Matt Jones brews beer in the depths of his garage, sings in front of hundreds of people and is paid to write songs for other musicians — so he’s right at home at Albuquerque’s fifth annual Hopfest.

The Hopfest, which will take place Friday at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, features more than 150 handcrafted beers in sample-sized cups, live music on three stages and many local vendors.
Jones, a hobby-brewer, said he likes performing at a festival not entirely dedicated to one thing.

“You’re afforded a unique opportunity when the festival isn’t about music,” he said. “I love the fact that people come out with an interest in beer and you catch them when they’re not expecting it.”

The event will feature local and regional craft beers selected by festival producer Marne Gaston, who makes her selections based on what she thinks New Mexicans like.

Hopfest is promoted in the same fashion as a wine-tasting event. More than 150 different beers will be dispersed, and favorite brews are voted on by the crowd. This year’s Hopfest will feature local brews from Taos Ale House, Back Alley Draft House, Broken Bottle Brewery and Sandia Chile Grill, as well as many others.

“Crowds love to try new beers, so we expect the new local breweries to be a huge hit … all new to the festival and local,” Gaston said.

Santa Fe Brewing Company has been participating in Hopfest since the festival began. Albuquerque sales representative Storey Byar said craft beer is a growing social trend in New Mexico. Hopfest offers beer enthusiasts a chance to try new flavors and expand their beer horizons.

“People are starting to realize that there are so many flavors out there,” Byar said. “They are starting to put away the domestics to try something more tasty and appealing.”

Even though beer is the main event, Gaston said organizers implemented a number of safety measures to ensure no intoxicated festival-goers get behind the wheel of a car when they leave event.
“There is no excuse for anyone not to get home safely,” she said. “We have a booth manned by designated drivers on demand, they will actually drive your car home for you if you can’t.”

Hopfest also features local musicians such as Shane Wallin, recently voted best new singer-songwriter by Albuquerque the Magazine.

Jones will also be playing on the outdoor stage using the stage name The Real Matt Jones. Jones has played music for 18 years, primarily guitar, and his nickname is “The Claw.”

He said he likes to focus on songwriting and interacting with the audience.

“I don’t think that music is a selfish thing; I want to have a connection with the audience,” he said. “I just want people to be affected by it. All art should be effective in some way — the worst thing that can happen is when people are completely apathetic.”

Albuquerque Hopfest
Friday, 3 p.m.
Hard Rock
Hotel & Casino Albuquerque