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Toasts and jams: ABQ Blues & Brews features craft beer, cider, spirits, local bands

Marne Gaston of Feel Good Festivals, which puts on Blues & Brews, in front of a line of beer lovers waiting for a sample. (Courtesy of Ray Mares Photography)

Beer lovers are counting down the days to this year’s Blues & Brew Fest on Sunday, May 25.

The event returns to Sandia Resort & Casino for its ninth year. But this year’s event is not just about beer. A revamped cocktail challenge from 3 to 6 p.m. will feature members of the New Mexico Distillers Guild, which will have its own area and its own live music stage. Every Blues & Brews ticket holder will get three cocktail samples. If an attendee would like to sample all six and vote for his or her favorite, the ticket is $10, which also includes a full cocktail of choice, according to Marne Gaston of Feel Good Festivals, organizer and founder of Blues & Brews. Participants include Algodones Distillery, Broken Trail Spirits + Brew, Hollow Spirits Distillery, Little Toad Creek Brewery & Distillery, Santa Fe Spirits and Troubled Minds Distilling.

“We always did the cocktail challenge (with Imbibe Cigar Bar), and it was really popular, so we decided we’re going to try and break it out on its own and do it with the Distillers Guild as a fundraiser for them,” Gaston said. “They’re kind of going to run it. It’s going to be in its own separate spot, and it’s a separate ticket. So for people who don’t like beer or people who want a break from beer, it’s $10 and you can sample the cocktails. You can buy a non-sampling bracelet for Blues & Brews and buy the cocktail challenge ticket. So you don’t have to have a sampling ticket. Some people come with the ruse that they want to drink but they don’t want to drink beer and they get dragged along by their friends, so they buy a non-sampling ticket and they’ll buy wine or margaritas or whatever from the bar, so this gives them something to do as well.”

About 70 breweries will be part of Blues & Brews, as well as several cideries and specialty drink makers such as Bon & Viv spiked seltzer and Truly Spiked & Sparkling. This year’s event has 11 newcomers, including Albuquerque’s Cantero Brewing Co.; Ex Novo Brewing Co., which is opening soon in Corrales; and Brew Lab 101 Beer & Cider Co., which will open soon in Rio Rancho. Five stages will feature seven local acts performing throughout the event: Alex Maryol, The Chris Dracup Band, Joe Daddy & Hoodoo Jeff, Nathan Fox, Garry Blackchild, The Jir Project, and Julian Dossett.

All tickets, except for non-sampling tickets and cocktail tickets, include unlimited 2-ounce beer samples and a souvenir tasting glass.

Part of the proceeds benefit local charities, including the University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital, Freedom in Music Project, All Faith’s Receiving Home, Make-A-Wish New Mexico, the American Cancer Society and more.

There will be games to play, with prizes to win, as well as a photo booth provided by ABQ Live. The booth will feature silly props and backdrops. A few arts and crafts vendors will be selling their art, jewelry, body care products and more. One booth will feature “brewery jewelry,” made from beer-related items such as bottle caps.

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