The Albuquerque Hopfest returns this weekend, featuring 70 breweries and a whole lotta beers down at the Isleta Casino. Once again, the Crew will be in attendance, as we are veterans of this annual event. So we present our picks for what beers to try and all the other advice we can think of sharing.
First up, if you do not have your tickets yet, click here and buy them. Pay extra for the Extra Hoppy Hour, which starts at 2 p.m. instead of 3. Trust us, it is worth it. You get those 60 bonus minutes to try your beers with short lines everywhere. So peg your favorites, see where they are on the map, and chart out a plan of attack. In general, we hit the side room first (west side of the main hallway), then the main ballroom, and finally outside.
While outdoor beer festivals are fun sometimes, the blazing heat plus dehydrating alcohol can be a bit much. Plan your time outside accordingly. It might be wise to go there earlier rather than later.
Take this note about the outside setup, it is a bit different this year. As event organizer Marne Gaston explained, they have moved out of that little courtyard area on the southwest corner of the building. That area will still have some tables and chairs in the shade for folks to enjoy, plus a grill serving up some tasty food, but the brewery tents are no out in the parking lot. As this is now the Xtreme Hopfest, that is also where the BMX stunt area will be, which is good because we were afraid they would be peeling riders off the walls if they set up the stage in the courtyard.
Backing up a little bit, we highly recommend folks take the Rail Runner down to Isleta (the train leaves downtown at 12:12 p.m.). There will be shuttles at the stop to take you up the hill to the casino/hotel complex. This is unless you have a designated driver, which can be good since the train out of Isleta leaves at 6:10 p.m., so you will have to clear out of the Hopfest area before the event officially ends at 6. Otherwise the next train leaves there at 8:15 p.m.
There is also the VIP area, which is in the room on the south end of the main hall. If you paid extra for that, you will be happy to know that Whole Foods will be providing food pairings to go with the available beers. We did not get a whole list of the pairings, but we do have the beer list and times they will be poured by the awesome Monica Mondragon and her staff of volunteers.
3 p.m. — Kiss Mix Cocktails
3:15 — Alaskan Imperial IPA
3:30 — Odell Trellis Garden Ale
3:45 — Widmer Bros. SXNW
4 — Santa Fe Highland Heath
4:15 — Marble Saison Brux
4:30 — Big Sky Ivan Imperial Stout
4:45 — Upslope Citra American Pale Ale
5 — Mother Road 3rd Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout
5:15 — Back Alley Ladron’s Peak
As for the beers for us non-VIPs, once again, we’ve broken it down so you don’t have to. Just remember that these picks are coming from a bunch of people who like dark beers and big-flavored hoppy beers. In the interest of time and space, we are skipping the cideries and hard liquor establishments. Please take note that will Distillery 365 does make their own beer, they are only bringing their vodka and rum to Hopfest. Also, Boese Brothers was a late scratch as they did not have enough people to staff Hopfest and their brewery. Just one of those weekends, we suppose.
We broke this down alphabetically by geography.
Side room (Premier Stage)
Adelbert’s: This Austin, Texas-based brewery specializes in Belgian-style ales, though they did not give us a list. We’ll have to see what they bring.
Big Bend: Another new brewery (to this event) from Texas (Alpine, to be specific), we’ll go with the Number 22 Porter, just to find out the significance of that number. (Also: Lager, Gold, Hefe, IPA)
BJ’s: We’ll go with the Whiskey Barrel Stout, though we are certainly not expecting anything on the level of, say, Marble Imperial Stout. (Also: Blonde, Red, IPA, Cider)
Bridgeport: Kingpin, a hoppy red ale, is our pick. (Also: Hop Czar IPA, Conviction Pale Ale)
Canteen: They brought Exodus. Enough said. (Also: Amber, Knights of the Canteen)
Cazuela’s: The Kilt Kicker, a smoked Scottish ale, is the current seasonal and our pick. (Also: Gold, Red, Stout, Piedra Del Fuego)
Santa Fe: We need more hops in our lives. Thankfully they brought Autonomous Collective IPA. (Also: Oktoberfest, Gold, Happy Camper, Nut Brown, Java Stout)
Sierra Nevada: The Harvest IPA is kinda funky this year, but worth sampling. (Also: Oktoberfest, Pilsner, Pale Ale)
Squatters/Wasatch: Polygamy Porter on nitro? Yes, please. (Also: Hop Rising, Doppelbock)
Other breweries in the room: Delirium Tremens, Guinness, Leinenkugels, Lucifer (Belgium)
Big Sky: No list available, but they usually bring good stuff.
Durango: You cannot go wrong with the Dark Lager. (Also: Blueberry Wheat, IPA)
Left Hand: Good Juju wasn’t good enough, so they made Great Juju. Sounds funky. We’ll try it. (Also: Session IPA, Milk Stout, Oktoberfest)
Marble: In a shocker, we did not get a list from Marble. They like to surprise us. Yeah, that’s it.
Red Door: It’s the house beers, but we can never pass up Paint it Black Milk Stout. (Also: IPA, Red, Blonde, Cider)
Tommyknocker: We’re curious what the IPA & A Half actually is. (Others: Brown, IPA, Wheat, Amber)
Upslope: They’re only listed as bringing their IPA and Thai Style White IPA. We hope there’s more, but those are pretty decent.
Other breweries outside: Nuevo Cerveza, Pabst Blue Ribbon
Abbey Brewing: You can never go wrong with the Tripel, but they have also promised a surprise beer. We love surprises, unless they are sours. Then we call them disappointments. (Also: Monks’ Ale, Dark Ale, Dubbel, Wit)
Alaskan: More hops, so we can catch Hopothermia. (Also: Pale Ale, Amber, Pumpkin)
Back Alley: Got an advance sample of the Pre-Prohibition Porter. I’ll go back for more, that’s for sure. (Also: Hefe, Red, Kentucky Common)
Ballast Point: Big Eye IPA gets lost in the shadow of Sculpin, but it is worth trying if you have not tried it. (Also: Pale Ale)
B2B: We are curious if their Oak-Aged IPA stacks up to Odell’s Barrel Thief. Option B is the always solid Coconut Porter. (Also: Red Rye, Cucumber Cream)
Dukes of Ale: The home brewers’ booth is always worth a visit. We have heard there will be a pilsner, wheat, hoppy red, and some ciders/meads available. Vote for your favorite.
Lagunitas: Pilsners are good. Imperial Pilsners are even better. (Also: IPA, Lil’ Sumpin)
Mother Road: The new Tower Station IPA will make its NM debut here. (Also: Roadside Grove)
New Mexico Craft Brewing: Sebastian Canyon Foreign Extra Stout was great at Blues & Brews, so odds are it will be great again. (Also: Session IPA, Steam, Porter, Cider)
Odell: Checked my Untappd listings, somehow I have never had their Okto. Gotta remedy that. (Also: IPA, Myrcenary)
Ponderosa: The name “Walther IPK” alone is worth trying. (Also: IPA, Wheat, Red)
Rio Grande/Sierra Blanca: It’s a toss-up between the Milk Stout and Black IPA. (Also: Chile Beer, Amber, Pale Ale, Brown)
Sandia Chile Grill: Clint makes good beers, but his meads win awards. Take your pick between the Dirty Steve and Legacy. (Also: IPA)
Ska: The Rudie Session IPA is new, so we’ll try that. (Also: Modus Hoperandi, Decadent)
Tractor: The new Big Sipper Session IPA is worth checking out, or you can go with The Ruggles, a steam beer. (Also: IPA, Stout, Red, Berliner Weisse)
Other breweries in the room: Boston Beer Co. (Samuel Adams), Goose Island, Kellys, Kona, Omission, Radeberger, Pyramid, Third Shift, Traveler, Widmer Bros.
Remember, all beer lists are subject to change, so we could all be in for some surprises.
See you all at Isleta.