The Lavender Festival was an annual event, until interrupted by Covid in 2020, that celebrated the many unique businesses and people in the village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. It is quietly making its return this week, and Steel Bender Brewyard is again participating in the best way it can — by highlighting local eateries and their sweet treats paired with craft beers.
We reached out to the (always) very busy Shelby Chant, co-owner and marketing director, over email to gain a little more insight into how Steel Bender put this together, and why it might be a while before the brewery can dive headfirst into any future festivals, near or far.
“I had a Zoom meeting months ago with some folks from the Village of LR and Dean Strober (Blue River Productions) about what part SBB could play in this year’s Lavender Festival,” Chat wrote. “They were still finalizing things, but knew that this year’s festival would still look a bit different from previous years. But, what it’s also allowed them to do is spread out the festival over a couple of weeks and include what they’re calling Boutique Events. I brought the pairing idea up as a way to still participate in Lavender Festival (something that’s been important to us from the beginning) and that could have a certain amount of logistical ‘control’ considering that at the time, we were still operating under COVID restrictions.”
The result was the creation of the Sweet Bites & Beers Pairing, which will run this Wednesday and Thursday at Steel Bender, featuring four locally made desserts matched with four Steel Bender beers. Each pairing will cost $19, with $10 of that going to Lavender in the Village, with no substitutions. As for those pairings:
- Peachy Lavender Bullseye Donut from The Witching Flour + Peach DYNAMITE (5-oz. pour)
- Lemon Lavender Chocolate and International Chocolate Award Winner 70-percent Zesty Mango Pinon Chocolate from Eldora Chocolate + Paint the Town India Brown Ale (5 oz)
- Lemon Lavender Biscochito from Celina’s Biscochitos + The Judy Barrel-Aged Brett Saison (5 oz)
- Lemon Cheesecake from Willieray’s Cheesecakes sprinkled with Los Poblanos edible lavender + Esmerelda Italian Pilsner (5 oz)
“We love collaborating with other local businesses and thought a bite-sized dessert offering would be a great way to work with folks like Celina and Steve at Eldora (Chocolate),” Chant wrote. “Desmond’s dad’s cheesecake (Willieray’s Cheesecakes) is already a huge hit on our menu, so a small piece of cheesecake sprinkled with edible lavender from Los Poblanos was a no-brainer. For the fourth pairing, I wanted a pastry or doughnut. We’ve been following The Witching Flour’s Instagram profile and it’s divine, so I reached out to introduce myself to Kelly, who was excited to be on board! This was a way for us to help raise funds for Lavender in the Village ($10 per $19 pairing goes to LITV to support their agricultural and educational programs) while also bringing some life back to the taproom as our first taproom event since midway through our anniversary celebration in March 2020.”
The staff at Steel Bender was all too happy to help select which beers should be paired with the four desserts.
“There’s really nothing better than spending a couple of hours figuring out a beer pairing,” Chant wrote. “Bob (Haggerty) and Adam (Auden) are involved in any pairings we do, plus Brianna (our sous chef) and April (our GM), along with Kelly from The Witching Hour who brought us a couple of donut options. Obviously, it’s a highly enjoyable, gluttonous process. But, beyond that, trying out different combinations to determine which one will best highlight the aromas and flavors in both the beer and the dessert, it’s a meticulous and purposeful process.”
Rather than simply have a two-day festival in Los Ranchos, the Lavender Festival is more spread out this year, with boutique events like Sweet Bites & Beers, a special passport that customers can pick up and use at participating businesses, a fundraising concert on July 24 featuring the Robb Janov Quartet, and The Lavender Market at Hartnett Park on July 25.
“It’s fantastic seeing the community come back to life with the return of some events, live music, and festivals,” Chant wrote. “Lavender Festival has been around for a long time; I remember hearing about it when I was a kid. As a fundraiser for Lavender in the Village, which funds agricultural and educational programs including Tres Hermanes Farm, The Farm Camp (in collab with EXPLORA), and Rio Grande Community Farm, having Lavender Festival back in some form is so important. As a festival that brings the community together, it’s always been one of the best at doing just that. It’s just what we need right now after the last year and a half.”
Get on over to Steel Bender this week to indulge your sweet tooth, and show some support to Los Ranchos. Then we will all just hope to see more and more festivals returning throughout New Mexico in the future, hopefully with plenty of local craft beer on hand.
A big thanks to Shelby for her responses and the photos.