The End of Summer – New Mexico

We only have a few days of summer left. Fall officially starts on September 23. Can flu season be far behind?  They are already playing football. Baseball is in the late season frenzy.  I thought I’d reminisce a little about summer here in our neck of the woods. (OK– you have to look closely for the woods but it’s there.)

Summer here in the Rio Grande valley is most often viewed as monsoon season and I’ve already written about that a while back  Thanks to El Nino we have had quite a bit of rain. I’ve never seen the desert so green. The rain comes and goes and usually lasts maybe a half hour. Sometimes it goes crazy…like when it washed out the railroad bridge and stopped the RailRunner for a weekend.  Flash floods are dangerous — there have been a lot of them lately and some fatalities. We have had some serious forest fires during our recent drought and heavy rain after a forest fire is devastating.  I found a video of a flood destroying Dixon’s Orchard following a forest fire up in the Jemez Mountains…this is from 2011.

I didn’t have to contend with a flash flood. My only problem was the rain-out of an Isotopes minor league baseball game. I was pretty lucky, I guess.   I got a rain check and was able to see a game on a dryer day. We still lost.  The Isotopes did not have a good season this year and attendance was down due to the many rain-outs.

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We still have the best green chile race in all of baseball.

I am sometimes critical of Albuquerque’s city administration and the way they do things but I must say that they seem to know how to put on a street festival. The city had four Summerfests scheduled around town and I made it to two of them…Route 66 on Central Avenue and the Westside on Ellison. The crowds were quite large and well behaved. There was good food and good music. I took a bunch of pictures but I missed having my camera ready when the topless women paraded down Central Avenue…dang.

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Labor Day weekend snuck up on us pretty quick. For the past 27 years the city of Bernalillo has hosted the New Mexico State Wine Festival and it has been pretty popular. It’s not just about wine…there are crafts and lots of food and music. I went last year and enjoyed it — so you can imagine my surprise and disappointment when they announced that they would no longer be holding the annual wine festival.  Accounts vary but it seems that attendance has been dropping and there are other wine festivals in the area. Isleta Casino picked it up and hosted an indoor wine and jazz festival — which I went to. It was very nice but I like outdoor events if the weather is good.  I did buy some wine and tasted my share.

Meanwhile, Bernalillo decided to replace the wine festival with the Mountain West Brew Fest…going from wine to craft beer. I was skeptical — we have a lot of craft beer festivals all year long. Almost every other weekend you can find a beer festival somewhere nearby. I didn’t quite know how this was going to turn out….but it was great. Unlike some places, Bernalillo is very laid back and has a very casual vibe and that set the tone for the Mountain West Beer Festival. I really didn’t know we had so many breweries. I admit that I’ve not been able to keep up with the two or more that open each month…Albuquerque is awash with craft beer. This was a chance to get a taste from over thirty local breweries and a bunch from out of state. Now, I’m a home brewer and I know something about making good beer. I have a medal and a trophy to prove it. I did not have a bad beer during the many tasting booths that I stopped at. I had some that were not to my liking…style-wise…but they were still good at what they were trying to do. Of course I took some pictures…  It was another beautiful day.

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The Monks at Christ in the Desert monastery have been very busy

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Nothing wrong with the camera — friend Stu was getting blurry

The Monks at Christ in the Desert are the makers of a line of beer called Monks’ Ales. They are in a pretty isolated place up on the Chama River so some of the actual brewing has been contracted out closer to town but they are very much involved. They have been propagating and growing native Neomexicanus hops.  New Mexico has it’s own variety of wild hops and the monks are pretty much it as far as acquiring any…unless you want to scour the mountains on your own looking for hops…which people do.  I finally got to taste a beer made with Neomexicanus hops and I have to say that I liked it but it was a little unique….mostly in the lingering finish.  These are not bittering hops — they have low acid levels, I think — so they are finishing hops, I think.  I also think that there is a lot of mythology out there on these wild hops because not many people have any experience with them.  I’d like to get my hands on some but the monks are pretty stingy.

By now you might have the impression that I drank my way through the summer.  I can see how that might have happened but, I assure you, I was sober and righteous most of the time.  Well, with the exception of Tuesday nights. Tuesday is Vinyl Night at Kaktus Brewing in Bernalillo and Stu (you’ve seen his blurry picture above) and I try to keep some music going — mostly music that is on vinyl records or first appeared on vinyl. We make some exceptions. The range of music has gone from surfer music to The Doors to lots of Jazz to The Rolling Stones, Joe Cocker, Willie Nelson, The Who and a little bit of Donovan. We were able to squeeze in Mark Knopfler’s Shangri La CD (not vinyl) this week. We are heading toward a western swing night before too long.

But — I’ve done other stuff. The Volcanoes and the BioPark show up in this blog pretty often as does Sandia Peak.  I really, REALLY, want to go fishing so I’m hoping that happens soon.

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