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2015 Boonville Beer Festival

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You don’t just come to Boonville for the Boonville Beer Festival, well you can, but you would be missing out on the whole Boonville experience. 

So instead of the normal reviews on the best beers, good eats and great music I will take you through the normal ticket-goer experience and what to expect if you were to make your way to my favorite beer festival.  Add this festival to your bucket list, you will not be disappointed. Best part, $40 for general admission to the festival on Saturday, $15 per night per person to camp next door to the event.  So for a grand total of $70 you can have one hell of a time.  The most expensive part would be food and gas.

Day 1 – Friday 

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If you are a SoCal resident you will want to wake up extra early to embark on the eight and a half hour journey to beat the early Friday morning commuters and the traffic they bring with.  Make it to the 5 and its home free.  Yes the long monotonous 5 freeway.  A good halfway point pit stop would be the famous Pea Soup Andersons restaurant.  I have driven by many times, but knowing we are headed to Anderson Valley’s Boonville Bear Festival, I feel it necessary to have lunch at a place that shares the name.  The pea soup will not disappoint. 

Make it to the 128, you will find yourself forty five minutes away from your destination.  If you think it will be easy street after the seven hours you’ve already been driving, think again.  The 128 is a highway that takes you through twists and turns bringing you up to 50 mph just to take you right back down to 20 mph.  Though it may be rough for the one who get car sick, the drive is actually quite beautiful.  You will go through a lush green canopy of oak and pine that almost make you forget the drought crisis here in California. 

Finally the dark green canopy begins to open up and you find yourself in the valley, on one side, thick pine forest, the other, rolling hills of tall grass spotted with large oak trees.  The first sign of downtown is the first stop, Anderson Valley Brewing Company (AVBC).  The best way to describe their grounds is from the AVBC’s own website, “In addition to the brewery grounds, which include picnic groves, horse pastures, and our famous disc golf course, the Tap Room is where Anderson Valley residents and friends of the brewery come to meet.  It is surprising to find an international hub in a town of 1,370 people but that’s Anderson Valley. We see folks from all over the world enjoying the wineries, the scenery, and our world-class beers.  The Tap Room has beers you won’t find outside of the brewery and, if you listen closely, you just might hear some locals harpin’ Boontling.”  (www.AVBC.com)

Ah Boontling, it is a local language that was literally (well orally, but you get it) created in this very valley years ago.  The language has been passed down generation to generation, even taught in schools at its peak.  Check out AVBC’s website for a quick glossary of words used in this language. 

After trying some fine beers, make the short trek to the Mendocino Fairgrounds less than a mile away.  This will be your home for the next couple of days.  Pay the men guarding the gate for the two night stay and in return they give wrist bands to allow you ingress/egress at any time.  Then picture the 1992 film “Far and Away” starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, towards the end of the movie when they are a part of the Oklahoma Land Rush.  It feels that same way, there are no designated campsites, benches or fire rings.  All you see is open land of poorly mowed field for the taking.  Like the movie, search for your piece of land and stake a claim to where you and your buddies will be camping for the next two nights.  Some even get there Thursday nights to get the good spots and to join in on the fun early.  Once you finish setting up camp, walk around, say hi to your neighbors and join in on the many games people have brought, corn hole, ladder ball, etc. The best part of the camping experience here is how positive and welcoming everyone is.  You can spend the rest of the night walking the fairgrounds and making new friends; just don’t forget your beer.  There is even Club Boon, which has dj equipment where the party and dancing commences.

Day 2 – Saturday

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Hopefully you didn’t pull the rookie mistake and overdo Friday night, I’ve seen plenty of people walk into the beer event then just park themselves in the open grass and sleep through the whole thing.  Here is what you do, wake up, make a big breakfast, and of course have a little hair of the dog, mingle with new friends and get prepared for the big event, Boonville Beer Festival.

Make it through the entryway, get your tasting glass and start trying samples of the seventy plus breweries that have their own creative twists to the ales, lagers, stouts and so on we cherish.  Most of the breweries at this event are Northern Californian, but there are still many favorites to be had from Southern California.  The beer of the day for me would be Dust Bowl Brewing Company’s Hops of Wrath IPA, out of Turlock, CA.  This IPA is so mellow and easy to drink that you can almost call it a session IPA, if of course it’s a short session because of the 6.6% ABV.  The citrus and floral aroma is there, but you aren’t hit with the overly bitter, pallet destroying flavor of most IPAs, this one was a great find.  It stayed light on the tongue with just enough malty finish to balance it out.  Much to my dismay this beer went quick, when I came back to have more, it had already been replaced.

While our taste buds were taken care of with the great food and beer of the festival our ears were being serenaded with the great live music of the Rolling Boil Blues Band, Steven Bates Trio, Hidden in the Sun and The Misty Mountain Hops.  And a treat you don’t get anywhere else, but Boonville is the local marching band filled with different generations of musicians, marching through the crowd playing the cheery classic sounds of Oktoberfest and the like.  If you know where to look and can pay attention to your surroundings a treat is there for the seeing, more elusive than big foot himself, is the BEER.  This special creature is part bear and part deer.  I was lucky enough to snap a picture of this deceptive creature in his most native stance.

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For the shopper, many vendors selling their custom made products that have a unique flavor, from bottle openers, to hats, glassware and so on.  The food vendors were great too.  There was a family selling their wild game meats, boar, pheasant and others you can’t find at the local grocery store. 

If you thought that camping, seventy plus breweries in a town with a population less than two thousand was enough to entice you to come, they also take it to the next level and include a theme every year.  This year was super heroes.  Of the many super mans and ninja turtles you see, there were always a few gems that show the creative side to beer enthusiasts out there.  Like Wonder Woman, no not that Wonder Woman, but a woman dressed up in a Wonder Bread costume.  Find the theme on AVBC’s website for next year and show off your imagination.

When the event is over the best part is being able to walk/stumble right over to the campsite BBQ some dinner and continue the fun.  Discussing the beers everyone has tried, their favorites, their worsts, play more camp style games and of course visit Club Boon. 

Day 3 – Sunday

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For most, it’s a hard morning, not only because of the two nights of staying up late and drinking, but having to pack up camp and say good bye to this Oasis of the Northern California. For those who don’t have a long drive ahead of them, stay a bit, passing the pigskin or tossing the Frisbee and watch as their newly acquainted friends leave, only to be reacquainted next year.

If you haven’t tried AVBC’s brews I suggest you do.  Their Boont Amber Ale, Hop Ottin IPA and Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout are my favorites of their flagships, but their seasonal Spring Hornin’ IPA is a great refreshing IPA that leaves you wanting more Anderson Valley Brewing Company is a great brewery, filled with great people, in a great town.  With its unique landscapes, people and language, they welcome us outsiders to their town with open arms.  We must pay our respects to this place and try to keep it as pristine as it was when we first arrived.  All proceeds from the event go to local charities.  Until next time Bahl Hornin’.

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