Everyone has a story. Whether we care to listen is another matter. After volunteering and attending a slew of beer festivals in 2010, I have come to some conclusions. I love beer. I mean, no, really, I really love beer. And while that may have been the original reason for attending these sometimes-raucous events — to have some fodder for this blog – what I have gotten out of these experiences is much more than imbibing liquid gold.
Sure, I can write blog after blog about each brewfest I attend, but after some time, the scene replays itself – the industry folk who love their craft and the beer drinkers who appreciate the complexities of an IPA or who just like a damn good buzz. Since I primarily have concentrated myself in the Northeast and Canada, I realize that I am limited to repeating many a beloved brew. Such is the tale of the Hoppy Nomad on a budget. For now, I am only able to travel as far as a gas tank will take me. Going local is not only a trend, it’s a necessity these days, so why not enjoy the same brands, and get to know some people a little better? How do I make each experience a new one in the same environment?
Officially a local yokel, I am starting to become recognized in regional beer circles by brewers, event planners and samplers alike. I have befriended people like Seth, the down-to-earth brew master at Rooster Fish, to Tim, Empire’s creator of all things hoppy-licious and who could easily fall back on a second job as temporary tattoo dude. Then there’s Frank from Middle Ages, who always pours the growlers with a smile and even lets me get behind the taps once in awhile. I’ve rubbed elbows with the Hop King of Madison County himself. I’ve been creeped out by an enthusiastic stranger who recalled which beer I poured for him at Dogfish Head at a previous festival some months back.
Sometimes, the breaks between the drinking and pouring (ok, well maybe just the pouring) provide wonderful opportunities to meet some interesting folk. Take for instance the affable distributor, who shared with me stories of his children in college, and how at 50 he had switched careers and felt like he was beginning his life and loving it. Then there is the kind gentleman in the wheelchair, a doctor from Manhattan who splits his time there and Upstate to be with his girlfriend. He had an accident in his youth, which paralyzed him; he dedicates himself to spinal cord research. It is through the conviviality and shared love of beer that I truly appreciate these snapshots of life.
Beer festivals most certainly attract a wide array of people, from the 21 year old college student who wants to drink it all in under an hour, to my 70-something doctor who walks about from table to table, sits back, enjoys the beer and the scenery. While I will never tire of working or attending brewfests, I have taken a step back myself, looked at them from a different perspective and completely appreciated not only the beer, but the stories. Cheers.