I regret taking three whole weeks to give the 411 on the 2006 BOONVILLE BEER FESTIVAL, a rapturous event that has got to rank as holy & as blessed for the beer snob as sex with the 14 virgins does for the insane suicide bomber. It will likely be the peak of my beer-drinking year, unless I can create & then erase new memories at another such event before the year is out. The festival took place on Saturday, May 6th at the Mendocino County fairgrounds in the absurdly tiny town of Boonville, California. Please note the picture above, taken with my telephone the dark, head-pounding morning after the fest. Now imagine this entrance with about 2,000-3,000 shorts-wearin', hat-sportin', mini beer-glass hoistin' beer dawgs ready to party & shout "woooooooo" every time someone dropped their glass (thus eliminating them from further beer drinking -- the rules are the rules!), and you'll get a general sense of the afternoon. My people! Actually my stereotype only fits a good half of the crowd -- I know based on blubbering 4pm-ish (three hours in!) conversations I had with several attendees that a good chunk of the festival patrons are players in the West Coast "beer scene", or consider themselves so -- brewers themselves, brewery employees, beer writers, beer aficianados and hopheads of all stripes.
This afternoon, which had the taps open for all-you-can-drink from 1-4:30pm, and which featured some musical accompaniment by the ROLLING BOIL BLUES BAND and a couple others of their dreadful ilk, was truly a place to put one's critical beer rating skills to the test. I took in 16 mini-glasses before time ran out - punctuated by some gristle-laden $10 "tri tip" (ouch!) and maybe one glass of water. That's roughly, I don't know -- 5 pints? So nothing too extreme, and I therefore kept my cool with the ladies if you know what I'm saying. Anyway, I just had to bring a notepad to write down what I was consuming, as I have a responsibility to you, my 20 average daily readers.....and you know how chicks gravitate to a guy with a notepad, a guy earnestly debating whether the last glass was a 7.5 or an 8 with pen in hand. In reviewing my notes later, I found that there was a distinct upward trend in the rankings, meaning that the early tastes were around the 6-9 range, whereas the later tastes all seemed to score above 8. It is very possible that alcohol interfered with this process. I have therefore eliminated my scores from the listing of beer that was consumed this day, and instead will simply enumerate the fine offerings available on tap this afternoon (among at least 6-7 dozen others I could have tried had there been more goddamn time!!):
-- MOYLAN’S -- DRY STOUT
-- RUSSIAN RIVER – BLIND PIG IPA
-- STONE BREWING – IPA
-- LAKE TAHOE BREWING – AMBER ALE
-- MOYLAN’S – HOPSICLE (Triple IPA)
-- RUBICON BREWING – IPA
-- SNOWSHOE BREWING – GRIZZLY BROWN
-- ALPINE BREWING – WILLY VANILLI
-- BEAR REPUBLIC – RED ROCKET
-- EEL RIVER BREWING – IPA
-- NEW BELGIUM BREWING – something “LEAF” that I didn't write down correctly -- it was a Peach Lambic (!)
-- EL TORO BREWING – DEUCE (Double IPA)
-- one that I missed noting & that was down my esophagus before I had a chance to “think” about it
-- DRAKE’S – BIERE ESPECIAL
-- MAD RIVER BREWING – DOUBLE IPA
-- MOONLIGHT BREWING – SPECIAL
Of these many outstanding beers, there was one clear winner and one clear l-o-s-e-r. MOYLAN'S Hopsicle, a Triple IPA (!!!) was just out of this world -- many thanks to Sven for tracking me down in the crowd with the frothing exhortation you must try this beer. I have never had a Triple IPA before (I've only heard of Dogfish Head's), but this was just amazing - like a million bubbling hops attacking the taste buds in unison with this intense, fruitful flavor. Like nothing I've ever downed before. Wow. The loser was from Sacramento's RUBICON BREWING. Their IPA was what we on the beer festival circuit like to call a "pour out" - so bad that the opportunity cost of continuing to drink it straight-up outweighed the innate, inborn hardwiring that told me to finish it; and it wasn't just me, future Hedonist Beer Jive correspondent CM dumped his on the lawn too - so there. In between were all these other fine elixers, until they blew the whistle at 4:30pm and we ran screaming from whatever boogie-blues band was murdering Rolling Stones songs from the stage.
O, there are many tales of post-festival hijinks, shennanigans, camaraderie, and adventures in extreme camping I could tell, my friends, but let's stick to the beer. We sauntered down Boonville's main drag - the highway - to the Anderson Valley Brewing Company to purchase some of their wares, which were thusly nursed throughout the evening. These I believe I was lucid enough to rate, though I'll refrain from commentary:
-- ANDERSON VALLEY BREWING – BROTHER DAVID’S DOUBLE BELGIAN-STYLE ALE (6.5/10)
-- ANDERSON VALLEY BREWING – WINTER SOLSTICE ALE (9/10)
To your left you'll observe aforementioned Hedonist Beer Jive future correspondent CM with his middle finger extended in revolutionary protest to the corporatization of the Anderson Valley organization. What you can't see in the picture are the gleaming new tanks and shiny metal beer-creating equipment in evidence at the brewery, which now resembles nothing so much as a St. Helena winery. Me, as long as the beer excels -- as it most certainly does -- I'll still be a believer (I feel the same way about Sam Adams, for what it's worth). So if anything, the 2006 Boonville Beer Fest gave me just "that much more" impetus to boldly seek out the wares of some of the participants, as if I or anyone else in attendance needed much prodding. Having been to other beer gatherings, this one continues to be the one with not only the best vibe but the no-doubt finest selection of California/Oregon/Washington microbrews - you're nobody if you're not showcasing here. Vague promises were made to make this a yearly pilgrimage, so please check this spot next May & see if those promises in the dark held.