Friday, June 06, 2008

The Session #16 - Ach! to beer fests

Before we get started here, a big thanks first and foremost to Geistbear for hosting this month's Session in light of the wildly blossoming writer base that's created a round-up task that's anything but quick (and for a time-lapse history of that bloom, Brookston's been keeping tab). The topic at hand, what with summer's outdoor venues calling from the edge of weather's horizon, is the beer festival, a topic that reflects the evolution of this blogging carnival from its origins as a outlet for collectivized tasting notes, into some more embiggened notions regarding beer's cultural influence, its place in the world. Or at least, this time, its place in the world of jockey-boxes, teensy tasting glasses, overpriced sausages, and blues bands with groan-inducing punny names. So maybe it's only as cerebral as you want it to be.

Considering I haven't got a worldly experience in festing to share, you'd think there wouldn't be much material for me to work from. A few previous drafts of this post, ranging in the ballpark of 1,200 words or so, have been quietly filed away, proving that a true rambleholic like yours truly can spin garbage out of the most meager thread. These were overlong, achingly painful drafts that reminded me what kind of abhorrent writing can spawn from the queasy marriage of a little guilt and a little more bitterness. Perhaps I'll air that dirty laundry on some other slow news day, but today, while the sun is out and I'm wearing my cleanly optimistic underpants, we'll just turn the subject to a quick reflection of the closest event at hand, our quaint, charming, and undeniably local Fairfax Brewfest.

Why so blue?*

Despite what might outwardly appear as an unrestrained obsession with all things beer-related, I'm not hugely hot on the festing thing, and this is actually the sole event in honor of malty comestibles I've managed to attend more than once. And why not? Something tells me that if every small town had an annual festival held in the environs of a historic building with ample patio space, under some of the first sunshine of the early spring, where you could relaxedly catch up with the locals while gawking at the out-of-towners, grilled brat in hand, you might not even need the beer to make it worthwhile. Add a bottomless glass (which regrettably needs to be manually replenished every four ounces or so) to the equation, and it's nearly a sure bet.

Thing is, for all the boy-howdy charm you can rustle up at a festival of this microtude, the stuff that gets poured from all those soda kegs is more often than not identical to a really good local bottle & draught list, but that's not the point (and matters little considering those beers are, for the most part, pretty gosh darned good). Depending on the economic climate, anywhere between 15 and 20 breweries make their appearances with a handful of varieties each, generally within comfortable West Coast standards, mostly local-ish and absent of anything wickedly highbrow. The concept of gourmet grazing was born of foodie thinking, and while there are some snob points to be earned - doing side-by-sides of local IPAs, seeking out that secret hidden gem amidst the field of cloned pale ales - this is not the place to whip out the monocle and moleskin. Events such as the Fairfax Brewfest seem to be from a time before every party needed a theme, some self-validating motif that grants the attendees fair excuse to have a little fun for a change.

Fun, along with good, honest enjoyment of the act of drinking craft beer, seems to be a lesser sibling in the family of beer writing, alongside its more popular, extreme-sports brother, the brainy, Ivy League-bound, tweedy brother, and the exotic international exchange student. Another reason why each small town ought to host a similar event, where by the fourth or so taste of whoozit's pale ale, you notice yourself smiling stupidly despite of yourself, even when your kid's trying to grab your full glass out of your hand?

* Stupid manual exposure settings.

[Help me out here, though. When I dial down the snark-o-matic, is this even worth reading? Would you rather hear some poor schmuck on the soapbox about the pitiful luck a genuine beer enthusiast has at chancing upon anything awe-inspiring in terms of actual, honest to goodness, pure liquid beer at one of these things? No, no. I'm sorry, I digress. Back out into the sun.]

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