Oh, Hopfest, you lovely giant beer festival, you have returned. It’s Lucky No. 7 for Hopfest, which returns to the Isleta Casino this Saturday. Tickets are still available online today (Friday). They go up in price at the door ($35 for general admission, $45 for Extra Hoppy Hour), so we highly recommend you get them online while you still can. And if any are left (it was 85-percent sold out Thursday morning), get those Extra Hoppy Hour tickets. It’s worth it to pay a little extra to have an hour (2-3 p.m.) of shorter lines. Pick out the beers or breweries you absolutely, positively have to try and hit those first.
Event organizer Marne Gaston had to put together a lot of this from afar — her family actually moved to Sarasota, Florida, earlier this year — but she said no one should worry, all is well.
“Well, we started a year ago, so the long-distance part just started happening,” she said. “I mean, it’s gone really well. It’s lucky number seven, we have 70 breweries, seven bands … actually, we have 74 breweries. That’s 12 more than last year.”
Ah, but what beers are out there? There’s over 70 breweries present at Hopfest this season, so it’s a lot to sort through. Being Hopfest veterans, the Crew is here to help, as always. Hopfest is divided into two rooms and an outdoor area. We prefer to hit the smaller room on the right side as you walk down the main hall. It gets really crowded once the GA folks are let inside, so hit those breweries first. From there, pick your favorites in the huge main room on the left side. As the GA folks pour in at 3 p.m., head to the outside and enjoy the fresh air and good beers out there.
So by room, here are the breweries to visit and the beers they’re expected to bring. We realize a lot of these beers lists may change by the time the kegs are tapped.
“Part of the problem is I’m bugging them to get their information way in advance so we can get it in the event program,” Marne said. “Whatever information we can get in advance, it helps people plan their day, makes it more fun.”
We did our best to make sure we had up-to-date lists for all the New Mexico breweries present, but a few of them did not have time to get back to us. Nonetheless, this is a listing of the beers we’re targeting. It does not include every brewery present, so there are some you may wish to seek out in addition to these.
UPDATED: As I was helping Marne set things up at Hopfest on Friday, we all found out that Cazuela’s is no longer attending, but Ponderosa is. So where it shows Cazuela’s on the map inside your program, that’s now Ponderosa. Also, we got an updated list from Pi Brewing.
Premier Stage/Side room breweries
Durango Brewing: They’re bringing Durango Dark Lager. That’s all I need.
Eel River: They’re that brewery that does all organic beers. Gotta admit, kinda curious what the heck an Organic Acai Berry Wheat tastes like.
Erdinger/Krombacher: These two classic German breweries are bringing some of their wares overseas. Erdinger specializes in weissbier. Krombacher has a weizen as well, plus a pilsner and a dark lager.
Grain Hopper: The Rio Rancho-based home brewing store has concocted a trio of beers. White Knight (Belgian Wit), Over the Pond (Pale Ale), and Hoptoberfest will be available. Looking forward to the last of those three.
Mad River: Never pass up Steelhead Extra Stout. Never.
Mother Road: The Lost Highway Black IPA is some epic stuff. I’m also quite intrigued to try the Red Rye IPA. Beyond those, a Mother Road rep contacted us to say they’re also bringing something special in a Randall, something else in a cask, and a third beer that’s been barrel aged. Oh, you are much to good to us, supreme lord of the Flagstaff brewing scene. WE’RE NOT WORTHY!
Ponderosa: They just signed up Friday. We don’t know what they’re bringing, but we’ll stop by and see what they’ve got.
Total Wine collective: The jumbo beer store is bringing three unique beers — Clown Shoes’ Crunkle Sam (barleywine), Pike’s Naughty Nelly (a gold artisinal ale, whatever that means), and Laughing Dog’s Sneaky Pete, which sounds like a DIPA and checks in at 10 percent ABV.
Cider-palooza: You know that Johnny Appleseed badge on Untappd? You can start leveling up on that there’s so many cideries here. There are going to be four alone in the side room, including Green Goblin and Thistly Cross.
Main room breweries
Alaskan: We’ve always enjoyed the Amber and Freeride APA. The seasonal they’re bringing is their Pumpkin Porter.
Back Alley: Addison actually ran out of beer downtown because he was saving up for Hopfest. He didn’t get us an updated list, but we have a feeling it will be more than just the Soroche IPA and Berliner Weisse.
Black Diamond: The NorCal brewery with a brewer from ABQ (he and Franz Solo actually went to high school together … this town is so small) is bringing four of its best. If you have never tried the Fracas Imperial Red or the Peak XV Imperial Porter, you’ve been missing out.
Bridgeport: The Oregon brewery has something called Trilogy #2 Aussie Salute, an IPA made with two American hops and two Australian hops. Fair enough, we’ll give it a try.
Chama River: The Brew Crew’s hefeweizen challenge champion, Hefe Nice Day! will be available, along with the delicious Hardscrabble ESB.
Dukes of Ale: They usually bring several top-notch home brews for us all to try, with patrons getting to vote for the favorite as best of show.
Lagunitas: An Imperial Red, you say? Why yes, I’d love to see what this hop-centric California brewery does with one of those.
Magic Hat: These guys always get points for sheer naming creativity. The scored again with Wilhelm Screamer, their seasonal pumpkin release.
NM Craft Brewing: There’s no entry in the event program, but fear not, the NMCBC folks got back to us on the five beers they have coming down from Las Vegas. On the way are a Session IPA, Rye Pale Ale, Wet and Wild IPA (made with fresh-picked hops; last year’s batch was wholly unique and awesome), Porter, and Cream Ale. Guess we’ll have to try ’em all. Shucks.
Odell: Just when I thought I had all of their beers, they go and bust out Gramps Oatmeal Stout. That sounds surly and mean. Woots.
Pagosa: Mrs. Solo and her dear husband (who’s stuck at the Apple Store during iPhone release weekend; raise a pint in his honor wherever you are) have long sworn by this lovely brewery from southern Colorado. How much do they love it? They claim Pagosa has a better Chile Verde Cerveza than any NM brewery. The good news is you can see if they’re right, because it’s on the menu.
Pi: Hey, remember a couple years ago when the lines for Boar’s Nest were crazy as everyone eagerly anticipated it was opening soon? Well, sadly, it never did, but Pi is one of two new ABQ breweries at Hopfest this year that actually is open already. They’re bringing their West Coast Red, Unchallenged IPA, Apricot Wheat, and a special Bourbon Vanilla Porter.
Red Door: The other new brewery in town is already seeing huge crowds and positive buzz, even among the most discerning of beer drinkers. The Trapdoor Wheat was listed in the event program, but as it’s not ready at the brewery, it won’t be present at Hopfest, either. Don’t fret, the excellent Roamer Red, Threshold IPA, and Unhinged Cider will still be there for your tasting enjoyment.
Rio Grande/Sierra Blanca: The award-winning Nut Brown and the Alien Imperial Stout, their two best beers in our humble opinion, will be present.
Sandia Chile Grill: The Rattlesnake IPA will not be available, as listed in the program. Brew Crew Bullpen member Amy O had stopped by SCG to get a list (and a try a pint or two). They will be bringing their Smoked Stout and Barb’s Barrel Hefeweizen, plus two of Clint’s award-winning meads. Be forewarned, the melomel mead checks in at 14 percent ABV.
Santa Fe: It looks like they’re just bringing the usual suspects (Java Stout, Happy Camper IPA, Oktoberfest, Nut Brown), but it’s always worth stopping by to see if anything special is lurking.
Ska: It’s been a while since I had a Pinstripe Red Ale, so I suppose I can stop by. Would rather have a Steel Toe Stout, which isn’t listed.
Squatters/Wasatch: Been meaning to try the Squatters Wee Peat Scottish Ale, so here’s a good opportunity.
Stumbling Steer: Get your hop bomb on with the Hop Trough DIPA. Or remain standing and go with the Iron Horse IPA. Either way, you can’t lose.
Tractor: It’s a lot of the old favorites (all three canned varieties, plus Apple Cider and Berliner Weisse), but Tractor does list a “surprise beer,” so we’ll have to go by and be surprised and all.
Cider-palooza part two: There are another six cideries scattered around the main room, including Crispin, Strongbow, Johnny Appleseed, Woodchuck, and Angry Orchard. Seriously, if you don’t pick up at least two or three levels on that Untappd badge, you’re not even trying.
Outdoor area breweries
Big Sky: Well, hello there Slow Elk Oatmeal Stout. You sound like our kind of beer.
Boulder: When you need dessert, Shake Chocolate Porter should suffice.
Deschutes: Fresh Squeezed IPA will be available, but not Obsidian Stout. Boo (to the latter, not the former, which is pretty darned tasty for hop lovers).
Left Hand: Milk Stout, Oktoberfest, and Sawtooth (ESB) in one place. Thank you, Left Hand, thank you.
Marble: The list in program has changed considerably, or so Leah Black told us. The popular Double White will still be there, but it will now be joined by the Double IPA, Galaxy IPA, and Pilsner instead of the regular IPA, Red, and Barley Wine. She did not say whether those two “special brews” were still coming. Guess we’ll have to go find out. Oh, darn.
Oskar Blues: The Old Chub Scotch Ale is listed. Please be on nitro. Please, please, PLEASE.
Santa Sidra: Remember how a cider beat out all the beers at the State Fair Pro-Am? Here’s your chance to try this super cider. And further pad your Untappd stats.
Taos Mesa: They listed their tasty Kolsch 45 and Three Peaks IPA, plus the latest incarnation in their Sessions (IPA) series.
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All right, that’s just about everything. Get those pretzel necklaces ready, don’t forget the RailRunner times if you’re taking that, and prep your palates. Come Saturday at 2 p.m., it’s go time!
And yes, you can say hello if you see us. We’ll be the bearded lunkheads in black. Plus Mrs. Solo. Hey, we gotta class up this trip at least somewhat, right?