Well, that was quite the weekend. Of all the Crew, I may have done the least craft beer drinking, which is quite weird. Hey, I am single and do not have a kid, but I also have a screwy work schedule and missed the ninth annual New Mexico Brew Fest. Boo.
Anyway, I did get around a little bit. My quest to try all the local Oktoberfest-style beers continued with stops at Ponderosa (quite good, quite traditional) and Bow & Arrow (also quite good, but a little more bready and dry). I also found some of the last remaining cans of Steel Bender’s OktoberFiesta at Jubilation when I was sent on a beer run for a post-NMBF party.
Then the weather changed and it became stout season. That is a story for next week, however.
Here are the rest of the Crew’s weekend adventures. Let’s just say they all had a lot of fun, and a lot of beers, and everyone survived to tell the tales.
Fan favorites and new styles at this year’s NM Brew Fest
The Beer Gods must have smiled upon this festival, because the weather could not have been better. It took a wintry turn the very next day. Saturday saw very happy, and from what I saw well-behaved crowds, and some really incredible beers. My personal favorites were surprising to me because they are not typical go-to styles for me. That is part of what makes these sampling events so great for the beer drinkers; you never know what you might end up enjoying. And, it’s a testament to the skills of our local brewers. I can appreciate how well crafted a beer is even if it is not what I would usually be drawn to. Here are my top three picks from Saturday, and a couple of additional mentions for really solid or different beers.
- Brut Force: Bow and Arrow’s Fancy Feathers Brut IPA claimed my top spot. It’s a little hazy, making it differ from most of the brut styles. Because I am not the biggest fan of super-hopped IPAs, the little bit of juiciness provided perfect balance for me.
- Uncommonly Local: Taos Mesa’s NM Common IPA uses all local ingredients. The lovely gentleman at their booth was very proud if it, and with good reason! This beer was superbly crisp and refreshing with just a touch more bite than a regular common. There was a subtle hint of toasty-ness, but it was all goodness. That’s why I gave it my second-place spot.
- This Squirrel is not Lost: My number three was Lost Hiker’s Midnight Squirrel Oatmeal Stout. It was a perfect foil to the sweeter, heavier stouts that will appear later in the year. It was a bit lighter and drier. The folks were very nice, and I cannot wait to get down to Ruidoso for a visit. They had some of the nicest looking merch, in my opinion, as well.
Best “Honorable Mentions”
- Nexus’ Tribble Imperial Red Ale: Whoa, this is a big sucker. Be careful because it seems to multiply right in your glass! A shout-out as well, to new brewer Randy King, and the always effervescent Misha Lockamy on her new assistant brewer position with Nexus. Woots!
- Kaktus’ Bourbon Ginger Pale Ale: I don’t really care for ginger, but it was so unusual I had to try it, and I am glad I did! Ginger fans will love it; and, if like me, ginger is not really your thing, the smooth, caramel notes from the bourbon will soothe your soul.
There really just is something about the vibe of this particular festival. Even though the crowds got bigger and bigger as they day went on, the camaraderie with the brewery staffers did not change or wane. In a town with such a vibrant brewing scene, that is somewhat overwhelming in number of breweries, I feel guilty that I frequently can’t get around to as many as I should. It was great to have the access to so many at once. It was such a wonderful time. It was a little like coming home. I want to thank the event sponsors and all the participating breweries for one hell of a great Saturday.
From dawn to dusk in pursuit of the brew
My Saturday started early with a 7:15 a.m. departure. I originally planned on going directly to Steel Bender Brewyard for Balloons and Brews; however, during my trek from the westside, I quickly realized that the air currents were taking the balloons north. Hence, I realized it would take a bit more effort for me to keep the balloons in the equation. I took advantage of free parking at my place of employment off of Alameda and began walking north towards the Balloon Fiesta. After entering the grounds of the Fiesta just before 8, I spent roughly 30 minutes getting my balloon fix before walking back to my car. I was now ready for the brews. Steel Bender delivered with the breakfast burrito and brew that I figured I had earned. Perhaps the Alewitch Pumpkin Ale was a strange choice for breakfast but it did the trick … or treat?? Sorry, I digress. I departed Steel Bender quite content and with a couple crowlers in stow.
After a short nap and a quick shower I was onto my next destination. An Uber/Lyft ride got me to EXPO New Mexico at 12:30 for the second half of the VIP hour at the NM Brew Fest. Being my first time at this event, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The full pint glass and unlimited tastings, as well as the ability to purchase full pours, made this a truly unique NM beer event. The weather and the energy were both great. I stayed for a few hours and soaked it all in. I absolutely plan on returning to this event next year.
Finally, another Uber/Lyft brought me to my final event of the day. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to make it happen, but indeed I attended my third Oktoberfest celebration in as many Saturdays. It was my second consecutive year attending Oktoberfest at Boese Brothers. Instead of having their Oktoberfest Marzen (yes, I know, shame on me) I opted for their Tru Blu Pilsner, which was the perfect beer for me at that point. It also paired well with the two bratwursts that I quickly devoured. Regrettably, I was unable to stay to see the polka band that was setting up inside. For me, this was an epic Saturday not to be taken for granted. One important note is that it would not have been possible without the luxury of Uber/Lyft … or the incredible craft brew scene that we are fortunate to have.
Did La Cumbre top itself? I believe so
With an expanding business in the form of their new Westside taproom, and the constant need for packaging their house beers, one might think that the quality of things could slip with La Cumbre Brewing. One might be able to forgive such a thing … right?? Well, if you think such things, Jeff Erway would glare daggers and swords through your being for your doubt. And, I’d be right there with em, and will gladly use the latest Project Dank: Autumn Edition, as proof that they are still IPA kingpins.
By now you know the drill with Project Dank; it’s essentially a science experiment IPA with a changing hop bill, but it always stays consistent with the name. For my money and taste, this may be my favorite Project Dank incarnation to date, and that’s a bold statement. It has piney, citrus zest, and floral aromatics. It kicks the palate with more zest, grapefruit, some pineapple notes, and sticky resinous potency that you’d normally find in Colorado’s finest dispensaries, if you catch my drift. Mild malt backing to boot, and this is not just another hop bomb to annihilate your mouth, but a well-crafted slice of hop science.
The success of La Cumbre is not news to anyone in the 505/575, but the fact that they consistently crank out not just quality beers, but beers that just impress and amaze is a testament to the skills that Jeff, Daniel Jaramillo, Alan Skinner, and the rest of the folks in the brewhouse. You can see it with the excellent line of IPAs released through the summer, and this new incarnation of Project Dank … well, personally, this one just makes me wish for autumn all year round.
— Brandon Daniel
Only time for one beer stop, sans photo
The invasion of our skies is finally over, and driving order has returned back to its fervent, chaotic-yet-familiar race between the locals. While NM Brew Fest was to be the highlight of this segment, it was unfortunately not so as life’s sails blew Shawna and I in other directions. However, we had a brief chance to stop by the Tractor Westside taproom and try some of the most recent releases. Most notable to me was the Cuvée Brett Un, with its seemingly balanced spice and barnyard essence on top of a hoppy IPA body with a welcoming, tart finish.
As always keep an eye out for those new releases here and support your local brewery/taproom!
The beer folks that drink together, stay together
On Friday, we had a great turnout from the Santa Fe brewing industry, as many showed up at Santa Fe Brewing’s former taproom to share special beers and war stories for the monthly P.O.E.T.S. (Piss Off Early Tomorrow’s Saturday) meeting. A recent institution brought down from Denver by Rowley Farmhouse Ales head brewer Wes Burbank, these meetings are a fun way for anyone in the brewing industry to come together, talk shop, and see what everyone else is up to. They can all just sort of bond over the stuff they’re creating in a more intimate setting than, say, a convention center during a brew fest.
Typically, everyone brings some of their own creations, or rare bottles they’ve acquired, and we get down, bottle-share-style, over good conversation. This time, we got to dig into some soon-to-be rare Duvel, fresh cans of Second Street, SFBC brews straight from the tap, as well as Chicken Killer 2.0 next to some 5-year-old Guardian from Stone. There were some Prairie Artisan Ales, and … that’s where things get a bit fuzzy. The next meeting will be sometime around early to mid-November for anyone in the industry, even beer writers. If you’d like to have your name added to the email list, or if you have any questions, contact Wes Burbank at firstname.lastname@example.org. To fostering a more close-knit independent industry, cheers!