The 10th annual New Mexico Brew Fest is in the books. This year’s festival brought it back to where it all began at Villa Hispana in the state fairgrounds. I have attended this festival a few times and I considered myself very lucky that I was able to attend this year. Often a trip, or a Lobo football tailgate, or what-have-you likes to interfere. But, the Beer Gods smiled on me this year and I couldn’t have been more excited. Well, maybe except for one thing …
Back in the day, I was sad when they moved it from Villa Hispana to Main Street. Because I didn’t know they are equally good venues, just different. Now I was used to it being at Main Street. Then they went and changed it back and I admit I was a little sad again. Change is hard, people. There was no need to worry, however, because this is such an awesome event that it was actually refreshing to change it up a bit. Also, very important: both locations have actual restrooms, not “porta-potties.” I loved this festival, again. This has become my favorite beer fest and I am not the only one who feels this way.
My brother-in-law Brian was able to meet us there this year, and he couldn’t say enough good things about it. We have lived in Portland, Oregon, and we agreed that Portland would kill for this one. Brian said, “The combination of great beer, perfect weather, and an inviting venue makes the New Mexico Brew Fest my favorite. Good crowd without being overwhelming.”
More than at any other festival, I find this brew fest is a great way to catch up with some of my favorite brewery staff members. For instance, Misha Lockamy, assistant brewer from Nexus Brewery, was there and we got to catch up and even wander the different booths together for a short while.
I had not seen Antonio Fernandez, Ponderosa’s head brewer, in a long time. I can usually only get over there on weekends when he isn’t around as much. Antonio was attending this festival, not working, so I basically cornered the poor guy to ask him how it was going. I was specifically wondering if Balloon Fiesta was increasing their traffic (the good kind, as in people coming in the door). The answer was a resounding yes.
For those who are not aware, Ponderosa Brewing has a German-style brewhouse, so beers like their Kolsch are true to form. During Balloon Fiesta, there are a lot of people in town from all over the world. Many of those people visit Old Town just down the street from Ponderosa and are looking for a great place to have craft beer. There are also several large hotels nearby.
Antonio said Ponderosa stayed steadily busy throughout Balloon Fiesta. Hot air ballooning is really big in Germany, he said. Antonio got to talk to a great number of those visiting about German beer. He is featuring several German-style beers currently. Antonio reported that he got so much positive feedback from German tourists, including that he has the best Kolsch they had tasted outside of Germany.
Back to beer fest business. Each time I can attend I try to select my top three beers. This year it was especially difficult to narrow it down. Here is what I picked:
- Trampled by Tangerines, a tangerine wheat from Nexus Brewery. The nose on this was pretty much like smelling a fresh-cut tangerine. It was the most refreshing beer of the day for me. The perfect, warm weather probably skewed my decision somewhat. Their G-Bird Grapefruit IPA was also very good. Others must have agreed because Nexus ran out of beer before the day ended.
- Desert State Hazy IPA from Bow and Arrow Brewing is pretty much the quintessential hazy IPA. It’s everything you want and nothing you don’t — tropically and citrus-y.
- Barrel-Aged Cockness Monster from Palmer Brewery. This is a barrel-aged version of their Scottish beer that is my typical go-to if I don’t want a seasonal or they are out of their seasonal(s). But, damn, at 10-percent ABV, this aged version is like stupid good candy.
Brandon was also in attendance, and he was able to take a break at work today and share his thoughts on the festival:
NM Brew Fest is always a personal favorite of mine, in terms of our local festivals. It’s a good way to showcase local beers that some people haven’t yet had an opportunity to try. Most breweries also have some new offerings on tap as well, a plus for those of us who frequent a lot of their establishments. That, coupled with the return to the relaxed setting at Villa Hispana (the fest had moved to Main Street at Expo New Mexico for a few years), always makes for a great afternoon.
This year I was surprised to see more “summertime” beers still making the rounds, but this is New Mexico and our unpredictable weather allows for this; caught a few goses and sour ales in the mix with some nice marzens and fall beers. Here were a few of my personal favorites of the day.
- DIPA and Perle Haggard German Pilsner, Ex Novo: This was a newer DIPA that was just released, so it was nameless (as of the fest), but just another fine IPA from a brewery that has been killing it with pretty much all of their beers. Lots of grapefruit, some guava and tangerine notes, and plenty zesty, too. The German pils was very clean and crisp, kept well within traditional style lines, very flavorful and refreshing.
- Shaman Stout, Toltec Brewing: I had personally not had a chance to make it into Toltec right after this recently took home a bronze at this years GABF, so this was on the list and didn’t disappoint. Robust, roasty, rich, and still creamy … all the things that I relish in my stouts. Definitely can see why head brewer Kaylynn McKnight took home hardware for this one, well done!
- Barrel-aged Cockness Monster, Palmer Brewery: Stoutmeister gave me a heads up that this would be here … more of a warning really (DSBC courtesy, it’s a behemoth of the best kind). Wee heavy ales are delicious on their own, but Palmer stuck that elixir in whiskey barrels to age as well. The result is a beastly malty bomb with lots of oak and vanilla notes and a slow hot finish. Rob, you are an irresponsible and wonderful man, thank you for this one.
- El Breakfast Stout, Bow & Arrow: A slightly sweet, but roasty coffee beer. It is as advertised and I drank the hell out of it. Will continue to do so as long as they keep making it.
- Oktoberfiesta, Steel Bender: This is one of my personal favorites out of the crop of Oktoberfests to come out. Perfectly spiced and crisp, it came out perfect for the fall weather.
There were lots of other great beers to be had, but we are only human and can only drink so much! Many of these beers, if not all, are currently on tap at their respective breweries. Send us your picks for the favorites of the fest, just in case we missed any really good ones.
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Until next year, NMBF. I so hope I get to go, no matter which of the two spots on the fairgrounds happens to be the location. Enjoy the pictures, and those who could not or did not attend, try not to drool over the perfect weather.
— AmyO and Brandon