The World Needs More Small Beer Festivals

Merideth and I remember fondly some of the small beer events we attended back in the day. Back then, it seemed like every weekend some charity got 20 or so breweries together to have a festival and raise money.

While these festivals lacked name recognition and number of breweries, they more than made up for it with a more intimate setting and enthusiastic crowds.

So with our string of HUGE festivals coming up, it was with some eagerness that we attended the 17th Annual Beerfest in Santa Rosa; 40 or so breweries, mostly local, were in attendance pouring their brews.

Our day would begin – and end – at the Russian River brewpub. We needed to go back and get some footage that we couldn’t get on Friday night. It was way too loud, and admittedly, I was bit tipsy from our day’s drinking and couldn’t get out a coherent sentence.

Besides their amazing beers, Russian River might have the coolest sampler tray ever. The beer markers were bottle caps.

The highlight of the sampler, besides Pliny the Elder and Blind Pig, was Dead Leaf Green, an English style pale ale.

We also tried Fleurette, the beer that Vinnie made with the Italian brewer Agostino Arioli, who owns Birrificio Italiano. Merideth liked this much more than I did and later Fleurette would become her “go-to” beer at the festival.

Then it was off to the festival. We parked at Mitch’s house and walked over to the festival with his crew.

I have to admit that I’m kind of a dork at festivals… there is a plethora of beers and I try to seek out new beers. But when I get that first bad beer, I go back to my go-to beers. And on this day, the go-tos were Pliny, Blind Pig and the Kolsch from Iron Springs.

The lines for beer were quite manageable but the food lines were another story. At Beerfest, the food is included in the admission price. So, if you wanted some of the succulent pulled pork, you had a long line.

Thanks to Jay Brooks for the photo.We ran into our friends Jay Brooks from the Brookston Beer Bulletin and Tom Dalldorf from the Celebrator. We also met a few new beer friends including Gail Williams and Steve Shapiro from Beer by BART and JJ who writes the blog The Thirsty Hopster.

You know it’s a small, intimate festival when Dean Biersch is pouring his own Hopmonk Tavern beer. It was my first time trying it and I have to say that the Kellerbier was exceptional.

However, the festival was not without incident. A person dropped a bottle of beer about 15 feet from me and I was actually wounded by a flying shard of glass.

In a year where we are going to the largest and most famous beer festivals in the world, we will look fondly back on this hot June day in Santa Rosa at Beerfest. In a era where festivals often pose a challenge to be overcome, long lines, noisy, & crowded spaces, it’s nice to go to a festival and relax while drinking beer with friends.