Boonville Beer Festival Tips
Camping Out To Brews To Bands
Beers and cheers come together at the Boonville Beer Festival.
The veterans have their routine crafted as finely as the host Anderson Valley Brewing Company's Poleeko Gold Pale Ale.
They know how to arrive, when to arrive, where to go when the brews start flowing and where to put their heads on a pillow when the last keg runs dry.
The beer is flowing and the people are, too.
Attending the annual Boonville Beer Festival – Saturday, May 4 in 2013, from 1-6 p.m. (taps close at 5) – in the scenic but remote Anderson Valley of California is as simple as showing up and walking through the gate. However, to do it right – maximizing the time at the event, hitting all the desired sample areas, enjoying the company of others at the festival and having a responsible post-event plan – is like a brewmaster developing a new beer.
It can take a few times to get it just right.
Pour it on – thirsty beer drinkers line up at the star of the day.
But it's also not brain surgery. It's all about the fun. And having as much of it as possible at this very fun event. That's why PubClub.com has put together this list of recommendations for getting that full-bodied flavor of enjoyment from the festival. Just call them "Tipsy Tips."
• TIP #1 – AVOID DRIVING AND CONSIDER THE CAMPGROUND
The way to play is to stay in the adjacent campground.
By far, the most important thing is not to drink and drive. That's kind of difficult to do at a beer festvial, especially one located 2+ hours from the Bay Area off a two-lane country highway.
Many of the aforementioned veterans use the event's remote location as a benefit, not a hinderance. They simply make a weekend of it by staying at the adjacent campground. This, in fact, has become one of the unique elements about this beer festival over just about any other. The campground has taken on a scene resembling a music festival with campers and RVs. But mostly people arrive by car and pitch a tent.
Tents pop up like mushrooms starting the day before the event.
This is a first-come, first-serve camping area with no advance reservations. Some people begin arriving on Thursday and Friday afternoon to secure their favorite spots. Once in place, they break out the chairs, the coolers and the tunes and have a party. It can get pretty wild here at times; in 2010 someone held his bachelor party in the campground.
The campground is a scene right out of a music festival tailgate party.
Time to move the party from the campground to the fairground.
There are hookups for RVs, Port-o-Lets and a small bathroom with two showers.
Another option is to stay in Ukiah, the closest place with accommodations. There are a few hotels off the 101 and PubClub.com recommends the Super 8. Now before you cringe and say the Super 8!, consider this: It's a new, clean property with free Internet in its roomy rooms and a marketing-savvy manager who is willing to put together package deals that include dinner and R/T transportation. And that transportation is critical, for the road is windy and hilly and takes about 40 minutes to drive.
The Super 8 is also a 15-minute walk (or $6 cab ride) to the Ukiah Brewing Company, a nice restaurant and brewery that makes its own organic beer on the premises and has nightly live entertainment. The Super 8 is located at 693 South Orchard Way. (707) 468-8181. Super 8 website. Cabs from Ukiah normally run $60 each way, but the two drivers in town actually discount it to $50 during the beer festival.
A third option, and a favorite activity of PubClub.com, is to take a party bus from San Francisco, San Jose or another Bay Area location. This takes a group of 25-47 and can become its own party, for on good party buses it's often the journey that makes the adventure. Just click the party bus ads on this page for options and prices.
• TIP #2 – ARRIVE EARLY
The, er, marching band helps pass the time for those waiting in line.
The beer begins pouring at 1 and taps out at 5 (the music continues until 6 p.m.). By about 10 in the morning, Boonville resembles a small college football town on a fall Saturday with people walking around the street (there's only one in Boonville), lines at the couple of breakfast spots and a general feeling that an event is about to happen.
Over in the campground, people are waking up to their liquid breakfasts, turning on the music and gathering their friends with whom they will party with at the festival.
All told, about 7,000 people go to the beer festival and they enter through the main gate. So at about 11:30 they start lining up along the street. By 12:30, the line is the equivalent of several blocks long. While it moves fairly quickly, being at the back of the line cuts into the beer time once the festival begins.
If possible, get your ticket in advance ($40, instead of $50 at the door) and pick it up the previous day at the tasting room of Anderson Valley Brewing. While there, stay there for a couple of fresh-brewed brews or even some disc golf.
• TIP #3 – HEAD TO THE RIGHT AT THE BEGINNING
For the first two hours, this is the festival's prime party place.
The festival is in two areas, a spot shaded by trees to the right and an open grass area to the left. Most of the taps from the 85 microbreweries are on the right side and it's where most of the people spend the start. Once they get a couple of "first brews" in the system, then someone starts one of those "roaring cheers" toasts.
This smile-inducing beginning sets the tone for the rest of the day.
• TIP #4 – SPEND THE AFTERNOON ON THE GRASS
After the initial rush of getting the beers, people soak up the sun here.
By the afternoon, the large open grass area becomes the hangout.
Once the foam settles from the early frenzy across the way, head to the open-air field. There's plenty of room to spread out and hang out. And there are more beer tents! At about 3, a band plays on a small stage.
• TIP #5 – TAKE YOUR PHOTO BY THE BEER
The prime photo op is by the Anderson Valley Brewing's mascot.
This is what you get when you cross a bear with a deer.
What do you get when you cross a bear with a deer? A beer! It's the "mascot" of host Anderson Brewing and its statue is by a beer station located between the right and left areas. It's the most popular photo spot on the grounds.
Anderson Valley Brewing beers are poured in this area, as well, another reason it's a popular spot.
• TIP #6 – STOP AND ENJOY THE MUSIC
The sawdust-covered dance floor comes to life when bands play.
There's non-stop music at the Boonville Beer Festival. And sometimes you don't even have to move to enjoy it, for it comes to you.
There is a small stage with good live bands playing all day inside a building that has sawdust as a dance floor. Hey, it's a county fairground! There's the band in the grassy area and a single musician playing by the row of food booths. Some other festival-goers may bring in instruments, as well. Remember, the more beer you drink, the better they sound!
Individual musicians enhance the scheduled bands.
This person roams around with an alto sax
providing personal entertainment.
And then there is the, er, marching band. This is a collection of about a dozen people who must be reliving their high school days They start before the festival even does, playing to future beer drinkers lined up waiting for the event to begin, then wander among the crowd playing fun tunes throughout the day.
Boonville Brewing Festival [MAP}
The event is held annually the second Saturday of May. The event's official website is from Anderson Valley Brewing.