For the tenth time I was a volunteer at the annual Bidwell Rancho Soroptimist Chico Brewfest this Saturday. I had a great time pouring beer and chatting with people at this fun event. There tend to be two types of beer festivals: those run by breweries or beer geeks that focus on unique breweries and beers, and those run as a fundraiser with the beer quality being a bit of an afterthought. This is one of the latter, but really the best of that type that I know of. It is well run, there’s live music, decent food, and the quantity of breweries somewhat make up for the hit or miss quality. Volunteering for this event is a good gig. You still get to drink, and about half way through the four hour event it slows down a enough that you can wander around a bit and sample some beers.
I poured for Anderson Valley. They brought their Heelch O’ Hops Double IPA, Spring Hornin’ Spring IPA, and the Blood Orange Gose. The Heelch O’ Hops was relatively well balanced with a somewhat sweet toast/biscuit maltiness to balance all those hops. I tried Spring Hornin’ toward the end of the day, so my palate wasn’t to be trusted, but I remember some grassy/floral hops, but very tame for an IPA these days. The Gose was the star and the most entertaining to pour. People tend to either love or hate sour beers, and this was many attendees first exposure to anything sour (despite the local release of Otra Vez). We tried to warn people that it is a bit tart. It was pretty evenly split between people who were pleasantly surprised and those that wanted to pour the rest of their sample out. Once we ran out of the Gose we had to tell people we only had an IPA or a Double IPA. This brought some groans and complaints that that’s all there was at this brewfest, which wan’t too much of an exaggeration. Every breweries flagship seems to be an IPA, and most breweries only brought a couple of their flagship beers. We may have reached “Peak IPA” and fatigue is setting in among some beer connoisseurs.
Once the initial rush died down we took turns wandering off to try a few beers. Here are my even more questionable than usual Untappd ratings from Saturday:
|Heelch O’ Hops Double IPA
|Spring Hornin’ Spring IPA
|Blood Orange Gose
|Space Dust IPA
|Wolf Pup Session IPA
|312 Urban Wheat Ale
Elysian’s Space Dust IPA was my favorite of the day. It has lots of delicious hop flavor. I’ve heard this one was good, but never tried it before, and it did not disappoint. Kona’s Lemongrass Luau was my biggest surprise of the day. It was very refreshing on a hot day. Very light with lots of lemongrass and ginger, a bit of citrus hops, nice sweet/cracker maltiness, and just a hint of funky/yeast flavor.
If you’re looking to guzzle lagers from giants mugs, Oktoberfest-style, this isn’t the brewfest for you. If you’re looking for pours of Cantillon, Pliny, or Dark Lord…well, you should head South. If you want a relaxed, well run brewfest with a decent range or breweries then the Soroptimist Brewfest is definitely worth checking out. I plan to be there for many years to come.