Last weekend Eryn, bill (my dad), and I all made the trek up to Arcata to pour some of our beer at this great event I discovered called the Humboldt Homebrew Festival. I had come across it the year before but not early enough to get any beers together to pour so this year when I saw it come around on the competition schedule we made a point of getting registered and getting some beer together. And now I am so thankful we did.
This was the second annual Humboldt Homebrew Festival and from what I heard it’s growing at an amazing rate. There were two parts to the competition, first a bottle competition that was judged the week prior (by some truly amazing judges from the sounds go it), and the second part a pouring competition that was voted on in a “peoples choice” style. All of the proceeds of the event go to Engineers Without Borders projects in Camoapa, Nicragua.
Headed up we weren’t really sure what to expect from the festival. We had exchanged a number of emails with the organizers who were great but this was our first time pouring for complete strangers and only our third bottle competition we had entered. When we arrived at the community center to drop off our kegs the night before the Festival we found a decent line of other brewers already there and by the time we got our kegs into the cooler it was clear there was a ton of beer to be poured. We then picked out our spot, checked out our amazing posters (thanks Gabe!), and headed out to find some food. A quick aside to the Festival, Arcata is quite the foody town, we found an amazing pizza joint, a crepries, and great sushi. After dinner we headed out to Redwood Curtain for a beer and some music before calling it an evening.
As brewers we were asked to be back at the Festival at about 12:30 to set up before they opened up the doors at 2:00. Seeing how this was our first time using the Jockey Box and setting up a table we arrived a few minutes before 12:30 and eagerly started fitting everything together. With only minor hiccups (Jockey Boxes work better with washers) we were set up and nervously pouring through the first beers on the system. They came out foamy and full of sediment. My nervousness doubled. We tweaked things, no change. After I few minutes I noticed the beer headed out of the kegs was clear in the hoses, after we poured a few more it was coming out clear and as the coils chilled the foam subsided. Nervousness changed to excitement. We finished prepping our spot with ingredient cards for the beers, our posters, magnets and cards. Then the doors opened.
The next few hours flew by. Eryn poured the Sonoma Pale as I poured the Sassy Blonde. Our posters drew people in and our beers turned heads. My dad would fill in and cover the tap as someone would inevitably pull one of us aside asking questions about how much strawberry we used, or how we got that great hoppyness without the bitters on the Pale. We had people lined up waiting to try our beers. Pour after pour we would watch as that first taste passed their lips and there would be that sudden look back at you with an acknowledging look of “wow, this is really good”. As the afternoon went we had repeats coming back to no longer sample but just get more. They started bringing their friends, then telling their friends to come check out our beers.
A few hours into the event they started announcing the winners of the bottle competition. We were elbow deep in pouring beers when we heard Eryn’s name called the first time, then a second, third and fourth. She proceeded to go up to the stage to accept her ribbons for the Hi-Lo (3rd), Eryn’s Punkin Pie (3rd), Sonoma Pale (3rd) and the Ryelistic (2nd). Each time the applause got a little louder as the attendees recognized she was up there again. Then my name got called for a first place ribbon for our Sweet Stout. Shortly after that as I was pouring more Sassy when the announcer began talking about the best of show beer “A sweet stout named Ebony,” Eryn and I’s chins nearly hit the floor as my name was called for Best of Show. The reason we compete is to get honest, unbiased reviews of our beers. Competition is the best way to learn about how you are doing making beer, we never believed we would get so many ribbons let alone Best of Show. It was humbling.
Then the first keg kicked. About half an hour later the second one followed. We were out of beer. Folks were still coming up wanting to try our beers, especially Ebony, which we had not brought, but we had nothing left to offer them. We cleared the jockey box off the table and set out our ribbons and vacated to check out the rest of the festival. A lot of other brewers had started kicking their kegs as well so we mingled, chatted and just hung out. Everyone at the fest was having a great time but no one was overly drunk. It was a great crowd that was there to appreciate the craft all us amateurs brought with us. As the evening wound down the awards for People’s Choice were announced, three IPA’s took the top spots. After that we packed up the rest of our stuff and said our goodbyes to our new friends.
Now, even a week later, I can still feel the rush of sharing our creations with people. There is something about watching people come up for a taste then turn to you excited about what they are trying. I was really disappointed when we kicked our kegs and had nothing left for people. I wanted to keep sharing our beer with them and watching those reactions. I cannot wait until the next time we get to pour at an event. And for those of you that did not go to Humboldt for the festival, either as brewers or just tasters, go next year. It’s a great event, a great cause, and a remarkable time.
Thank you to all of you who put it together, we will see you again next April for the 3rd Annual Humboldt Homebrew Festival!