The brightly colored adobe building that is Blue Corn Café & Brewery in Albuquerque stands just off Interstate 25 in an area recently changed from desert scrub-brush to entertainment destination. Take the San Antonio exit then the Frontage Road south. Strings of red chiles hang from the front posts at the main entrance, xerascaping having produced a clean and attractive setting of natural vegetation. The interior is bright and lively, with a warmth that is truly inviting. Straight ahead lies an inner patio with a dozen tables and a fireplace. The right half of the building is a segregated room for smoke-free dining. Two dozen booths of lacquered light wood and turquoise vinyl line the walls, while eight wooden tables sporting burgundy tablecloths and red stained wooden chairs divide the room. The reddish brown concrete floor complements the color scheme from below, as large tin-work chandeliers decorated in red and green fill the space above, with a very high peaked ceiling of light-wood trusses. Windows ring the room, illuminating the muraled walls that colorfully depict southwestern scenes. Most tables offer a clear view of the distant Sandia mountains that raise to over 10,000 feet at the other side of the city. Light Rock & Roll music complements the lively atmosphere. Over in the smoking side stands a U-shaped copper bar with diner-style chrome stools. Two large-screen TVs blast sports events throughout the room. From the bar, copper-banded stainless steel vessels of the adjacent 7-barrel brewhouse are clearly visible with pallets of sacked grain poised for future use. Drinking vessels of Mug Club members surround the barback. For $25 annually, membership rewards include an extra six ounces for the pint price, a club T-shirt at the 50 mug mark, and a Century Mug at the 100 mark.
A great start is the wooden paddle-shaped sampler that holds up to eight four-ounce glasses. Samples are 75¢, 10-ounce glasses $2.75, and pints $3.50. The Honeymoon Wheat Ale, at 5.9%, is a clear straw color with a light crisp wheat flavor, with a hint of orange zest and a dry finish. Special ingredients include honey and coriander. The 5.5% Atomic Blond Ale is a clear straw color with a thick white head and lace. This clean and refreshing light beer offers a light pale malt flavor with a nice, slightly dry hoppy finish. The 5.7% High Altitude Pale Ale is a clear dark amber with a dry malty flavor where the hop bitterness clearly comes through. The 5.4% End of the Trail Brown Ale is a clear dark brown with a nice malty flavor, medium body, smooth mouthfeel, and dry malty finish. The 5.5% Plaza Porter is opaque, with a chocolaty aroma, smoky flavor from a combination of smooth dark malts. Assertive but not overpowering. The special 4.8% Black Cow Cream Stout is medium-bodied with a very smooth mouthfeel, slightly roasted character, and even dry/sweet flavor balance due to the effective use of lactose. The Dubblicious Abbey Ale is a clear gold, with estery aromas and a sweet maltiness combined with complex esters. The 5.0% Winter White Out is an opaque hazy straw color with a coriander aroma, spicy flavor, light body, light wheat flavor with a tart orange zest note in the finish.
Great flavors continue with items on the "solid food" menu. Tapas take the lead, followed by Sopas y Enchiladas, Specialties ($7-$10), and Comidas ($7-$10). Look for daily specials, all with a southwestern flair. The Carne Ardovada offers tender lean beef and is spiced just right. The food, house beers, and the ambiance have proved to be a successful draw. Open since August, 1999, Blue Corn Café & Brewery is attracting a solid following among consumers visiting the nearby movie theater and chain restaurants. The formula that continues to work at the original Santa Fé location seems to have been successfully adapted to the expectations of the Albuquerque market.
Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri -