Beer Tourism (or Travels With Hops and Barley)

Now and then, you have to get beyond the urban area. Our little hobby of seeking out good beer by BART, Caltrain, busses and ferries is fun, but it can’t touch all the great California beer destinations.

This summer we got out of town to several events, including a mountain blues and brews festival, Bluesapalooza.

Bluesapalooza

Every year in the ski village of Mammoth, California, the local brew pub throws a blues festival and beer tasting party designed to get the all best brewers in the state to come out for a mountain weekend. The public’s invited to come along for the festivities. While Mammoth is a destination that most people can’t get to without a car, one advantage of going a ski resort in the summer is that there are plenty of condos to rent at reasonable rates. We found a place that was within walking distance of the concert and tasting area, so everything was easy.

Sipping Huge Beers at Mammoth

The 50 California breweries present included quite a few we know from Northern California plus some of our favorites from San Diego County such as Green Flash, along with plenty of brewers and offerings we’d never encountered before. Craftsman Brewing Company was a brewery from Pasadena with a strikingly creative approach. They were pouring concoctions such as a flavorful “pre-prohibition” lager and a delicate lavender sour beer. EJ Phair, from near the Concord BART station, offered their new West Coast style IPA. Their standard IPA is a pleasant mild-mannered English-style brew, but we were pleased they’ve jumped into the hoppy end of the pool. The hosts, Mammoth Brewing, offered up a tasty bottle-conditioned strong dark Belgian-style brew with a festival label.

The music was first rate. Friday night’s logistics were a little disappointing, with only the Mammoth brewery’s beers available and with an organizational snafu that forced everyone to stand in one very long beer line. Saturday offered a full festival and concert format, and proved worth the journey.

A bonus for our group was that we all enjoyed tasting Rubicon and Brew It Up, both from Sacramento. This meant that two days later we were able to adjust our itinerary to have lunch at Brew It Up, and to check out their interesting business model: a big brewpub that’s set up for homebrewers to come in and brew/bottle their own beers on site, with support from fellow brewers and the staff.

A little earlier in the summer we planned a week around some Trinity Alps camping, outdoor Shakespeare in Ashland, Oregon and a drive through gorgeous Crater Lake National Park. We planned our route to allow us to try some delicious beers. Our goal was to pace the trip so our tasting stops were not at the beginning of long drives. We were delighted to get to the remarkable Etna Brewery in the remote little town of Etna, California, to Wild River Brewing in Grant’s Pass, Oregon, to Six Rivers (north of Eureka on the coast highway), and finally to good old Bear Republic and nearby Russian River Brewing, whose brews may often be found at some of our Beer By Bart favorites in San Francisco and the East Bay. Spending an evening tasting the latest wares at Russian River Brewing (then staying nearby in the city of Santa Rosa and driving home the next day) is a highly recommended experience for aficionados of great beer.

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