Friday, August 31, 2007

18th Annual Sierra Brewfest

Grass Valley, CA 25 August 2007
Written by Mike Sober

“That’s a very good question” was Celebrator Beer News magazine Editor/Publisher Tom Dalldorf’s response to my inquiry as to why his group of brewers/beer people, The Rolling Boil Blues Band, was not the featured entertainment at this year’s Sierra Brewfest. Instead music for the 18th version of this gem of a beer happening was provided by Cold Shot, as part of the Music in the Mountains benefit event.

The Sierra Brewfest is held on the Nevada County Fair grounds amongst the giant pines in picturesque Grass Valley, California. This season 36 breweries accepted the invitation to set up shop in, what over the years I have come to refer to as, Beer Meadow. There were a number of the solid industry standouts in attendance including, host brewer, Sierra Nevada, Alaskan, New Belgium, Sam Adams, Anchor, Full Sail, Lagunitas, Pyramid and Widmer Brothers.

The Nor-Cal region was represented by Hoppy, Sacramento, Anderson Valley, Sudwerks, Blue Frog, Butte Creek, Firestone Walker, Lost Coast, Mad River, Black Diamond and very noteworthy newcomers Fifty Fifty out of Truckee and Auburn Alehouse which just opened it’s doors in June in the old Shanghai building in Old Town Auburn to rave reviews. The San Diego region sent Ballast Point, Back Street and Stone Brewing.

The three and a half hour length of the event seemed a tad on the short side, but with a number of breweries bringing limited amounts of beer, or simply pouring from a few cases of bottles, beer supplies were running short well before the 6:30pm deadline.

There were a few brews that stood out. Lagunitas brought their ‘Imperial Red’ and the new Frank Zappa tribute ale, Kill Ugly Radio. Sierra Nevada broke out a case or two of Bigfoot barley wine half way through, just about the time they were running out of their Anniversary Ale. Back Street Brewing was also a hit, with their single IPA being nearly as hoppy as their double. Auburn Ale House was the last brewer standing, pouring their Pilsner and IPA to a happy crowd of repeat customers. According to the nice pink brewers information handout there were 15 wheat beers, 8 Pilsners, 12 Reds and Ambers, 15 IPA’s and 17 Golden or Pale Ales.

All in all, it was a nice, festive occasion. It clearly wasn't the most remarkable or diverse beer festival I’ve ever visited, but well attended, seamlessly organized and a nice event to test out a lot of the typical craft brews that are available all across the California landscape.