Jim Bonomo, a Portland area beer activist went to Boonville last weekend. After reading this, you will start making arrangements to attend next year.
Departed 4:00 am from Portland in a rental Camry
Stopped in Ashland, OR around 8:30 to visit Caldera Brewing and rendevouz with the Oakshire Brewing crew, who we were rolling in with for the VIP camping access. The brewery was quite the intimate operation, but their canning line and general space made my old canning brewery-standard New England Brewing Company look like a closet.
Land is cheap in Ashland, I guess. Met with Adam the brewer (formerly of Standing Stone) who gave us glasses and showed us to the taps. I went straight for the Rauch Ur-Bock, which is their best beer by far and perfect for breakfast. Closest to Schlenkerla I've had. Went through splashes of Southside Strong and Dry Hop Orange as well- both brough their date D to the party, but were quaffable nonetheless. Someone from Oakshire puked next to our rental, but I'm not pointing any fingers.
Puked out, we gassed up and hit the road.
Stopped in Redding, CA for In-n-Out since we're typical tourist types from Oregon. 2x4 with whole grilled onions, chilies on the side, well-done fries & Neapolitan shake. Perfect ass fuel for the remaining 4 hour drive. Hit Bevmo! next door, but it was a joke at best.. wasn't really in the mood for Lost Abbey or Cave Creek Chili Beer (just about the only things there I can't get in OR.. no Ballast Point??)
Hit Boonville around 4pm and checked in to the brewery. After some ticket misunderstandings, we met up with the guys from Ninkasi who were saving us a campsite. We set up tents, and created our little kitchen/taproom under a big tent. Around 4:30 we were drinking Oakshire Missing Link IPA under the trees with clouds of herb surrounding us. It was a beautiful day and once the glasses were empty, we decided to walk from campsite to campsite sampling different beers. Here were some highlights:
Mike McDole/Russian River collab Janet's Brown: sort of an imperial brown ale all hopped up like DFH IBA used to be. really excellent
Totally Awesome Pale Ale (?) from Pizza Port SB: perfect warm weather beer. light and leafy. many glasses of this were consumed from a jockey box pretty much right next to our tent
Redwood Curtain Brewing, everything: this new brewery from Arcata knocked every beer they served out of the park.. they had a maibock, dubbel, double ipa, and belgian porter that were all essentially flawless. Which is surprising as all the brewers seemed totally out of it.. then again, so was I. Anyway, this brewery should be on all CA peoples' radar.
Uncommon Brewing's American Special Bitter: this was a 15% strong ale with an insanely deceptive name. it had some great flavor, slightly sweet and boozy but in a satisfying, brown sugary dessert way. they claim they will be canning this in 8oz stubbies, which would be classic.
City Beer Anniversary IPA from Speakeasy: big citrus with balanced malt presence. another poundable under the sun
RR Erudition: always skipped this at the pub, but hearing some recommendations i sought it out. was glad i did. had body and flavor for a light beer, which was necessary around the time i had it
Probably the best sip of anything I had that night was some cask strength Heaven Hill bourbon that Mad River brewing filtered and bottled out of a barrel they acquired to age John Barleycorn's. I will remember that flavor for quite some time and definitely will compare future bourbons to it.
When the sun went down, we made it back to camp to chill around the fire and crack open some bottles. The generous beer sharers of Boonville pretty much ensured that everyone went to bed with a very nice one tied on, floating on a cloud. Strangely enough, I didn't see many campers who had exceeded their limits, and people actually treated the port-o-potties with respect. I guess people were gearing up for the big day ahead.. I was considering sleep when the band (Humboldt Firkin Tappers, a kick ass brass band) kicked in to full gear. Went over to watch them for a bit then made it back to my tent.
Woke up around 9am to Matt from Oakshire cooking breakfast burritos with some steak he had seasoned with the help of homebrew chef Sean Paxton. These definitely did not suck. Enjoyed a tall boy of Ft George Vortex IPA with my burrito and then got ready for the fest, which we had to head over to around 11 for set-up and pre-public arrival tasting. Hit the AVBC tasting room to take a shit in a flushing toilet, which surprisingly not many people had though of. Looked at the board, and was intrigued by a brandy-barrel barleywine. They were out, no problem. Hung outside the tasting room for another 10 minutes to scalp my extra ticket, which was also not a problem.
The fest was at the Boonville fairgrounds, about a mile walk from the brewery. On the way, we found a taco shack which seemed like a must-stop. Carnitas tacos rated about a B+ for me, since mine lacked gristle and the chipotle hot sauce was pretty awesome. Made it to the fest around 11:45 after a leisurely walk with picture-taking, etc. on the way.
The fest itself was pretty great. Similar setup to the east coast Belgium Comes to Cooperstown fest- 4 hours of all you can drink.. each brewery brough anywhere from 3 (Russian River, what up?!) to 10 beers. I got my 30 mins of pouring out of the way early (people were loving the Mountain Rose Gruit from Oakshire- I had many repeat customers!) and commenced the drinking. Some highlights for me were:
Lagunitas Waldo: their new 4:20-themed DIPA. This reminded me of classic hop stoopid. Hopefully they bottle this and don't screw it up like they did with the airplane glue-tinged HS.
Ballast Point Victory at Sea on nitro: Delicious dessert beer
Moonlight / everything: Thank god i got to drink some fresh Moonlight to remind me how good it is.
Cal Poly Brew Crew / most everything: I had never heard of this club, but they made some ridiculous beers. Not sure if this is a fermentation science program, homebrew club, or what. The shit was good though. Bitter and barleywine were outstanding examples in the english/west coast hybrid style.
Hitched a ride back with the Oakshire guys in their van, and made the best of my last evening at the campground. Realized I had mustard all over me as the result of drunk pretzel consumption. Hungry still, I ate a shitload of BBQ after scoring a ticket to the brewers' dinner, and pretty much just went back to the campsites where I had made a friend or tried some good beers the day before. Spent some time shooting the shit with the cats from Belmont Station. Terry ended up at Paxton's campsite eating some kriek sausages or some such nonsense while drinking blind pig, and it started to rain. This was around 9 and the rain didn't seem to be getting any better. Around that time I figured I'd take a nap and see if the rain would subside a bit. It never did, and I never woke up from my nap.
The next morning, we packed up all our wet shit and headed directly to Sierra Nevada. Had a delicious lunch and sampled as many of their one-offs as we could. One of the dudes was visibly ill, didn't eat his salad, and stunk up the fucking car with gorgonzola cheese and smelly ranch the whole way home. Nothing worthwhile in the gift shop, so off we went. Hit a snowstorm in southern Oregon. On May 15. WTF. Made it home by 9pm, already talking about next year.
I took A LOT of pictures, and you can selectively peruse them here: