t want to slam this beer, but I really don’t have any other choice.  This was terrible.  All the pictures in this post do not do this beer justice.  It was scary.  Seriously.

Hopaholic American Style IPA-6.8% ABV, 62 IBU-When I saw this beer on the list, I knew immediately that it wouldn’t live up to it’s name as an American Style IPA.  Why?  I just had that feeling.  Here I was in Las Cruces, and some brewer from Deming was calling his beer an American IPA, and I just wasn’t buying it.  And wouldn’t you know it?  I was right.  Now…If he had called it a British-style IPA?  Sure, I would have totally been right there with him.  It had the nice initial bitterness and a pleasant malty finish with bitterness that stuck around at the end.  But hop nose?  Hop flavor?  Completely devoid of such things.  This was not a bad beer.  In fact, my brother had a full pint later.  It just wasn’t the beer that was advertised.  They need to dry hop this thing, at a minimum, to call it American style.  Also, I noted some banana flavors in the beer.  Are they using the same yeast strain on all these beers?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Pumpkin Ale-4.6%ABV, 13 IBU-Unlike a lot of people, I like a good pumpkin ale.  In the fall, they really set the mood for me.  Now…I can’t drink more than one or two, but I enjoy them.  This thing, though?  Try a pumpkin abomination.  If I wanted a fucking pumpkin pie in liquid format, I would puree some canned pumpkin filling with crust and spices and drink it.  This was the most cloying pumpkin beer I have had to date.  Just god-awful.  There wasn’t even a hint of beer behind this.  It was like mulled wine, only without any trace of alcohol.  Some pumpkin beers have the decency to be a beer first and have a pumpkin taste second.  Not this bad boy.  All pumpkin pie, all the time.  Nasty.

Boogie’s Olde Ale-9%ABV, 32 IBU-I wanted to like this. No, seriously…I did.  I love me a good Olde/Strong Ale.  Do I love it in Las Cruces, in August, when it’s 105 degrees outside.  Uhhhhh…no.  Also, way too sweet.  There was almost no bitterness to this beer.  I’m not asking for an American Barleywine here, but c’mon!  Where is the balance?  This was a fucking sugar bomb.  And it was 9%!  What are you trying to do?  Dehydrate and kill your customers as they get into their cars?  It’s at least 125 degrees in there!  Also, there is a time and a place for this beer in New Mexico.  It’s called December.

My brother and nephew before tasting the 1883 Light Lager. They were happy then. After? Not so much.

Ok, ok, ok…so I didn’t really enjoy most of the beers.  But I did try something I really liked after the taster tray.  There was a Belgian Style Tripel on tap called Liquid Nap.  At 9.2%, this beer was true to its name.  Drink a couple of these and you would be sleeping.  It was a beautiful straw yellow color with an intense fruit nose.  The alcohol was evident immediately, but the beer was smooth.  Had all the funky little sourness of a Belgian and finished with a lovely overlap of bitter and sweet.  I really, really liked this beer.  Hopefully, by the next time I visit, this brewery will have figured out how to make a couple of styles the right way and take beer in Las Cruces to another level.

Typical for Las Cruces. Building looks all snazzy on the outside, but the beer inside left a bit to be desired.

Next stop on our adventure was De La Vega’s Pecan Grill and Brewery.  Again, this is really a restaurant that has taps for beer that is brewed elsewhere.  And that somewhere else is Moriarty, New Mexico.  The only brewery I can find in Moriarty is Rio Grande/Sierra Blanca Brewing, and this beer is not from that particular place.  So someone in Moriarty is brewing the beers served at the Pecan Grill, but there is very little explanation as to how and specifically where in Moriarty that is happening.  All that aside, they had quite the selection to choose from at the Pecan Grill.  The taster trays were separated into light and dark, due to the sheer number of beers they had on tap.  Also, by the time we sat at the bar, all desire to take good notes left me.  What follows is what I could piece together from the half-assed notes I found later.

Light Beer Flight

German Pilsner-tasted nothing like a pilsner.  Had a really corny/rice-type flavor to it.  We brewing big boy beers here, or what?  This would occur with several other beers on this and the dark beer tray.

Pale Ale-nice and fruity, with a real nice hop nose.  This was a pretty good beer, one of three on the tray that didn’t taste like corn and was pretty well done.

Green Chile Ale-Another beer that I wanted to be better than it was.  I have really enjoyed the Chile Beer from Calapooia when I wanted something spicy, but this didn’t come close to that beer.  The green chile tasted more like I was chewing on stems and the roasted skins.  There just wasn’t the “meatiness” of the chile in the beer.  And it wasn’t hot enough to really make it a true chile beer.  This beer felt like a gimmick.

Light American Lager-Again with the corn!  Better than the 1883 that I had earlier (what wouldn’t be better?) but still not that great.  To light of body and had no noticeable hop to it.

Double IPA-not a double…not at all.  But a very good standard IPA.  I would order this before all other beers, if I went back.  Had a great citrus nose and the grapefruit and pine came through in the flavor.  Not sure what hops they used, but I was impressed with this beer.

Wheat Ale-brewed with coriander and orange zest, so this was really a wit.  I actually thought this was a pretty well done beer.

Dark Beer Flight

Las Cruces Lager-Pretty bland beer, but it had that corn flavor nailed down.  Pretty lame effort, in all honesty.

Aggie Amber Ale-There was literally no hops to be found anywhere in this beer.  Or any malt for that matter.  Corn was the major flavor in this beer…the brewer must own stock in ConAgra.

Nut Brown Ale-this beer was pretty good.  You could taste the chocolate malts and there was a hint of smokiness that was followed by the gentle nuttiness that I was hoping for.  There was no extract in this beer (which could not be said of the Pecan Amber), and it would have paired well with a Blue Cheese Burger off the menu.

Abbey Ale-this was their take on a Belgian.  Amber in color, it had a bit of sourness to it.  However, it too missed the mark and left me wanting more.  A little more work on this one might punch it up into the category of a must order.

Pecan Amber Ale-ok…where to start?  This can be found all over Las Cruces in bottles and it is terrible.  There is obviously a really sweet extract used in this beer, and it is really awful.  It doesn’t even taste like pecans, more like a pecan candy from one of the ridiculous tourist destinations in Mesilla.  Why are people buying this in bottles?  What is wrong with this town?

Desert Stout-decent, but a bit too sweet for my tastes.  They bill it as a heftier version of Guiness, but I am not sure that is a good thing.  It is too thin for the alcohol content it claims to have (7.2 ABV), it was a tad under-carbonated, and they served it way too cold.  The roasted malts came through ok, but would have shone more with better carbonation and a warmer serving temp.

So…how bad was it?  Not a total loss, but I was hoping for a little more.  Even though I seem to have savaged both places, I think they might be heading in the right direction.  I remember when High Desert Brewing started out and they had some real stinkers on the menu.  The last time I went back, I was impressed with how far they have come.  Clearly Las Cruces has a long way to go to catch up with Portland, but at least they are giving it a try.  Sort of like an A for effort, but a C- on the execution (with a couple of total fails in there as well).  I have faith, though.  I’ll be back sometime next year, so I’ll give these new places another look to see if anything has changed and/or improved.  For now, I am just happy there is more than one option when it comes to local and semi-local craft beer in Las Cruces.


One Response to “Las Cruces is moving on up”

  1. Chad August 2, 2012 at 5:56 AM #

    I laughed. I cried. Mostly I laughed. I just skimmed a blog from a Bay Area Beer Blogger who also recently visited Peacan Grill on a trip home. I have to go back and read it and learn if they had a similar experience and opinion. I would have thought the brewery in Socorro would have expanded down there versus this fool from Demin (and yes I intentionally left off the g :). CW NMSU class of 02′.

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