One of the best events for beer lovers in California is the Boonville Beer Festival, hosted by the Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville, California. While the tasting event itself is merely 4 hours in a Saturday afternoon, many folks arrive a day early and camp at the county fairgrounds. The camaraderie of your fellow beer drinkers runs deep here, and it’s not unexpected to wander around the camping area and meet new people from all over the world.
I’m not sure what the final head count for the event this year was, but if I had to guess, it would be in the 2000-3000 range. With so many people running around constantly inebriated, one would think there would be a smattering of rage-fueled violence. On the contrary, folks were all there for a good time, and the shared love of beer was common enough ground for all folks to get along. Even the lines to the bathrooms were completely manageable.
This year, 70 or so breweries showcased their finest beers. Of course, some of the bigger players in beer were there (Sierra Nevada and Widmer, for example), but my favorite part was the large number of smaller breweries that I had never heard of. Many brewpubs and microbreweries from around the area brought some pretty amazing beers…and some unfortunate beers, too. But hey, we should always remember that no matter how bad we may think a beer is, it’s some brewer’s masterpiece!
Upon returning from my 3-day, 2-night camping/beer festival extravaganza, several people immediately asked me which beer was my favorite. Having had so many beers, it is hard to pick one favorite, but there were definitely some stand-outs. So, in no particular order, here are my 3 favorite beers from this year:
– Stone Brewing Company: (unnamed) – a young, oaked pale ale. The oak was not overpowering at all, but quite complimentary.
– Bootlegger Brewing Company: Smokin’ Joe – an ever so slightly smokey amber ale with a sweet aftertaste, and hits of bacon, brown sugar, and leather. Admittedly, this wouldn’t be much of a session beer, but it would pair really well with a cheeseburger.
– Anderson Valley Brewing Company: Anniversary Imperial IPA – some 20 hops go into creating this beauty, and the sweet malt balances them perfectly. No wonder it was a Gold Medal winner in the 2009 US Open Beer Championships!
By Sunday morning, I was somehow still up at 5:30am and started frying eggs for the folks in my camp. My liver had not suffered enough, so I washed my eggs down with a couple Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPAs. That bit of beer helped drive away the cold from my bones, and the rest of my group started to pack up camp. I can’t wait until next year!