Owing to the fact that I (Franz Solo) had a birthday on Monday, my review of 2014’s ABQ Blues and Brews was a tad delayed (This is Brew Crew-speak for “I was really, really hungover” — Stoutmeister), so without further ado:

The crowd was huge at ABQ Blues & Brews.

The crowd was huge at ABQ Blues & Brews.

On a rainy Sunday (perfect beer weather, in my opinion), Mrs. Solo and I headed over to Sandia Casino and Resort for this year’s edition of ABQ Blues and Brews. We arrived a tad later than anticipated and were greeted with what looked to be a very long line waiting to get in. Fortunately, we had purchased VIP tickets and our line was essentially non-existent. We moved quickly inside to the galaxy of beer awaiting us.

The decision to switch from an outdoor back to an indoor venue for the event was quite welcome, given that last year we roasted in 90-degree heat in the sun (Don’t remind me. — S) and this year we would have been drenched from a day-long storm. An added bonus to the venue change was that our musical accompaniment for sampling all of these great brews was far easier to hear throughout the venue and certainly kept the overall vibe very relaxed and fun.

Always get VIP tickets to avoid the longer lines later.

Always get VIP tickets to avoid the longer lines later.

We were lucky enough to have made nearly halfway round the venue before general admission goers entered, so we had a good chance to try many, many new beers before the lines got too terribly long. Standouts from the local offerings were Chama River’s Pecan Porter, The Stumbling Steer’s Imperial Coffee Stout and Double IPA, NM Craft Brewing Co’s Sebastian Canyon Foreign Extra Stout, and Santa Fe Brewing’s Double Dry Hopped Bourbon Barrel Aged Chicken Killer Barleywine.

Chama River’s Pecan Porter was a beer I would pair with a pancake breakfast. There were loads of pecan and maple flavors and a wonderful, sweet profile that kept me coming back for more samples. The porter should be available at Chama in the coming weeks and we definitely look forward to enjoying a few pints and probably a growler or two as well.

NM Craft Brewing had a fine showing.

NM Craft Brewing had a fine showing.

The Steer’s Imperial Coffee Stout was bold and delicious all around with a great profile that had a good deal better balance than previous versions we had tried. We hope that this will continue once brew operations are fully running in-house at the Steer. The Steer’s Double IPA was extremely hoppy and drinkable for a beer pushing 10-percent ABV, definitely a beer for the IPA lovers in the Duke City.

Sebastian Canyon was a standout among the many good offerings from NM Craft Brewing, with a great malty profile and exceptional drinkability. Santa Fe Brewing really brought us something special and unique just for the tasting; we were assured that this particular version of Chicken Killer would quite likely never be made again and man alive, was it great. I had enjoyed an aged bomber of the bourbon barrel Chicken Killer previously, but the double dry hopping for this particular batch made for a real show-stopper of a beer. Sweet and strong layers of malts and bourbon were perfectly balanced from the dry hopping processes. We sincerely hope that this will not be just a one-time beer because it honestly blows the regular Killer out of the water.

A good time was had by all, including Dr. Brews Banner, left, Crew correspondent Adam Auden, center, and Franz Solo himself.

A good time was had by all, including Dr. Brews Banner, left, Crew correspondent Adam Auden, center, and Franz Solo himself.

As for the out-of-state beers that we particularly enjoyed, the best were Fresh Squeezed IPA from Deschutes, Lost Highway Black IPA from Mother Road brewing out of Flagstaff, Arizona, Jamaica Red Ale from Mad River Brewing, and West Coast IPA from Green Flash. Of these four, Fresh Squeezed IPA and West Coast IPA can be found here in town, while the other two are not yet available in the state at this point but we hope that that will change. (We’ve heard that Mother Road will soon be distributing here. In the meantime, we’re planning an excursion to Flagstaff in June to try all six of the breweries there, Mother Road included. — S)

As the crowd inside grew to full capacity, it did become a bit difficult to obtain samples at any reasonable rate as the lines just grew and grew. I would maybe suggest that for future Blues and Brews a second day be added to accommodate increasing demand. The venue itself was wonderful for the event, being that we were safely ensconced from the elements and able to fully enjoy some really great blues bands while we sampled away.

On the whole I would call this event a grand success, filled with happy beer and blues aficionados and a great time all around. A huge thank you as well to all of the volunteers and breweries who made this event possible. We are sincerely grateful for your efforts and the result!

So until next year, sayonara Blues and Brews, it was a damn fine day indeed!

Prost!

— Franz and Mrs. Solo

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