The idea of an Albuquerque Beer Run came to me when I was learning about bike routes in Albuquerque and I put what I was learning together with something I already knew — Albuquerque has a whole bunch of fine craft breweries. I am usually more of a hiker and it is standard operating procedure for me to map
breweries onto the routes and trails that I plan to hike. In fact, the route/trail I choose often has an interesting brewery (or two, or three, …) somewhere along the way. When planning to do some biking in Albuquerque, I learned that there are more than 143 miles of multi-purpose trails available for biking, running, hiking, horsing, and more. It seemed a natural to me to overlay a map of these routes with a map of the 40+ breweries and brewery tap rooms in the metro area to see where I might want to bike.
A particularly appealing loop route popped out at me right away that I have dubbed the “Albuquerque Beer Run.” This route could be interesting to runners, but I think it also could interest urban hikers, and I think it may be of the most interest to bicyclers. I was excited to discover that along or in close proximity to this route that there are 19 breweries and brewery taprooms including some that I think of as being among the best the city has to offer. The route is a loop of about twenty-two and a half miles of which 18 miles (blue on the map) are on paved, multi-purpose trails that rarely come into contact with automobile traffic. The remaining 4.5 miles (purple on the map) are on city streets that are generally bicycle routes. The route uses sections of four trails including Rio Grande Bosque Trail, Paseo del Norte Trail, North Diversion Channel Trail, and Embudo Channel Trail.
By the city’s definition, the multi-purpose trails are paved surface trails that are separated from vehicular traffic. Where they cross streets they generally offer an underpass or a bridge, although there are a couple of street grade crossings to be made on the Albuquerque Beer Run route. I encountered many people on bikes, runners, and walkers and these uses seemed very compatible given the physical characteristics of the trails.
Something I noticed along the way is that the route passes through many residential neighborhoods. Some of them are well established while others seem quite new or are under construction. I found myself thinking that these could be great places to call home given the trail amenities. I took a look at my go-to real estate information site, www.redfin.com and it confirmed for me that the Albuquerque Beer Run route passes through very active residential real estate areas.
The Albuquerque Beer Run, although no one is promoting it as such, is arguably unique in the world for its combination of paved trail separated from auto traffic and the large number of craft breweries and brewery taprooms along its route. I found similar length routes being promoted as “bike & beer” trails in the San Diego area and in Athens County, OH but neither of those offers anything near the diversity of craft beer options. There seems to be significant awareness among locals as one after another brewery told me they are visited by lots of bikers.
That said, please be clear that I am in no way promoting stopping at too many breweries during any single ride. I compiled the information for this article over the course of many different rides and visits to Albuquerque. I would stop at just a place or two per ride and often would have a half pint versus a full one. If a person lived along the route, s/he could ride this route once per month and it could take a year-and-a-half or more before hitting the same brewery twice. Multiply that by eight or ten beer selections typically available at each place, and well, . . . .
The Ride (Run/Hike)
I started from where I was staying in downtown Albuquerque traveling west on Silver Avenue which, in this segment, is what the city calls a “bicycle boulevard” – a slower than normal speed limit applies on these. This leads to Rio Grande Bosque Trail that follows the bosque along the Rio Grande River for many miles. In New Mexico, a bosque is a Cottonwood tree forest in the floodplain of a stream or river. As the trail parallels the bosque, I spotted a variety of wildlife and took advantage of opportunities to dip into the forest on one of many dirt paths. Attractions along this stretch of the route include Tingley Beach, Albuquerque’s BioPark and aquarium, a spur of the I-40 trail that leads to Old Town, the Rio Grande Nature Center, some outstanding views of the Sandia Mountains, and a pedestrian bridge over the Rio Grande (you cross to visit Boxing Bear Brewery).
If you have the same sense of humor that I do, you could call this route a hydrologist’s wet dream. Albuquerque’s history was as a fording spot along the Rio Grande and the area was a frequent victim of shallow flooding well into the twentieth century. An extensive system of canals, levees, jetties, and jetty jacks are on full display for most of the route and have conquered the river.
The Paseo del Norte Trail is the east/west stretch (I was traveling east) at the top of the loop that follows along the busy thoroughfare. It eventually intersects with the north-south North Diversion Channel Trail. A nice amenity on this segment is the Journal Center Railrunner Station. I haven’t figured it out, but a bike-friendly train route connecting the north end of the loop with Alvarado Station in the downtown on the south would seem to offer interesting route options. On one trip, I chose to detour to the north on North Diversion Channel Trail up to Bosque Brewery — that adds an additional 5.5 miles onto the 22.5 mile loop. This is also the way to the Albuquerque Balloon Museum and the International Balloon Fiesta Park. Biking is a great way to miss the traffic jams and parking hassles during the annual event.
The North Diversion Channel Trail is a straight-line, sun-baked stretch much of which is in the heart of commercial activity lining I-25. A spur called Embudo Channel Trail provides a 1.3 mile round-trip detour to the Santa Fe Brewery taproom. At the intersection with Indian School Road, the route leaves the trail and navigates bike routes on downtown streets to the Center. It may seem a bit circuitous, but the route in the downtown has to find its way across railroad tracks and navigate a one-way street system. Third Street is the southbound street and Second Street the northbound. There are two clusters of breweries in the downtown. The Brewery District is to the north and the Historic Route 66 District is a corridor through the city center.
Albuquerque is a pretty good beer town and getting better all the time. There are roughly 40 breweries in the Albuquerque MSA which has a population of 887,000. That divides out to .45 breweries per 10,000 residents. You can compare that to notable beer cities such as Portland, OR (.57), Denver (.47), Grand Rapids (.41), Seattle (.39), San Diego (.35), and Milwaukee (.30). It is probably fair to say that Albuquerque is a bit overlooked in the discussion of craft beer urban hot beds.
The Albuquerque Beer Run route goes by (within a block or two) a large number of breweries or brewery taprooms, and the following galleries are images from stops along the way. Hopefully the pictures and captions will speak for themselves. It will take me several more rides to visit all of the breweries on route. I’m looking forward to it. Good sources for understanding the craft beer scene in Albuquerque and New Mexico are the New Mexico Brewer’s Guild and the blog called Dark Side Brew Crew
Click on any image in the galleries above to see a larger image and open a scrollable slide show. For more stories about adventures in Albuquerque, click here.