Despite the rain, the beer fest went on as planned, only nearly everything was moved into a big warehouse. The outhouses, food, and band were outside (under tents), so you'd still have to get a little wet if you wanted to pee, eat, or rock. Even though the rainy weather put a stop to everything, I still think that I would have had a better time if it were sunny. It's not so much that I mind getting a little wet, but inside it was very loud and difficult to hear anybody. (Like the brewers who were there presenting their beer.) Outside, the band was really loud. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but my wife and I had our baby with us, so that made things difficult. I imagine that if it were outside, we could have found a place to hang out that was far enough away from the band to enjoy without disturbing the kid.
I still thought that it was worth the price of admission though. It was $35 for admission, a free glass, and unlimited samplers. Those who don't drink (my wife) could get in for a mere $5. Unlike my ill-fated trip to the Lagunitas Brewery, where free samples became the death of me, I went into this beer festival with a game plan. I made sure that I had some food in my belly before I left, and after having several samples, I made sure to put some more in there. (There was a paella stand - tasty stuff.)
Part of my game plan included only trying from breweries that were unfamiliar to me. Why try something that I've had a million times before? This is why I found it curious that so many people were lining up at the Sierra Nevada tent. Have these people never tried a Sierra Nevada before? I went up to see if they were offering some sort of limited edition beer, but all they had were their standard Pale Ale and their seasonal Brown Ale. I grabbed a free coaster and moved along. I guess if I had planned to stay all day (which I might have if the weather was nicer) and try everything, then maybe I would have gone there. (Even spacing it all out, I think you'd wind up in a coma if you tried everything that was there.)
The plan also involved making sure to cleanse the palate between beers, especially if I was going from something with a really assertive flavor to something with a really mellow one. A lot of people don't seem to be aware of this. Even when I'm sharing my homebrews, I'll have people drink a Hefeweizen after an IPA. Doesn't it taste funny to them when they do that? I know it does to me. Maybe I'm weird that I care about the way things taste. Anyway, I obviously wasn't the only person who had that in mind, as there were free pretzels being given away at pretty much every table.
Were there any highlights? Sure, but the only one standing out in my mind the next day is the Siamese Twin from Uncommon Brewers. They're a very small, upcoming brewery from Santa Cruz, and their Siamese Twin is a Belgian Dubbel style ale. While I like the style (even made it one time) it's not always my favorite, and I usually have to be in a certain mood for it. With theirs, I could see myself being in the mood for it pretty often. It was really smooth, but there was a lot going on that you could really savor. Even more impressive was the fact that I noticed this after having sampled several beers already. I should also point out that their Baltic Porter was really nice as well, and that's the one I ended on for the day.
I guess I was most impressed with them because they were really offering something different. For the most part, breweries have a pale ale, an IPA, a Hefeweizen, a porter and/or stout, and perhaps a seasonal beer. This is great, and I like to see that so many Americans are starting to branch out as to what they consider beer to be, but I think it's hard to create a new brewery and do something original - unless you're willing to take a chance and do something that could potentially be unpalatable. From what I saw at the Craft Beer Festival, I think that Uncommon Brewers is the one to watch.