Newcomers and summery, fresh-tasting, hoppy beers helped to keep interest alive for the ninth annual Albuquerque Hopfest. Each year the crowds get larger, and each year I wonder how in the world Marne Gaston puts on such a large production. But, she does, flawlessly, and I am in complete awe of her. I would be a quivering puddle of goo. But, Marne is the calm in the eye of a hurricane (there is currently a Hurricane Gaston in the Atlantic that reformed on the day of Hopfest; I can’t even make this stuff up). Our heartfelt thanks, once again, to Marne and her staff and volunteers for another fantastic event.
As always, it was “so many beers, so little time,” so for me it was all about being selective. I focused on mostly local beers I have not tried and those that are not readily available at taprooms. A few of those beers stood out, and some were big surprises.
Even before the doors opened, a musician friend of mine who was setting up to play on one of the outdoor stages told me, “You have got to try the Enchanted Circle ESB if you like malty beers.” Well, yes, I do, and yes, I did! It really was very good. In fact, I thought in general the Enchanted Circle beers out of Angle Fire were one of the two biggest surprise hits of Hopfest. Even though IPAs are not my favorite, I was extremely impressed with their IPA (7.3% ABV). For such a new brewery, they have really done well with a solid beer to please the West Coast-style IPA lover. I also want to thank them for actually displaying the stats (O.G., IBU, and ABV) as well as the names. Not too many did, and I wish more of the breweries would have.
The second big surprise (based on consensus among my group of four attendees; one of whom is very much a hophead) was not an IPA. It didn’t come from a big name. Heck, it wasn’t even from a local brewery. It was the German Hefeweisen from the Dukes of Ale Homebrew Club.
Other favorites included Quarter Celtic’s McLomas Dry Stout and #GFF (Grapefruit Forever) IPA, Ponderosa’s Wry Ale, and Red Door’s Nieuwe Bruin. Albuquerque Brewing Company’s Dunkleweisen did not disappoint. It’s one of their semi-regular beers, but it seems it is always out when I stop by. It was wonderful to be able to finally taste it on Saturday. Surprisingly, I quite enjoyed the Green Chile Pilsner from Bathtub Row, because I don’t usually care much for pilsners or chile beers. This one was an outstanding version.
Notably missing from the vendors was B2B. They had a table set up, but there was no B2B beer and nobody from their brewery manning the spot. Also, I believe Firkin was in the program but I did not find them in the room or outside. If I missed them somehow, I apologize. (You did not miss them, they informed me that they were withdrawing late last week. — S)
Since I was unable to attend the New Mexico Brewers Guild Sensory Analysis Seminar presented by Craft King Consulting, LLC, the Crew would welcome and appreciate any feedback on that portion of the event from our readers.
I tried a few, but not all, of the beers in the VIP room. Mother Road’s Coffee Lost Highway, Founders’ Devil Dancer Triple IPA, and Sierra Nevada’s Narwahl Imperial Stout were my favorites. I didn’t attend the VIP pouring of Hop Pact from BJ’s Brewhouse because there was also a limited supply out in the main room, and I had it on Monday night at a Green Flash beer dinner at BJ’s. Hopefully many attendees were able to sample this fantastic collaboration beer between BJ’s Brewhouse and Green Flash. It is completely unique and refreshing, with more subtle hops, crazy amounts of floral notes, and the ability to cleanse your palate.
Speaking of palates, near the end I was suffering major palate fatigue. I started to slow down just as the rain chased the outdoor flock into the already crowded main room. At about 5:40 p.m., we gathered our swag (why do I keep collecting so many pint glasses? I could pretty much open a store at this point) and headed for the shuttle to the Railrunner, awash with post-festival beer glow.