19th annual Taos Brew Master’s Festival hits the slopes

Posted: December 23, 2014 by Luke in Events
Tags: , , , ,

This past Saturday, I made the trip up to Taos Ski Valley for their 19th annual Brew Master’s Festival, and I gotta tell you it was one smooth, powder-filled ride down beer mountain, and one of my favorite brewfests in recent memory.

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Taos Ski Valley is like a sleepy Swiss village in the Alps.

From the moment the doors opened and the lines got moving, brewfesters were ID’d, braceleted, and tasting within minutes. Being their 19th festival, it was clear that Taos Ski Valley had done this before. Located inside Tenderfoot Katie’s and the Martini Tree, festers found themselves in a two-level, ski lodge cafeteria setting, with big windows framing picturesque mountain views, visible even after dark. The space, although cramped at times, worked very well for festing purposes. Both floors filled up quickly, yet even towards the middle of the event, there were places to sit, plenty of pouring stations to belly up to, and ample room to mix and mingle in between. I never really saw any long lines, and folks had plenty of time to get their glasses filled — several times at that — before moving on. You never felt rushed, and never felt worried that you were going to lose your buzz, either, if that’s what you were aiming for. Included in the $25 price of admission was the standard taster glass, unlimited tastings, some welcomed warmth, and some excellent food!

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Things weren’t looking good at first, and then you realize it’s over and you have beer!

Getting right to it, I’ve included my own humble opinion on which beers I deemed best of the fest. Of course it’s all subjective, as everyone’s flavor profiles are different, but to be fair, there were actually many great and solid beers present, but my nods this time tended to lean more towards the seasonals, special brews, beers I haven’t had a lot of before, and beers that don’t already frequent the walls of my fridge. They are as follows, in no particular order:

Ale Sabor – an American Wild Ale – Steamworks Brewing Co., Durango, Colo.

Bootycall Barley-Wine – Taos Mesa Brewing

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Two of my favorites of the fest.

Junk Punch – a Doppel-Oktoberfest – Taos Mesa Brewing

Marble’s Reserve Ale (2014) – an American Strong Ale aged in oak barrels – Marble Brewery

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It was a Marbelous time!

Milk Stout – Sierra Blanca Brewing Co., Moriarty – this beer was brand new for the festival!

Smokejumper Smoked Imperial Porter – Left Hand Brewing Co., Longmont, Colo.

If only I could have tasted all of the beers! If I had, however, I would not have survived to write about them. There certainly were some real crowd pleasers on the list. And by the way, what a great crowd it was! It consisted mostly of locals that made the trip, tourists that came for the skiing and stayed for the tasting, and even folks that came down from Colorado for a favorite festival of theirs.

Taos Ski Valley liftee, Christopher Jenkins, made sure I tried Taos Mesa’s Junk Punch, as, according to him, it’s a favorite amongst the liftees. On first taste, I thought, “Damn, this is the beer of the people.” It’s a hard beer for a hard-working dude (or dudette). It’s what the Porter was to, well, porters, way back when. It was liquid proof that the working man’s beer is constantly evolving, just as his taste is. Jenkins also recommended that I try the Bootycall Barleywine, which was equally aggressive with flavor and potency. Too much of that big bad delicious brew, and you’ll need the ski patrol to bring you back to your room on a rescue toboggan.

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“Beerd Wrangler,” Josh Norton and “Hop Girl,” Devon Adams

Josh Norton, “Beerd Wrangler” and Assistant Brewer at Golden City Brewery, was visiting with Devon Adams, also from Colorado. I spoke with them briefly as I couldn’t help but admire Devon’s hop earrings and Josh’s beard, the likes of which has not been seen since ZZ Top joined the Fellowship of the Ring. It was glorious! When asked, Devon’s favorite beer of the night was Sierra Blanca’s Milk Stout. Josh’s happened to be Marble’s Double IPA. This was their fifth year at the festival and according to them, they love coming down from Colorado for the great NM beers, the amazing event, and the awesome people they meet every year. Cheers to that!

I also ran into Damion Terrell, the New Mexico reporter for Southwest Brewing News. If you’ve ever picked up the publication in one of your favorite brew pubs, you’d know that it’s filled with useful information on what to drink and when. Sounds familiar! Funny thing is we talked business, not the beer, even though our business is the beer. At some point we admitted to being fans of each other’s publications, and we left it at that. Writers … go figure.

Anyway, so if you’re wondering whether you should make the trip next year, let me break it down for you old-school-like.

Reasons to go:

It only takes three hours and change to get to Taos Ski Valley from Albuquerque. The roads are immaculate, except for that one bump. If you’ve been, you know the one. You’ve been warned.

The beautiful mountain setting makes you feel like you’ve discovered a sleepy Swiss village in the Alps, somewhere between Gimmelwald and Grindelwald, with plenty of places to snooze, eat, and shop, right at the base of the mountain.

The initial line to get in to the actual festival moves like a Jamaican bobsled team—maybe five-to-seven minutes from gate to glass. If you, like me, still have nightmares about Lions, Tigers, and Beers, then you’ll appreciate this sleep-aid of a fact. Even with plenty of people, you never had to wait for beer.

Taos BMF 2014 Pic 8

It was crowded, but not too crowded.

Food! If you haven’t already eaten at one of the local restaurants like Tim’s Stray Dog Cantina or Rhoda’s Restaurant, then worry not, my famished friend! The catered conviviality has you covered, and it’s already included in the price of admission.

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One of the several food stations.

Most importantly, the beer! The brewers brought some of their very best. And they didn’t just play the hits, they brought new stuff too. Sierra Blanca with their Milk Stout and Sierra Nevada with their Nooner Session Pilsner gave brewfesters a rare chance to taste these opposite-of-the-spectrum beers before almost anyone else has had a chance, making your ticket worth just that much more.

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To get an idea of sample size, that glass has already been half-sipped, but I prefer to think of it as still half-filled. There were a lot of great beers at this festival!

It was a great time, with great beer and great people in a great place. Everyone was in a festive mood. No complaints on my end, except for perhaps, one brewery, whom I won’t name, that just wouldn’t believe that I write for the NM Dark Side Brew Crew, even as I handed them my card. Hmm. Maybe it’s time to petition for one of those fancy T-shirts you see gathered in the dark corners of Albuquerque’s breweries. (Editor’s note: Memo to self, get T-shirts for the Bullpen for 2015. — Stoutmeister) As far as brewfests go, however, clearly a lot of hard work and excellent execution made this one easy and smooth ride. The brewfest was an experienced German skier, nailing a perfect run on the Giant Slalom to win over the hearts of yet another crowd. Woosh, bro. Woosh. See you next year, Taos Ski Valley.


— Luke

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Upstairs, folks are just getting the party started!

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