We love lagers among all of us in the Crew, so you could imagine our excitement when we were tipped off early about the LagerHosen Festival at Ex Novo Brewing in Corrales. After biting our tongues for a couple weeks, the brewery announced it, and shortly thereafter, tickets went on sale online.
They lasted a whopping eight minutes.
“That’s what was interesting for me, especially for Albuquerque, because it’s such a hophead culture out here — I need the biggest, dankest — that we knew it was going to be big, but we weren’t anticipating selling out in eight minutes,” said taproom general manager Stevo Jeter. “I remember when we talked about it, we’ll probably go through maybe 100 tickets right away. The other half we’ll wait on. I was saying hours, Joel had a couple days, maybe. But, it wasn’t like what we … I don’t think anyone anticipated crashing a website and trying to black-market tickets to a festival.”
For us few, us lucky few (and yes, we had to go online and buy just like everyone else, no comped tickets this time), this Saturday’s LagerHosen Festival has all the makings of one of the best fests of the year.
For those who did not get tickets online, there may be some at the door. Or maybe not. It is all rather complicated, as Ex Novo founder Joel Gregory explained.
“It all depends on when people show up,” he said. “If 300 people show up at noon, it’s going to be tough. If it’s nicely paced throughout the day, and people decide three hours is a good enough time to be here and then they go home, it should be (available). We’re going to gauge out-the-door ticket availability based on how it’s looking. It might be zero tickets, it might be 100. It’s really hard to tell. We’re not going to shove more people in here.”
With 25 breweries from multiple states pouring 35 lagers in total, the concern would be to overwhelm the entire Corral area with long lines. The beers themselves will be positioned in the area right next to the east side of the brewery building, since that will provide shade for the volunteers doing the pouring.
The entry ticket gets you eight tokens for that number of 4-ounce pours, Jeter said. Attendees can then purchase a second bag of eight more tokens, but 16 will be the maximum, so everyone will have to pick and choose carefully among the available lagers. The sheer variety of those lagers should keep everyone happy. And, quite possibly, make it tough to decide.
“We asked everyone what they wanted to bring, and then we went through the list to make sure we didn’t have too many duplicate styles,” Gregory said. “We were shocked, there’s 15 different lager styles. I don’t know if there’s any (styles) we aren’t covering. … We got all of the styles. That wasn’t because we cherry picked them, it just happened to be what everyone had. It’s a diverse list. We weren’t going to have 15 German pilsners.”
Dave Chichura, the director of brewing operations at Ex Novo, would have been just fine with 15 German pilsners, but he is also happy to see the variety. Like many brewers, lagers have emerged as his favorite styles, both to drink and to brew.
“I think it’s a great thing,” he said. “I got into lagers many years ago, myself. I came from being strictly a hoppy beer drinker, IPAs and pales, stuff like that. I really got into some German lagers, and Pilsner Urquell, and I began to appreciate the simpler things, and then also appreciating how difficult they are to make. You can make something that is so subtle and so simple, but it’s easy to show mistakes in such a beer. I’m looking forward to getting to talk with some of these great brewers that are going to be in town, too, hopefully glean some knowledge along the way.”
Ex Novo keeps two lagers on among its year-round staples, and that was part of what attracted Chichura to the job in the first place.
“I’ve learned quite a bit just since being here,” he said. “I’m glad that we are a lager-loving brewery to begin with. That’s one of the questions that Joel asked me in my interview — how do you feel about lager beer? I love lagers. I’ve made award-winning lagers before. It makes it a little tougher to navigate, logistically, especially when your second biggest brand is a lager. It takes a long time, maybe you wish you had a few more tanks to give it the time and all that. But, it’s all worth it, for sure.”
Ex Novo just won a silver award at the World Beer Cup for its V for Vienna Lager. While the Corrales-made supply has run out for the time being, its sister brewery in Portland will be sending some down, Gregory said.
“We’re very psyched about that (award),” Chichura said. “Especially if you’re not expecting it, which we weren’t for the Vienna. I wasn’t. It’s a solid beer, I wouldn’t have entered it otherwise. I had no idea how it stands up against the Europeans, or any other brewery that makes lagers. Not one European brewery medaled in that category. That’s always extra satisfying that you beat out the Europeans at your own game.”
Getting the beers to Corrales from Oregon, Colorado, and Texas was a bit of a chore, but not too bad. Gregory said they just had to slap some FedEx shipping labels on, and the kegs were then consolidated in Portland and Austin. Bierstadt Lagerhaus in Denver also collected all the Colorado participants’ kegs and will be driving them down. Many of the participating breweries will have staff on hand at the festival, so if you ever wanted to actually talk to someone from one of your personal out-of-state, or in-state favorites, you may get the opportunity. Just don’t get too fanboy/fangirl.
LagerHosen originally started at Ex Novo in Portland, and in the future it will likely alternate between the two breweries in future years.
“The first one was super nerdy,” Gregory said of the 2018 edition. “We had panels of experts talking to a group of 20 people, maybe, upstairs. It was much more contained. The second year was a street festival, everyone was out there. It wasn’t hundreds and hundreds of people. It was mostly everyone here works at a brewery. They were so happy, they said it was the best beer fest they’d ever been to, it was all lagers, low-key. We only did it that one year in 2019.
“When we opened down here, we said let’s flip-flop it. These days, even years go by fast. It’s nice to take a breather one year. To some extent, the goal would be to diversify the brewery list, too. We would have gotten a lot more, the Chuckanuts and who else from Washington didn’t ship beer for whatever reason. (But) we got them from Texas and Colorado, who probably wouldn’t have gone to Portland.”
The participation of the New Mexico breweries was also key, and not just in simply bringing a keg or two.
“I have to say, a big shout-out to all of the local breweries who have helped, because we have jockey boxes from six different local breweries who jumped in immediately, saying we’d love to help,” Jeter said. “That’s one of my favorite things, honestly, about the New Mexico beer community is everyone’s willingness (to help), it’s a competition, but it’s not, it’s a family, this extended family.”
There will also be two food trucks on hand, Urban Hot Dog and Umami Moto, with the latter switching it up for the day and making German-style food like schnitzel instead of Asian fusion. For some additional fun, there will be a stein-holding contest, and a cornhole tournament. There will also be plenty of water stations, but please, slather yourselves in plenty of SPF 50.
On top of all that, Chichura said he hopes that attendees will also come away with a greater understanding of the many lager styles.
“I think it’s going to be really educational for people,” he said. “I didn’t know that is a lager. I just thought lager was a Mexican-style lager. I didn’t know pilsner is a lager. It’s going to be that basic for some people. It’s going to be really eye-opening.”
There will be quite a few recent or past award-winning lagers, including Ponderosa’s Italian Pilsner, which just won back-to-back golds at World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Festival last fall. Chichura and Gregory said neither of them can remember the last time a beer won consecutive golds like that.
Now, of course, after reading through all this, you are probably ready to scream, “WHERE IS THE DAMN LAGER LIST, STOUTMEISTER?!” Well, fair enough, here it is, thanks to Joel being so kind to us all. There will be pamphlets for every attendee so you can keep track, too.
- Austin Beer Garden (TX): Industry Pilsner (2016 GABF gold)
- Bierstadt Lagerhaus (CO): Slow Pour Pils, Helles
- Bow & Arrow: Vida West Mexican-Style Dark Lager
- Boxing Bear: Body Czech Pils
- Breakside (OR): Unbearable Lightness Bohemian Pils
- Canteen: Export Lager
- Cerebral (CO): Inhabited Form Foeder-Fermented DH Lager
- El Segundo (CA): Broken Skull American Lager, Just One More WC Pils
- Ex Novo: all nine (!) lagers will be served from The Corral’s bar
- Fort George (OR): Short Sands Munich Helles Lager
- La Cumbre: Lager Softly Kellerbier
- Lakefront (WI): Eastside Dark Bavarian Lager (2015 GABF bronze)
- La Reforma: Maximillian Munich Dunkel (2020 GABF gold)
- Marble: Pilsner Burquell
- New Glory (CA): NGB German-Style Pilsner
- Our Mutual Friend (CO): Larimer St. Lager (Helles)
- pFriem (OR): pFriem Pilsner (2018 and 2015 GABF silver)
- Pinthouse Pizza (TX): Magical Pils (German), Burros Breakfast Mexican-Style Lager
- Ponderosa: Italian Pilsner (2022 World Beer Cup gold, 2021 GABF gold)
- Ronin Fermentation (CA): Alpenglow German Pilsner
- Second Street: Vienna Lager
- Sidetrack: Schwarzbier
- Steel Bender: Spring of Deception Maibock (collaboration with the Dark Side Brew Crew)
- Templin Family (UT): Granary KellerBier (2021 GABF bronze), All Day Apres Hoppy Pilsner
- Von Ebert (OR): Rauch Marzen
- Wayfinder (OR): Party Time (German) Pils
Happy lager day to us all, and good luck picking your eight (or 16)!