Sunday, September 20, 2009

Septemberfest was Sehr Gut, Danke!

I always knew that those two years of German I took back in high school would eventually pay off. I had the chance to take Spanish, but thought, "When would I ever need that?". Smart guy.

Marble held its second Septemberfest on Saturday (sorry for the guy who bet it was the seventh annual), with festivities kicking off at noon. Jenn somehow talked me into not going until 2, and it was hard for me to concentrate on anything beforehand. I could barely eat lunch, though I knew I had to face the event on a full stomach. With 11 breweries (no Abbey Brewing- they must have been home, praying for us) pouring 45 beers, this was not your typical kids' beer fest.

We arrived via our safe ride (i.e. family) at 2 as planned, at which point I left Jenn in the dust, with faint cries of, "Why the HELL don't you wait for me!!!???" barely registering in my ears. I stopped short when I saw the chain link fence surrounding Marble's parking lot- was this a Swine Flu quarantine? Once I saw people happily going through the entrance I felt safer. This was Septemberfest, after all, and the patio wasn't going to be enough to hold all the people. And they have to have a boundary, lest the drunk, dancing hippies spin out of control into the street. So I ended up feeling more like one of Hogan's Heros once I passed into the fenced-in area. The beers were being poured under tents on the perimeter on the lot, with the rest of the space used for seating, which was already half-full upon our arrival.

The samples were filling up as well, as the brewers and volunteers were working at a rapid pace to keep up with demand. The samples were being served in one-ounce portions, cups so small that even a steady hand would have a hard time not spilling every other drop of beer. I personally would have gotten pissed off after and minutes and would have been drinking samples as fast as I was pouring them. That would lead me to become even more pissed off because once I was drunk, there would be very little chance of those cups getting filled properly. See, there is a good reason why I don't volunteer for these events. Knowing your limitations is very important.

I felt like we got there at the hottest time of the day, and I was wishing that I had followed through on my threat of wearing a half-shirt. After hitting up Il Vicino (and saddened to find out that Elsa's Hop Elixir had already been tapped and finished- thanks, Jenn) for some Schwarzbier and Doppelbock to start things off German style, we took respite under Marble's tent for some From the Wood #2 and Albuquerque Sour. Between a few Wood and Dopplebock samples, with a generous portion of Second Street's IPA and Cream Stout tossed down as well, the strong beers were beginning to take an early effect.

So we moved on to try a much talked about, and much needed, lower-alcohol Atomic Blonde Pils from Blue Corn. I also had the pleasure of talking to two of the legends of the beer community, Brad Kraus (pictured, at left), and Stan Hieronymus (pictured, right). Brad was brewing in Albuquerque way before it was cool, having been the head brewer at the old Rio Bravo Brewpub back in 1996. Anyone remember that place, on Central near 6th. It has been a number of things since, like a dance club that closes every other week because of a shooting or stabbing. Brad has also brewed for Santa Fe and Wolf Canyon, and is a certified Master Beer Judge. Now you get to taste his wares at Blue Corn, and his Atomic Blonde was a welcome refresher that you can get at the brewery anytime. His Green Dream Harvest Ale is a seasonal that was available at the event, and "green" is an apropos word to describe it. It smelled green in a way that would have had Nancy Reagan close the event down, had she smelled it. That's my great description. I should have asked Stan Hieronymus for a better description- after all, this is the man who wrote Brew Like a Monk, the definitive guide to brewing Belgian styles, and co-authored The Beer Lover's Guide to the USA. He also is a frequent contributor to All About Beer magazine and other publications. And he lives right here in New Mexico. See how lucky you are? You've got Brad, Stan, and, uh, me- in your own state!

The day was winding down, but the crowds kept on coming. Feeling a second wind, we shuffled over to get some beers from Farmington's 3 Rivers Brewery. The Mother's Milk Stout and Double Barrel Amber (imperial amber) were my favorites. At Santa Fe, The State Pen Porter and Yippee DIPA stood out, the latter surprisingly so because that beer was brewed only once, and has been out for a long time now, at least in IPA years. But the beer was still hop-forward, and Santa Fe was selling the 25 oz. bottles of Yippee and State Pen Imperial Porter for $5.00, half off the normal rate. Great deal, though I heard the price went up as the night went on. That's a good strategy, because as we drink more, we are tempted to spend more or do things we normally would not. For instance, I found myself drinking some Rio Grande Pancho Verde green chile beer.

I thought maybe I had been drinking too much when I spotted the guy wearing the lederhosen. Then I figured I wasn't drinking enough. He was real, all right. Must have read the previous post and wanted in on the haute couture action. At that point, I really wished I had done the half-shirt thing. I also wished for a Dr. Strangehop, and some Chama Red, and some Chama Oktoberfest, and how's about some Awakened Dog Stout (Sleeping Dog with a pound of Ethiopian coffee in the brew). And I had them all- this is Septemberfest, where all your dreams come true, and a man in lederhosen brings you the beer on a silver platter. I also got to try Turtle Mountain's Hoptimus DIPA before the keg kicked. Then I think I remember an Il Vicino Wet Mountain IPA pint somewhere. Then I stopped thinking, I think.

Before I knew it, Septemberfest was over, and the place was being dismantled like a prohibition-era bar with a tip that the feds were wise to it. That was our cue to hop in a cab and head home (and what a coincidence- the driver was the same guy who drove us home from the IPA Challenge. I'm sure we've made a great impression both times). I think to truly appreciate one of these fests, you need to look beyond the beers and appreciate how much work all the brewers, brewery workers and volunteers put into the event. Everyone who was a part of this did a fantastic job, and I thank you for making it a great day for us!


Unknown said...

YAY! It was soo much fun... I love the picture you got of my wrist! LOL... after i forgot a few times and paid more attention to drinking rather than the photos that were being taken! Glad you enjoyed it!

josh said...

Hey, it was great to meet you but you came too late! I was already into my 2nd "from the wood #2"; and subsequently forgot your name!!
As I said before, love your blog, keep up the great work! Have fun @ GABF.... (I'm sooo jealous!)