A First Timer's Perspective At A Beer Festival

You can't say Ben, Samantha & Jacob don't look thrilled to pour beers at our first beer festival. 

You can't say Ben, Samantha & Jacob don't look thrilled to pour beers at our first beer festival. 

From exploring trends to enjoying the classics, craft beer festivals are a great way to sample a broad scope of styles. It's also the place to witness a midday alcohol induced cartwheel competition, and hey, you can't put a price on that. Walk into a beer bar and likely choose from 10-20 different styles. Walk into a beer festival, now pick from sixty (or as many as possible before morphing into the irresponsible person that beats his friend over the head with a shoe). As fans, we've attended our fair share. As a brewery, we've yet to be invited—until recently. 

Two years ago we attended Scott's Valley's annual craft beer festival— Hop N' Barley—but as homebrewers. This year, our invitation read differently. After filing some paperwork, paying our taxes and receiving the much-anticipated head nod from "The Man" in Sacramento, we were eligible for Scott's Valley's brew fest. 

The Hop N' Barley Beer Festival hosted sixty plus craft breweries and ten craft cideries. Rising stars like Alvarado Street shared the stage with well-established pioneers like New Belgium, Ballast Point, and Firestone Walker. The open layout cultivated a free market, giving festival-goers the freedom to roam and sample leisurely. At one tent, participants could sip on a Union Jack by Firestone Walker and then march three paces to savor Alvarado Street's Contains No Juice. IPAs weren't the only style present, but it seemed like the common choice. 

For us, we dished out 30+ gallons of our favorite styles in a five-hour window, half being IPAs: 

  • Cut & Run-West Coast IPA
  • Tiny Umbrella-Tropical IPA
  • Socks N' Sandals-West Coast IPA
  • Amarillo Boy-Single Hop Pale Ale
  • Allie-Blonde Ale
  • Rye Saison-Farmhouse Ale

Peeling back the layers of the festival, we noticed one key point (besides it being a great excuse to drink beers at noon). The Hop N' Barely Festival is an illustration of how the craft beer market is constantly evolving. As an example, let's compare two delicious IPAs poured at the festival: 1) Firestone Walker (1996) Union Jack—rich in amber coloring, caramel maltiness, and classic West Coast bitterness 2) Alvarado Street (2014) Contains No Juice—ripe with juiciness, dank aromas, and a hazy-like appearance resembling a pint of OJ. Both are delicious IPAs; one helped create the IPA thirst while the other is helping to evolve it. Beer festivals, if nothing else, are a great way to compare the classics that have withstood the test of time to new unconventional styles.   

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