Bottoms Up to American Craft Beer Week
Next week is an auspicious event for beer lovers everywhere: American Craft Beer Week, which runs from May 11-17 and serves as a “national celebration highlighting the culture and contributions of craft beer.” Freda Moon got a head start this past weekend, and offers up some other great places to snag a beer and celebrate.
An all-day downpour wasn’t enough to keep a record crowd of 5,500 beer lovers from last Saturday’s 13th Annual Legendary Boonville Beer Fest. Arriving en masse and in costume for the pirate-themed event, attendees paid $50 a person for four hours of all-you-can-drink access to over 100 beers from 43 craft breweries around the United States. Each was equipped with a five-ounce tasting glass and set loose to drink, dance and frolic in the mud at Mendocino County’s fairgrounds in Boonville, Calif.
The festival, a fundraiser for local charities hosted by Anderson Valley Brewing Company, draws both connoisseurs and casual beer drinkers, people who come to taste and those that come to guzzle. Some arrived prepared for the festival’s theme and Northern California’s weather, wearing elaborate pirate garb or full-body rain gear. Many wore specialized glass holders around their necks to ensure they wouldn’t break their irreplaceable, and therefore sacred, tasting glass. (The sound of one of these glasses breaking evokes a roaring, humiliating–if good-natured–howl from the beer fest crowd.) Others donned more eclectic ensembles, combinations of wigs, unicycles, kilts, star-shaped sunglasses and beer stickers on cheeks and foreheads. Because it was raining and the beer was flowing, a handful of participants paraded in nothing but mud and mud-covered skivvies.
For my $50, I tried eight Northern California beers, including the remarkable Death and Taxes black beer from Santa Rosa’s Moonlight Brewing Co. and the surprisingly unexotic, but delicious, MateVeza Organic Golden Ale, a caffeinated beer made from yerba mate, malt and hops in Santa Cruz.
Most people are familiar with California’s wine tradition–thanks to two Hollywood movies on the subject–but the state’s dedication to hearty, hoppy beers is no less passionate. The Boonville Beer Fest might be among the more outrageous events of its kind, but it’s hardly alone in this region of beer aficionados.
If you’re looking to celebrate American Craft Beer Week yourself, Beer Advocate magazine’s online calendar is an excellent resource for beer events around the world and lists 13 craft beer festivals in California in May alone, including biggies like Craft Beer Fest LA (May 9 in Los Angeles), West Coast Brew Fest (May 16 in Sacramento), CityBeat Festival of Beers (May 17 in San Diego) and the 15th Annual Sudz in the City Microbrew & Music Festival (May 23 in Fresno). Where do you plan to raise your glass?
Photos: Freda Moon
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