Rio Grande Valley Beer Festival

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New Mexico's first large-scale beer festival was held May 3rd and 4th at the state fairgrounds in Albuquerque. The event was a benefit for the Rio Grande Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. There was reasonable local merchant support and good brewery participation. The physical layout at the Spanish Village was perfect. The square covered area offered protection from both sunshine and heat for the brewers and food vendors. The grassy center area with picnic tables provided comfortable viewing of the live music on the raised stage. Popular state brews came from Eske's; Wanda's Wicked Wheat, and Green Chile Beer, Rio Grande Brewing; Outlaw Lager and Outlaw Stout, Rio Bravo Restaurant and Brewery; American Pale Ale and Porter, Santa Fe Brewing Company; Nut Brown and Wheat, O'Ryans Tavern and Brewery; Golden Raspberry and Dog Spit Stout, Il Vicino; American Pale Ale and Wet Mountain India Pale Ale. A local distributor offered bottled beers from Oasis Brewing, Cold Springs Brewery and Breckenridge Brewery.

For one admission ticket, $6 advance / $8 at the gate, visitors received two small samples from each brewery. The last minute change of venue to this state-owned property caused a few undesirable events. Brewers could not pour their own beers nor could volunteers help pour. Only the uninformed and short-handed fairgrounds staff were allowed to serve the beers. The contract security guards would not let people in without an ID. This caused more that a few senior citizens to leave in disgust and quite a few families with toddlers in strollers to be denied admission. Protecting the state's interests were agents from the state ABC attending the weekend event on the taxpayer's tab.

The two day event lasted from 3 to 9 PM on Friday and 1 to 9 PM on Saturday. This was plenty of time to take in the music and sample the quality beers. When you finished your allotted samples you could then purchase 16 to 18 ounce tastes for $ 3. Things look good for both next year's event as well as a possible Fall festival. By then a more suitable location can be arranged and maybe even the state legislature persuaded to allow brewpubs to have the same freedom to hold off-site tasting events that the state's wine industry enjoys.

Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - May, 1996

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