Saturday, May 12, 2007

Brew Fest at Raley Field

The Scene: Raley Field is a wonderful baseball park just off the river and only minutes from Sacramento's downtown. Strangely, this brew fest was not on the field as many expected, but instead was held on the concorse behind the seats. The good news was it was all under the shade and provided a nice view of the field. The bad news was that it was much more crowded and noisey than it really needed to be.

Lucky for everyone there, the weather was perfect - mid 80's and not a cloud in the big blue sky. Also lucky for those 3000 or so in attendance, the beers rocked.

The Brewers: This is the innagural beer fest created to raise funds for the Northern California Brewers Guild, and is all spearheaded by Glynn Phillips of Sacramento's Rubicon Brewing Co. In all there were more than 30 brewers in attendance from all over the region, including brewers from the Sierra Nevada foothills out to the north coast of the Golden State.

Of course there were the brewers we expect to find at a premier beer festival - Moylan's, Bear Republic, 21st Amendment, Rubicon, Sierra Nevada, Two Rivers Cidery and Beermann's. In addition, there were also several new faces and new beers - Auburn Alehouse, Rafters, Iron Springs, and many more.

The brewers in attendance were all in good spirits, their beers pouring continuously over the course of the four hour celebration. From the feedback I received, it was a day the brewers and volunteers all enjoyed, an event that will likely be a wild success in the years to come.

The Beer: No, I didn't try every beer. However, it was my goal to seek out new beers, those beers I hadn't had the chance to sample previously in my travels and tastings. Here are some noteable new beers worth finding if you're traveling in the region.
  • Auburn Alehouse Gold Digger IPA - This place isn't even open yet, but brewmaster Brian Ford has created a winner in this beer, proudly displaying Magnum, Simcoe, Summit and Chinook hops! Beautiful golden color, intense aroma and a taste that simply kicks ass (how's that for a review?).
    Auburn Alehouse is located in the historic area of Auburn.
  • Rafters - With brewer Dan Duncanson pouring the beers and sharing his passion, I found beers that were clean finishing, full of flavor and downright good. If you're in or around San Rafael, you'll need to check this place out. I am pretty sure I will.
  • Iron Springs Scotch Ale - Wow. Wonderfully peaty, balanced and easy to drink. Pouring a dark shade of brown, this beer hid well the fact it was 8% ABV. This is one of the beers that had people talking. Oh, and their IPA was pretty fantastic too! Big aroma, intense flavor - all done utilizing this small brewery's hop back.
    Located in Fairfax
Of course there were more beers I enjoyed, but these few beers and brewers proved to be the best find of the day for me.

The People: As I normally do, I found my way to the fest with my lovely wife. While there we found many familiar faces, friends you seem to only find at beer events. There were the serious beer enthusiasts throughout the event, surrounded by the revelers out simply to have a good beer or 20. Notable folks were there as well, including beer bloggers, magazine editors and even a rock star who pretends to be the editor of Celebrator.

Conclusion: For it's first year, this was well organized, well attended and just a great time. I suspect this event will grow significantly over the next couple of years and will provide many northern Californians with great beer and fond memories. With this and next week's West Coast Brew Fest (also in Sacramento), May will indeed be a month to celebrate.

- Rick

Post Script
I wanted to put out a big thanks to Chris, The Beer Retard, for hanging out with me while in the area, and his friend Kai. We warmed up nicely the night before the fest at Rubicon, enjoying a few beers and great conversations.

Also, thanks to the brewers who took time to talk in depth about their brews and breweries. As well, J from Brookston Beer Journal was kind enough to say hello as well. I love reading the Brookston journal and found it a pleaure to run into the guy personally. Good time.

Finally, it should be noted I had the opportunity to help pour beers for a while, at the Auburn Alehouse booth. That was a kick-ass time and a great opportunity to meet a lot of beer enthusiasts.