Friday night’s New Mexico Brewers Guild Beer Premier and Matanza was a unique event and it was my first time attending this festival. It turned out to be my favorite event of Beer Week. As is the case with any event, there were some bumps in the road, but overall it was fantastic.
All the advertising for the event stated the doors would open at 5:30, but the organizers were unaware of this and so some of us were left standing outside waiting for about 20 minutes. However (even though nobody had any beer yet), nobody was overly concerned, and this mellow mood continued throughout the night. I don’t think I have ever seen such a laid-back crowd in Albuquerque, even at a beer festival.
We were very happy to be one of the first ones in the gate, because we were able to secure a table for two in the shade. It was a very warm afternoon and evening, so I felt very grateful for that table and chairs. It’s a beautiful venue, and it was a nice place to spend some quality time with those you love, or those who just love beer. (Note to self: Next time bring insect repellent; I didn’t, and I got a lot of bites right at dusk.)
A few minutes later, the beer began to pour. There were two beer “stations,” one on the south side and one on the north side, with two beer professionals pouring four beers each. I did hear some mild “complaining” about an inability to interact (as advertised) with the brewery staffs. There was representation from breweries, but they were often either roaming around, or not actually pouring their own beer. Again, since everyone was mellow, it came across as comments for improvement rather than actual griping.
It was a slow start for the south side beer station as they had problems with some of the lines, but everyone just gravitated to the north end while that was being fixed. Also, the south side did not have beer lists at the beginning, so nobody really knew for sure what they were ordering. Someone passed out beer information sheets to all the attendees after I was almost halfway through what I most wanted to taste. This probably should be done upon entry.
The beer — oh, the beer! It could be a pretty risky proposition having only never-before-released beers at a festival. On the other hand, it’s a nice change of pace, because having mostly the breweries’ regular beers can get a little stale, so to speak. If this festival was any indication, we have now reached yet another pinnacle in the Albuquerque brewing community. The brewers are at the level where even the more “experimental” beers are so damn good, I would seek out and drink at least 80 percent of them. I started with some of the lighter beers and worked my way to the darker ones. On his third sample, my boyfriend Dave looked at me wide-eyed and exclaimed, “Three for three!” It continued on in this fashion.
I decided to rank the beer I tried on a 1.0-to-5.0 scale, as one might on one of the popular beer ranking sites. Two of my fellow Brew Crew Bullpen members were in attendance, and Kristin remarked about having to manually input all the beers into Untappd. Good for you, Kristin, that’s a lot of work! (Since these were never before released, they would not be on there yet.)
There were so many good ones there that I will just relay some of my highest, as well as my lowest scores. Keep in mind in this case, that the lower scores could be affected by a comparison issue because I was sampling so many types of beers. If anyone out there attended the event and wants to share his/her ratings, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave us a message via any social media site. We want to know what you thought about the beers, and the event as a whole!
- WINNER (for me): La Cumbre Nitro Barrel-Aged Malpais Stout 4.8 (Just outstanding!)
- Chama River Heavy Cream Ale 4.4
- Sierra Blanca Whiskey Stout 4.3 (I heard very positive feedback around me as well for this beer, which actually debuted in four-packs of bottles at Jubilation before Beer Week.)
- Tractor Summer en Blanc Witbier 4.2
- Bosque What the Dunkel? Dunkelweisen 4.0
- Quarter Celtic Dusk’s Early Night Black Lager 3.8 (On its own it would be pretty good, and it did have some good flavor. There was nothing off about this beer, it just couldn’t stand up to some of the bigger ones for me.)
- Canteen Grapefruit Hop Baller IPA 3.2 (So many people loved this one, but I wasn’t one of those people. I’m not a big IPA person, but Dave is, and we both had some issues which resulted in a fairly lengthy discussion about this beer. I think this had five hop varieties. To me, I was understanding the Citra and Amarillo hops, but the earthy Mosaic was a strange combination with such a citrusy beer. Your opinion could very well vary.)
- Blue Corn (“Mystery Belgian” as described by the person pouring) Barrel-Aged Brett Cherry Ale 3.0. It was an oaky, smoky Belgian sour that just wasn’t my thing. Personal preference.
I have to give a shout-out to the mellow crowd. I heard more informed questions and intelligent beer discussion among attendees than I ever have at a local beer event. (Late development — I just got another email from Kristin and she commented on the same thing. It must have been pretty noticeable! We both felt that people really cared about the beer and were not just trying to slam as much beer as possible.)
Since this is mostly about the beer, I saved my food comments for the end. The staff did a good job of making up tacos in easy-to-walk-away-with containers, but the way the condiments were set up at the end made for a complete logjam. At one point I located one person I knew near the back of the food line and timed that it took them 24 minutes from start to finish to pick up their tacos. The line ended up getting very long for a while, because you would get your tacos, but you had to stand there and hold up any progress while you added your salsa, etc., and the line would stop moving. The line also started to interfere with the north beer station line.
If you could have taken your tacos to another table out of the way where people could go to either side to add toppings, it would have flowed better. I was worried that some people would just decide not to bother with the food. That was a little scary with all the beer that was flowing. I also felt a little disappointed in the selection of toppings. Something I read gave me the impression there would be more things available than one type of salsa (green), loaded with lots of big chunks of onion and cilantro, crema, and more raw white onions and more cilantro. I’m not a fan of raw onions or cilantro. The pork tacos themselves tasted good.
Kristin also noted that there was no vegetarian option. This could easily have put quite a few more people off from eating anything since this was the only food available. It would have been nice to have roasted vegetables for veggie tacos, and some rice along with the beans. (I don’t know if the beans were vegetarian, because I am allergic and cannot eat them).
Final random thoughts: my other fellow Bullpen attendee Adam and I both thought it may have been our first beerfest that had a DJ. And, I was happy to see Marne and her new cutie-pie baby!