Another epic session at the BOONVILLE BEER FESTIVAL this past Saturday, always a big event at HBJ headquarters since it’s really the only major beerfest we allow ourselves to go to each year. We can’t be trusted to keep it together any more than once an annum. 2008 in Boonville, California – an idyllic little hippie/redneck village 2.25 hours north of San Francisco – offered the usual fantastic weather, goodtime vibes, friendly smilin’ faces, incredible beer selection and even a few surprises. Without going too far deep into the personal, it was also notable for a number of firsts:
1. The first year that I traveled via limousine to the event (!) - or to any event
2. The first year I was safely tucked in back in San Francisco the night of the fest
3. The first year I didn’t say, nor do, anything particularly regrettable (I think)
4. The first year I ever broke bread with another “beer blogger” (big ups to Jessica from The Thirsty Hopster; Peter from BetterBeerBlog and the legendary Jay Brooks from Brookston Beer Bulletin)
5. The first year I was smart enough to not wait in any astronomically long food lines and instead “rolled my own”
But enough about me. Quit talking and start rocking, right? How was the beer?? Well, let me first offer some observations about the festival itself. There were some anomalies this year. Not only was it the largest crowd ever for one of these things (one semi-reputable estimate came in at 10,000 people, but that sounds bogus to me – I’m thinking more like 3,000), but, alas, the “beer dawg” quotient was at its absolute highest. You know what a beer dawg is, right? No? Let me paint a picture for you. White male, appx. 21-40, backward baseball cap, likely beer gut, some sort of sports/beer insignia on a t-shirt, if in fact a shirt is even being worn. Prone to yelling, “whooooooooo” at events like these, or perhaps “yeeeeeeeeeah!”. Enjoys throwing his meaty arms around his buddies and, if possible, around any female on two legs. Often found urinating into sinks, cardboard trash cans or on the side of fairground walls (I in fact witnessed individual beer dawgs doing all three on Saturday). One fat beer dawg actually drunkenly leapt on his beer dawg buddy’s back, fell off, and proceeded to bend my nearby pal CS’s knee into a Joe Theisman-esque position, requiring first aid & a trip to the hospital on Sunday. Boonville seemed to have drawn a lot more reserved crowd in years past – the friendly beer dorks, the business guys/gals on break from the family, the happy hippies, etc. Not to sound too elitist – apologies in advance – but the reputation of this event has obviously reached its tentacles into Raider Nation, and into the stockrooms & the loading docks of Northern California. These people – even the beer dawgs - are still my brothers and always will be, but I wish they could keep their sh*t together when gingerly sipping their pale ales.
On a related note, the 2008 Boonville Beer Festival also featured something that I’ve never witnessed before – the disappearing tap. By 4pm, at an event that went from 1-5pm, many taps were, uh, “tapped”. Many of the greats were gone early – Russian River and Moylan’s were two that had essentially closed up shop with an hour to go; their wares had simply proven to be too popular. I hope this is rectified next year, or that tickets are capped at a certain level. It wasn’t a catastrophe – it certainly helped me to check out some brewers I might not otherwise have sampled – but it was a bummer nonetheless.
The best anomaly of 2008 was the fact that the BEER itself was at an extremely high level. Unlike in prior years, I not only had not a single “pour out”, virtually everything I had was absolute first-rate solid gold. One beer in particular, PIZZA PORT’s 10th Anniversary Ale, AtTENuation, was so incredible I had it twice – forsaking my normal festival goal of “breadth” for a little more “depth” than normal. Here are the beers HBJ tried, all but one of which was excellent or at least very good:
THE GOLD MEDAL, FLAT-OUT BEST BEER OF THE DAY
PIZZA PORT – AtTENuation (10th Anniversary Belgian-style golden pale ale)
THE VERY, VERY GOOD
NEW BELGIUM – La Folie (finally got to try this – not half as sour as I expected, and was simply wonderful if a little odd to be chugging in the hot sun)
ALPINE BREWING – O’Brian’s IPA
SACRAMENTO BREWING – IPA (my notes say “solid, smooth, delicious”)
THE GOOD ENOUGH
MARIN BREWING – San Quentin Breakout Stout
SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAIN BREWING – Wilder Wheat
PIZZA PORT – Black Lie IPA (I know! Go figure! A black IPA from these guys that just didn’t have it together)
In short, given the idiosyncrasies of the day and the high quality level of the beer, I’ll be back in ’09, just with a few more key learnings tucked into my noggin that’ll make that one go even better. Boonville’s still the best event of its kind I’ve ever been to, and I recommend it highly.