1999 Bite of Albuquerque Brewers Festival
It took the Bite of Albuquerque and the largest beer tasting festival in New Mexico to break the state's three month drought in April, 1999. Saturday's activities began at noon and the crowds packed the cramped area of downtown Albuquerque's Civic Plaza where the breweries were relegated. Being the first event with quality beer to take place at this municipal site, organizers were understandably unprepared for the public craving for the beers. Albuquerque's top restaurants were on hand to show their wares as they ringed the perimeter of the downtown city block. For $10 visitors received 20 tickets good for various food samples and beer tastes. One ticket earned a three ounce sample poured in a plastic cup or the decorated souvenir pint glass ($3). Four tickets entitled the bearer to a full glass. The sunshine and 60-degree weather disappeared around 4:30 Saturday as the skies opened up and the crowds scattered. The dedicated drinkers, of course, continued on. Sunday's weather was a bit more accommodating throughout the day but artificial obstacles proved too much for most brewers. Last-minute word from the state revealed that brewers without a "Sunday Permit" stamp on their brewer's license would be prohibited from pouring beers Sunday. This despite the fact that most had paid the questionably legal "Sunday Permit" fee for their retail establishments. The calendar may show us ready to enter the 21st century but this state has entrenched bureaucrats that will only go kicking and screaming.
The good news is that the New Mexico Small Brewers Association formed a successful alliance with the restaurant association and primary sponsor Trumpet Communication to get the word out to thousands of people who came by and showed their support for the great foods and beers of New Mexico. With all of the irrational media coverage of negative alcohol-related activities around the state this is a welcome and much needed significant event. Even the normal Albuquerque Police Department presence of dozens of uniformed officers and a Gang Unit were fortunately nowhere to be seen for this peaceful and fun event. Look for the Brewer's Association to learn form this successful event and plan follow-up activities. Next time they may even be able to dissuade organizers from discriminating against parents who bring their kids along to listen to the music and stroll through the food and beer booths.
Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - April, 1999
NM Virtual Brewpub