The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a big, wild event, and that can often include the task of getting in and out of the park, finding food to eat, something to drink, and so on. Two years ago, Steel Bender Brewyard provided a bit of an alternative, inviting everyone over early in the morning to sit on the patio and enjoy the mass ascension with a beer and burrito in hand.
Balloons & Brews returns to the Brewyard starting this Saturday, with a few changes from the past two years. For the most, though, it is the same fun experience with a much smaller crowd than the Fiesta itself, and it all kicks off this Saturday at 7 a.m.
Steel Bender co-owner/marketing director Shelby Chant said she was receiving plenty of inquiries about the event long before it was ever posted.
“It’s really great to hear that the word has gotten out whether it’s through advertising or word of mouth,” she said. “I have a feeling it’s more word of mouth at this point. It’s great that we have so many inquiries about it. The marketing was out there a little bit late this year since I’ve been focused elsewhere. (But) people know about it; it’s great.”
Steel Bender is looking to make the experience better for staff and customers after things got a bit overcrowded last year.
“Differences this year, so we’re not doing Sundays,” Shelby said. “You probably know why. (No liquor sales before 11 a.m., per state law.) If people are going to do this, they want to have their beer or mimosa in hand while they’re doing it, so we decided to go ahead and not do either of the Sundays. It will be normal hours on Sundays opening at 11. Technically Balloons & Brews will end on that second Saturday, the 12th.”
Every other day, Steel Bender will open at 7 a.m.
“The past two years it’s all about being on the patio, which is obviously what we want, but we’re trying to do some changes logistically to make the crowds and the lines a little bit more manageable,” Shelby said.
As always with any busy event, all of us in the Crew would like to remind people to be kind and patient with each other, with the staff, and in the end, just enjoy being outside, watching the balloons with a tasty beer in hand.
Oh, and speaking of beers, the entire inside lineup should be available outside with more taps being installed.
“We are finally getting all beers out there on the patio,” Shelby said. “What we were having to do was put the beers out there that we know are going to do well. But, inevitably, you’d get the person going oh, I want that really random one, and our staff would have to run back inside. Our goal is to have all of our beers pouring out there as well as in here.”
Oktoberfiesta is already on tap for the season, and Ale Witch, a pumpkin ale, will arrive on tap and in cans this Thursday. Another special that will run during the entirety of Balloons & Brews (while supplies last) is Mike Mine Perfect, a Belgian dubbel aged on locally grown cherries, which will be in bottles only.
There will also be wine, beermosas, bloody beers, and beer cocktails, as well as non-alcoholic drinks.
“Manny will be making his house-made hot cocoa, which is frickin’ fantastic,” Shelby said. “And then, Pour Vida Coffee Roasters will provide our coffee. We’ll be pouring out a ton of that.”
There will be plenty of food to go with all the drinks.
“We’ve still got a meat version and a veggie version of our handmade (breakfast) burritos, everything is made here in house, as it always is,” Shelby said. “The Rise & Shine sandwich (is back), and then we’ve got Pastian’s Bakery again supplying local pastries for us.”
Patrons can also get 10 percent off cases of beer and cider, including seasonals like Oktoberfiesta and The Whole Shoe Belgian IPA.
In addition to Steel Bender, Ex Novo will also be jumping on the balloon-watching bandwagon, opening early on Saturday, plus October 11 and 12, at 8 a.m. They will have beermosas, coffee from CandleStick, and breakfast burritos. Shelby said the more the merrier when it comes to breweries opening early for the Fiesta. We could not agree more.