1996 Angel Fire Oktoberfest

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The 1996 Angel Fire Oktoberfest was both an improvement over last year and a disappointment. The on-again off-again nature of the event caused many New Mexico Breweries to forgo participation and instead attend a similarly disorganized event sponsored by the Albuquerque Downtown merchants and hosted by Rio Bravo Brewing. Nine craft-beer producers were on hand Saturday, October 5th at the Legends Resort Hotel in Angel Fire, New Mexico. The vibrant orange and yellow fall colors offered the perfect backdrop for a Southwestern version of this traditional German fall festival. While the hall may have only measured 100 by 100 feet, there was ample room for the German-style food buffet, beer tasting tables, and German-style band and accompanying dance floor. Inside, a few dozen circular tables offered a resting place for those pausing in between their navigation of the draft and bottled beer offerings along the surrounding walls. Outside, the 70F temperature and sunny skies allowed the pumpkin carvers to do their best for the event competition. Disappointingly, chainsaws were not allowed.

From Boulder, Colorado came Oasis Brewery with a few of their more popular draughts, including their Red and full-bodied ESB. From nearby Taos was Eske's Brewpub, with their Wanda's Wicked Wheat, Oktoberfest, Helles Bock, Oat Cole Porter, and renowned Taos Green Chili Beer. Making the drive from northern Colorado in their distinctive minivan was Left Hand Brewing Company who offered their Pale Ale and Sawtooth Ale. On the non-alcoholic end of the spectrum was Way 2 Cool with their Ginger Ale and Rootbeer. Up from Albuquerque was Assets Grille, now officially called Southwest Brewing Company. Their offerings included the clean Kolch, malty Oktoberfest, and full-flavored, chocolately Oatmeal Stout. From Breckenridge Brewery, bombers of Avalanche, Oatmeal Stout, IPA, and Mountain Wheat were on hand. The local Redhook distributor had bottled Rye and Hefeweizen (both unfiltered), along with the Blackhook Porter. A 22oz. sample of the Double Black Stout was teasingly presented but not yet ready for prime time distribution in New Mexico. Also representing Colorado was Denver's Mile High Brewing with their bottled White Forest Ale. Produced by Golden, Colorado's second largest brewery, the Oatmeal Stout, Cherry Bomber Ale, Red Ale, and American Honey Wheat Ale were offered by Golden City Brewery.

Despite the lack of organization and preparation, the scenic location, party atmosphere, and top quality beers made this year's Angel Fire Oktoberfest well worth the effort for all those involved. With constructive criticism from all concerned offered to the Angel Fire Events Coordinator, next year's event should be even better. Given the 3 pm starting time, an ending time past 7 pm would be one improvement, since the dance crowd was just getting fired up for the Chicken Dance. With more and more brewers becoming put off with the bad attitude showed them my organizers of the Great American Beer Festival, look for increased participation in smaller-scale, local and regional tasting events where attention is given to the brewers rather than to the organizers.

Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - October, 1996

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