The first MiniFest was a beer fest unlike any other‏

Posted: July 13, 2015 by amyotravel in Events, News
Tags: , , ,
Cazuela's spacious patio was perfect for the event.

Cazuela’s spacious patio was perfect for the event.

The weather was absolutely perfect on the patio Saturday at Cazuela’s for the first MiniFest. The sky was overcast, but only delivered brief and minimal sprinkles on occasion. My good friend and hop-centric beer tasting companion Paulette and I pulled up to Cazuela’s just about a half hour after the general admission start time.

As tends to happen with new festivals, there were a few little issues. I was told ahead of time that one of the breweries scheduled to attend (Kaktus) had to pull out. At such a small festival, that could be kind of a big deal. But the other four breweries poured on. Another issue gave us a shaky first impression. We parked and walked into Cazuela’s. But it turned out that they wanted everyone to park in a separate lot and enter west of the main building. We were told we actually had to leave Cazuela’s, even though it was on their patio that connects to the restaurant, move our car to that other lot, and enter on the west side. Some good signage would have been helpful because it was a little annoying.

Once in the correct lot, the entry point was not apparent, either, because there were no lines. At all. At a beer fest. I know ticket sales were limited, but you don’t expect to walk right in. After entry, you had your ID checked, received a wristband, a plastic cup, and three drink tickets. The tickets were good for samples of about four ounces each. More sampler tickets were available for purchase as well as tickets for full pints.

Breweries in attendance included, of course, Cazuela’s as well as Red Door, Albuquerque Brewing, and Ponderosa. There were never any lines for beer. For those of us that have stood in the hot sun in long beer lines at many festivals, this is where the beer gods rewarded us, and mightily. There was plenty of seating at tables, both in the “sun” (partial, due to overcast skies) and in the covered portion of the patio. It may well have been the most comfortable I have ever been hanging out at a beer fest. The quality of beers and the ease of getting them definitely made up for the small number of vendors. It was also really great to be able to have extended conversations with the staffs at each of the vendor booths.

Red Door brought a new saison that was one of the best of the fest.

Red Door brought a new saison that was one of the best of the fest.

We made our way around and tasted a first round of the most interesting-sounding beers. I always enjoy Piedra Del Fuego (Stoned Cream Ale) and Beer for My Horses (Oatmeal Stout) from Cazuela’s, so I knew I would get to those. The first beer I tried ended up being my favorite new beer of the festival. It was the Ryeson Sun Saison from Red Door. I am as giddy as a kid on Christmas morning when I get to try new rye beers, and this 7.6-percent ABV rye saison (whoa, interesting!) did not disappoint. I made sure I ended the day with it as well. Albuquerque Brewing only ended up bringing one beer. Apparently, they had a Fourth of July event and ran out of beer. Good for them! But good for us was the fact that the beer they brought was so unusual and super easy-drinking. It was their “505 Bananas” saison, a beer that tasted more like a light but fruity hefeweizen. Their staff said it is because they did use wheat as an ingredient.

We were able to try some beers from Ponderosa’s new head brewer Andrew Krosche; he was also in attendance so we got to chat. My favorite there was the Rip Saw Red. Normally reds are not my first choice, but it was reminiscent of Andrew’s days at Marble. This one had a nice, bright, hoppy finish. His plan is to change that, though, and start heading toward a truer, maltier style.

The food and beer left everyone with a smile.

The food and beer left everyone with a smile.

A limited food selection was also available for purchase. The food we had was very good, but if you were already a fan of one of their particular dishes, you could not walk right in there and get additional items. My friend was unfamiliar with al pastor, so when I explained it to her and she saw the spit of delicious-looking meat and pineapple roasting, she was sold — the tacos al pastor were very good at $2 each. We paired the street-style tacos with Cazuela’s Piedra del Fuego.

The event included music, and the first scheduled band was really a blast. I did not know who they were so I made sure to ask them after their set. Their set list includes everything from Elvis and Johnny Cash to Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam, to Kenny Wayne Shepherd. They are the “Woohabs,” which one band member told me means “worn out old has-beens.” Pretty funny stuff.

While the band was tearing down, my friend and I grabbed more beer and strolled over to watch some kids batting at the batting cages directly behind the back wall of the patio. I have never experienced anything like this at a beer fest before. We did this, since, as my friend said so simply and yet eloquently, “Because beer and baseball.”

Karaoke at a beer festival. When you have to improvise, you could do worse.

Karaoke at a beer festival. When you have to improvise, you could do worse.

The second band scheduled to perform was a no-show. This is one of the areas where the event organizer and Cazuela’s impressed us. It was great to see them smoothly improvise when needed. In a strange and beer-foggily-magical turn of events, they called in a karaoke DJ as a last minute replacement. He showed up just as the first band finished tearing down, so it looked as if it was planned all along. Say what you want because karaoke is a divisive thing, but it’s another thing I have never experienced at a beer fest, and likely never will again. Now I have seen it all!

My friend and I discussed how it would be great if new festivals had a suggestion box. I am sure it would be kind of a double-edged sword, because you would have to sift through a bunch of beer-fueled crazy responses or just plain mean comments to get to the constructive ones. But if the constructive ones are very helpful, it might be worth it. Our box submissions would include a suggestion about having flag ropes and better signage to show people where to turn and where to park. Also, the admission might need to be restructured. There were promo codes for discounts (including for our readers on this site), but if you didn’t have a discount, $15 for three samples — albeit large samples — might be off-putting.

I was a little concerned for the vendors regarding low attendance. It was great as attendees, but I am unsure how it worked out for the breweries. I did quite enjoy the fact that the admission ticket sales were limited. However, since the patio is so large and people will come and go, perhaps it could increase somewhat. Rio Rancho needs more events like this, and there are not enough outdoor venues with the amenities that Cazuela’s can provide. Depending on whether or not my schedule permits, I would absolutely attend this event again next year.


— AmyO

  1. Nancy Miles says:

    It was the same weekend as the Internation Folk Art Fair in Santa Fe. I volunteered to work there, otherwise we could have loved to come.

    • cjax33 says:

      Timing can always be an issue. The final round of NMIPAC is this Saturday opposite Summerfest in Nob Hill. Hopfest this year is the same day as the San Juan Brewfest in Durango. We all have to make hard choices.

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