In the pre-COVID times, there was always a bit of an unusual gap in the middle of the New Mexico summer between major events. From ABQ Blues & Brews on Memorial Day weekend until the start of the NM IPA Challenge in July, there were no large-scale events in the Albuquerque metro area.
Enter Dean Strober of Blue River Productions, who already organized the new Brewers and Distillers Cup earlier this year.
“It started with me realizing that … festivals should be outside as much as possible,” he said. “Not just where we live, but having gone through nearly two years of having my events shut down and restricted, what do I want to do that will have the support of New Mexicans? Then realizing there’s no big outdoor beer festival in New Mexico. I decided it was time to put one together. From the start, I’ve always wanted to create the kind of events that I want to go to. I want to go to a big beer festival where I can try beers from a lot of breweries, with music, and games.”
Well, technically there is the New Mexico Brew Fest, which happens in the fall at the State Fairgrounds, and it will be returning this year on October 1. But, in terms of outdoor summer festivals, the Albuquerque area has been lacking.
Rather than just go it alone, Strober decided it was best to team up.
“The first call I made was to the (New Mexico Brewers) Guild about partnering up, or at least having their support,” he said. “I had worked with a lot of the individual breweries, but never the Guild before. The conference component that came about as we started the planning. It was not part of the initial plan. The original plan was to have an educational component. I am incredibly grateful for that part.”
The result of all the planning and promoting is The Great New Mexico Beer Fest, which will take place this Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. at Balloon Fiesta Park. Tickets are still available online. There are $40 tasting tickets, which get you 16 samples and a full pint, $10 pay-as-you-go tickets, where you get a glass and then purchase directly from the breweries, and $5 designated driver tickets. The good news is if you would like a discounted tasting ticket, you can use the code DarkSide for 20 percent off the full price.
Preceding the festival on Saturday is the New Mexico Brewers Conference on Friday, which the public can attend (see the previous ticket link) but is mostly for brewery owners and staff members. Having the two events back to back also helped bring some breweries from far outside the metro area to the festival.
“Having planned the wine association conferences and festivals, I know there’s a lot of value in having wineries from across the state take part,” Strober said. “I wanted to get breweries throughout the state a presence here in Albuquerque. If they’re here for a conference, and stick around another day for a festival, but also a profitable one for them.
“That’s kind of the approach of why I approached the Guild. That went back and forth a bit. Now it’s happening, which is awesome. We do have breweries coming in from through the state.”
The physical layout of the festival will actually look like a map of New Mexico.
“The lower part of the field is where you’ll find the breweries from Ruidoso and Carlsbad,” Strober said. “This is not just come in and taste beer, (it’s) where everywhere you look you’ll have a different experience. It’s not just celebrating New Mexico beer, it’s also celebrating New Mexico.”
Among the breweries from far outside Albuquerque are Blü Dragonfly Brewing (Raton), Capitol Bar and Brewery (Socorro), Downshift Brewing (Ruidoso), Enchanted Circle Brewing (Angel Fire), Little Toad Creek (Silver City), Milton’s Brewing (Carlsbad), and Taos Mesa Brewing.
Attendees can also sign up for two classes and one other special event at the festival. Southwest Grape & Grain will be hosting the two classes, the first exploring beer styles with a guided tasting of eight different beers. That class will be held at 1 p.m. and again at 3 p.m. There is an additional $15 cost. The other class, which costs $10, is an introduction to homebrewing, and features five tasting samples. It will be held at 2 and 4 p.m.
Chef Weed is hosting a five-course beer-and-food pairing at 2 p.m. for $15. The food menu features a homemade Bavarian pretzel with craft beer mustard, a braised pork slider, a loaded & fixin’ filled tortilla, a Texas red chile shooter, and a mini porter cupcake with peanut butter frosting. The beers are TBA.
Music will be provided by Boomroots Collective at noon and The Riddims at 3:30. There will be a dozen food trucks on hand, plus another 55 vendors, including artists, local businesses, and other craft makers. Lawn games, ranging from lawn pong (think beer pong, but bigger) to miniature golf, will be free to play. There will also be a movie theater and a silent disco.
“With the exception of the class and the pairings, everything else is free,” Strober said. “And (we will have) plenty of free ice water, a lot of cold water. We have a lot of shade.”
The conference on Friday will conclude with a locals-only beer competition in four categories — American Wheat, German-style Pilsner, Hazy IPA, West Coast IPA — and all winners will be marked among the attending breweries at their respective booths.
Now, speaking of all those breweries, here is the list of all 32 attendees, per the website. Not all are guaranteed to be there, of course. We reached out to everyone with whom we have contact info to learn what they are bringing. The responses have been trickling in slowly, to put it mildly, but we will keep updating these until Saturday morning.
- Beer Creek Brewing: Lone Butter Lager, Turquoise Trail Cream Ale, Bootlegger Blonde, Get to da Hoppa IPA (all four beers are made with all-NM-grown ingredients), plus mixed four-packs featuring cans of each style will be for sale from 5:30 to 6 p.m.
- Blü Dragonfly Brewing (Raton)
- Bosque Brewing: Elephants on Parade, Riverwalker IPA, Pickle Down Economics, Hatfield Lager (Dry-Hopped Pale Lager)
- Boxing Bear Brewing
- Brew Lab 101: Sexi Numexi Mexican Lager, Wicked Pissah Hazy IPA, The Bull IPA, Peachy Keen Cider
- Canteen Brewhouse: Exodus IPA, High Plains Pils, Irish Red, Citranova
- Capitol Bar: Up the Rio (Guava Wheat Ale), Kerker Kölsch, Prisoner’s Dilemma (Hazy IPA), Amos Ale (Brown)
- Downshift Brewing (Ruidoso): Apex View IPA (new), Snowy Hazy IPA, Bread & Water German Pilsner, Spring Fling Peach Wheat
- Enchanted Circle Brewing (Angel Fire)
- Ex Novo Brewing
- Harmon Lane Brewing: Tom’s Blonde, State 47 Summer Smash Lager, Mountain Valley Haze, Grizzly Amber, Tin Cup Stout, El Jefe-Weizen, Merica’s DAPA, Strawberry Rhubarb Tart
- Kilt Check Brewing
- Late Shift Lager House: La Vida (Helles), Sex Panther (T’mave Lager), Clock Out Orange (Belgian Wit), Hop Hero (Cold IPA)
- Lava Rock Brewing: Pinche Cerveza, Andesite Lager, Petroglyph Wit, NM TRU IPA
- Leaf & Hive
- Little Toad Creek
- Lizard Tail Brewing
- Marble Brewery: Pink Lemonade Lager, Desert Fog, Double White, Cerveza
- Milton’s Brewing (Carlsbad)
- Nexus: New Mexico Snow Storm IPA, Trampled by Tangerines American Wheat, Oralé Mexican Lager, Imperial Cream Ale
- Palmer Brewing
- Red Door Brewing: : Vanilla Cream Ale, New England IPA, Blonde Ale, Sour Cherry Cider
- ReSource Brewing: Que, Swiss? Lager, Mango DIPA (new), Tangerine Lager (new)
- Rio Bravo Brewing
- Rumor Brewing
- Santa Fe Brewing: Cholla Fizz (Hard Seltzer), NMX Standard (Light Lager), Social Hour, 7K IPA
- Sidetrack Brewing: MX Lager, A Tribe Called Kölsch, Summer Ale, Lemondrop Lager
- Steel Bender Brewyard: Esmerelda Italian Pilsner, COMPA Blue Corn Lager, Skull Bucket IPA, Cherry Dynamite
- Taos Mesa Brewing: Koenig Lager, Mesa IPA, Amarillo Rojo, Kolsch 45
- Thirsty Eye Brewing: El Drac IPA, El Ojo Rojo, Citrus Buzz, Odin’s Eye, La Llagerona, Dude? Dude. Dude! (Hazy DIPA)
- Tractor Brewing: Pilsner 15, Scorpion Hazy IPA, Blood Orange Cider, Milk Mustachio Stout, Haymaker Honey Wheat, Delicious Red Apple Cider
“What makes this event different is the breweries, they’re all getting paid for the beer they pour,” Strober said. “We’re sharing the ticket income with the breweries (too).
“In a nutshell, we just really wanted to create something big. It’s a win-win-win, where the attendee gets to drink beer, taste beer, and enjoy a day with their friends. The breweries, they make the money they need to support their staff. And we make enough money to put this on again next year.”
So grab your SPF 50, thread those pretzel necklaces, update your Lyft/Uber app on your phone, and snag those tickets ASAP before this event sells out.
Keep supporting local!