HTT: How To Brew Fest

I got the chance to go to my first beer festival this weekend.

That . . . was fun.

Maybe even too much fun.

Two days later and I still have bit of a buzz. Although it could just be my circadian rhythm adjusting to the time change.

Yeah . . . let's blame that.

And actually in hindsight, it wasn't my first beer festival. I used to date tour guide at the Budweiser Plant in Fairfield and they had a microbrew day, but I don't remember much more than getting to meet the clydesdales and tasting my first scotch ale. I weighed about 115 pounds back then and one bottle of that stuff could lead me to waking up on a stranger's kitchen floor.

There are perks to getting older.

I have my own kitchen floor and a wife who is nice enough to drape my lifeless body with a blanket from the couch.

Anyway . . . if you ever get the chance to go to a beer festival, even if you're a wine snob or a recovering alcoholic in remission, you should absolutely go to one.

But there are Rules.

And Guidlines.

And Best Practices.

Probably even a few Pro-Tips.

First and foremost, if you are planning on attending the Sacramento Beer Festival, go to the L Street entrance and not the one on N Street.

We parked on N St. figuring we could waltz right in and was confronted with a line of people nearly a mile long that covered three city blocks. Not knowing that there was another entrance, we almost made the mistake of skipping the day all together and returning home with nothing in our bellies but sadness.

But, as luck would have it, we ran into a girl who was on her phone and she casually mentioned that her friend was on the other side of Capitol Mall and that the line was much much much much shorter.

And it was.


It was still a half hour wait, but I've spent longer queuing up for Mr Toad's Wild Ride, and we played a game called "Guess Which VH1 Hit the Band is Going to Play Next."

Brian Adams, Eddie Money, Journey, Rush, Def Leopard, Queen.

It was like being an awkward 10th grader again.

Anyway, at the end of the line, you're handing a brochure listing all the breweries, and a 4oz plastic cup. Up, Up and Away.

Now at first one might be daunted by the sheer amount of choices, but it's best not to panic and just find the smallest few lines you can find.

10 minutes in and 12oz of beer later, we were ready to start enjoying ourselves.

If you're a purist, you're going to immediately want ignore all the recognizable labels and find some brands that you can't get at Safeway, but this would be a mistake. The major labels aren't going to be pouring the boring stuff, their gonna wanna show off, and because there are a lot of snobs in this world, the lines are shorter and the choices more infinite.

Speaking of snobs, beer people are better than wine people.

They just are.

They're not as well dressed, but they are just so damn happy. Of course there are a lot if interesting facial hair choices, a lot of crooked teeth, but there is a sincere love of craft and not a single vapid bachelorette party.

Okay, now that you've got your toast on, it's time to go exploring.

Each kiosk has two to four beers on tap, you get one per visit, with unlimited return visits.

Look for styles you've never even heard of before.

I got to meet a Dark IPA for the first time. (Lovely). A super hopped lager (Think Coors made by Sierra Nevada, also lovely). Some reds, some browns, some porters, some stouts, mostly very very lovely. And since we had been discussing the new style of Sour Beers, I had to try one of those too.

That was gross.

A sour beer should not be a thing.

My buddy described it as being like a beer with a dissolved SweetTart in it.

To me it was like chewing on an aspirin.

I also did not find the Honeyed Beers to be palatable at all. A few years back, honey was all the rage in espresso drink crafting . . . which I also found to be gross.

 The Dark IPA was clearly my own uniformed winner. Fruity on the nose, tangy hops on the tongue, creamy, buttery, malty finish, with a clean after taste.


Damn yum.

Okay, now that you're warm and full of happiness, it's time to slow down a bit and be choosy.

Go for a little walk.

The weather is perfect.

We found a brewer on the far edge of the mall with this really big line and it looked like they were pouring beer out of champaign bottles.

Long line, had to be good right? But as we were standing there we overheard the conversation of all the people in line around us and they all had the same idea. No one knew what they were waiting for, but it had to be good because look at the line. Right?

Yes . . . and no. See, 4oz doesn't last that long and we gave it a bout five minutes before deciding that our plastic cups were way too empty and skipped over to something else.

Later in the day we did go back . . . and yes . . . the beer was good . . . but a little too carbonated for my taste (hence the champaign bottles).

There is a rule in restaurants that you always want to go to the place that looks busy because the locals know what they are doing, but if everyone knows that rule, then you're back to square one with an empty plastic cup.

At some point, we thought it might be fun to join the cigar smokers, but the line for that wasn't going anywhere and after thirty seconds we realized there wasn't any beer at the end of it and we moved on.

Had we had more time, we may have gone back to retry a few of our favorites, but we're explorers not librarians, and the evening was at a close by the time we had covered about 25% of which was on tap.

Still though . . . that was a whole lot of beer.

We exited the way we came, grateful for the long walk, and made it home safely.

Okay . . . so to recap . . . If you do go to a Brew Fest . . . eat a big brunch . . . go early . . . find the second entrance . . . don't be snobby . . . if your buddy tells you beforehand that something is disgusting, but you still have to try it, you won't hurt his feelings, because telling you he told you so is a basic part of male bonding . . . take note of some of your favorites . . . or take pictures . . . only wait in the long line if you hear people raving about it . . . the beer, not the line . . . drink responsibly . . . drive safe.

Double up on those last bits.

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