If there has ever been a defining moment for Long Beach‘s growing importance in the beer world, it was last weekend. And if there is one local beer-maker paving the way for my city’s sudsy future, it is Beachwood Brewing–the 15 month-old brewery housed inside Beachwood BBQ‘s restaurant in the revitalized Downtown.
While Long Beachers drank through nearly 30 kegs of Beachwood’s beers at the sponsored beer gardens at both Funk Fest and Rose Park Bluegrass Festival, the barely-year-old brewery was also winning over new fans up north, at one of the state’s most important end-of-summer beer festivals–the Russian River Beer Revival and BBQ Cookoff in Guerneville.
And by some drunken stroke of luck (or maybe it was just the overbooking and me having previous customer service skills), I was among the selected few who got to go up and pour beers at this epic fest on behalf of Beachwood.Because of my new job, I had a shitload of work to do before we had to leave on Friday morning, so I just stayed up all night writing and posting stories into the site before it was time to load up the kegs and start the caravan (6AM).
Needless to say I slept the entire drive, waking up just in time for some Lagunitas on the way into Guerneville. Lisa and I went “around the world,” which is 16 4oz tasters (one of everything on draft and then two more) of mostly delicious IPAs that I couldn’t tell the difference between. I almost might have walked out of there sober, too, if it were not for the damn barleywine at the end of it all. From now on, I have a new rule that goes against all flavor logic: drink the barleywine first.
We pitched our tents with the other breweries and BBQ grillers behind Stumptown Brewery (which as we all noted in our best Chris Farley voice was, in fact, “down by the river!!”) and even though we had to wake up at 8AM to break it all down, we still decided to drive our sleepy asses back to Santa Rosa to check out Russian River Brewing since some of us (me) had never been. I drank some delicious sours (Toronado 25!), which seemed to cleanse my palette from the very IPA-heavy day.
In the morning, smoke from the nearly done BBQ wafted along the riverside event space and after everyone had set up their jockey boxes, brewers, employees and reps meandered around before the public got let in. It was great getting to know everybody in the morning before we all started drinking too much–it made things a lot easier when it got later in the day and we were all sloshed (which is hard to avoid at a 5 hour-long festival full of amazing Northern California beer).
I’d just like to thank Two Rivers for starting my day off right with their rumored-but-all-I-had-to-do-was-ask pot cider that not only smelled like the dank, but even still had pieces of some floating around in it.
From there, it was all downhill–or I guess uphill since the beers got progressively more awesome. And since I somehow managed to take accurate notes of my drinking whereabouts straight through the bottle share at the end of the night (there was no reception, so I didn’t get to check in on Untappd), I’ll just let my envelope scribble account for what happened next:
In the morning, everyone was beyond hungover on account of the little sleep, 8 hour drive, the beer, beer and more beer. Ian and Lisa made a bee-line for home and left after breakfast, but Aaron and I hung around Sonoma, convinced that we had come too far to let a little poopy feeling send us home before at least getting some growlers filled.
We called Bubba at Bear Republic–who we had nursed through some unintelligible babbling the night before–and next thing we knew, we were getting a personal tour from the overall’d gentleman himself and tasters from the fermenters of all of their GABF beers (yes, the exact batches that are going to GABF). He even popped open some young experiments for us like a Flanders red aging in giant French oak vats and an imperial stout aging in whiskey barrels.
I took notes on the back of a coaster because I couldn’t believe what was happening. It was all very surreal. Some of these beers I had only had once and others were styles I had no idea Bear Republic even made. Plus, Bubba was talking about how Tartare‘s yeast profile is all the result of spontaneous fermentation outside of their Cloverdale brewery and all I could think was, “Is Bear Republic spearheading beer terroir?” At the very least, the whole experience gave me so much more respect for Bear Republic and I feel honored to have been invited into the brewery for such an intimate hangout.
We drove back home, over the Golden Gate, with a good little buzz and a lot of hoppy-beer in the cooler. I know I went up there with a SoCal brewery (which, mark my words, will be winning GABF medals this year), but I totally became a NorCal convert. Nice people, the great outdoors and a little bit of down-home swarthyness that pervades the beer community and makes us palm tree-ers all look like pansies who measure our ingredients and wear boots to brew. Can’t wait to be back!!!