Beer aficionados have a new spot to get their brew fix: a craft brewery inside Rio Rancho’s Cazuela’s Mexican Grill on Sara Road recently released its first batches of beer.
Brewmaster Mike Campbell, whose 20 years of brewing experience includes an eight-year stint running the Santa Fe Tractor Brewing Company, has concocted five distinct craft brews to satisfy even the pickiest of beer snobs.
Chupacabra, an India Pale Ale, is not as hoppy as other IPAs, but is “a great balance. There’s enough malt behind it,” Campbell said.
A brown ale, Primero, is creamy and sweet without being cloying, while an oatmeal stout (named after the Willy Nelson song “Beer for My Horses” because the oats are bought from a local horse feed supply store), is rich but not syrupy. For those wanting something lighter, there’s Acapulco Gold, a crisp, Mexican-style lager.
Campbell’s signature brew may be the Piedre del Fuego, a light cream ale that’s caramelized during the brewing process by dropping in chunks of granite heated on fire. The result is a smooth, nutty, toffee-flavored ale that’s light without compromising depth.
“There are no big breweries that make a cream ale,” Campbell said, and right now he’s the only game in town with the tasty drink.
Cazuela’s wanted to add a craft brewery to their site to give Rio Rancho residents and workers another local place to go for good beer, manager Jude Sanchez said.
“Why go anywhere else when it’s right here in your backyard?” Sanchez said.
To further entice customers, Cazuela’s has a happy hour from 2 to 5 p.m. every day with $1 off beers. But at only $4 for a 16 ounce and $5 for 20 ounces during regular hours, the ticket price isn’t likely to shock.
Craft beer nationally has seen a rise in sales despite the poor economy. Sales were up 15 percent in 2011 and the craft brew industry grew by 13 percent the same year, according to the Brewers Association, a national organization of brewers.
“People still drink good beer in a bad economy,” Sanchez said.
The Mexican restaurant has plenty of food to munch on while sipping beers made from locally-sourced ingredients: Campbell recommends pairing spicy food with a cream ale or Mexican lager and an IPA with a chocolate dessert. Brown ales go with everything, he said.
Cazuela’s, which was opened 14 years ago by owner Francisco Saenz, will still be serving some domestic and craft beers from other local brewers, but hopes to eventually expand its own selection of craft brews from five to 10. Some will be permanent items, such as the cream ale and an IPA, while other beers will be seasonal.
Cazeula’s Mexican Grill is located at 4051 Sara Rd. Hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends. More information: cazuelasmexicangrill.com.