AUG/SEP 2006 | REGIONAL | WEST
San Mateo Rocks! First Bay Area Brew Festival
By Mike Pitsker with Lisa Pitsker
Saturdays in summer are for mowing the lawn, watching baseball
and, most important, drinking craft beer. So, when my friend,
Farmhouse Brewing sales maven Jeff Moses, told me he was coordinating
a new beer festival on the Bay Area Peninsula in San Mateo,
I knew that for at least one June Saturday I would be off
mowing duty for the day.
We arrived early, as usual. One of the primary sponsors,
San Francisco rock radio station 107.7, “The Bone,”
had a stage set up for the local bands performing throughout
the day. Breweries and distributors were setting up around
the periphery of the meadow. Jeff shot from place to place,
setting up, guiding vendors, unloading cases and kegs. A few
county fair–style food trailers prepared their barbecues
and grills while the band began a sound check. We dropped
some Celebrator issues on our table and strolled the grounds.
My first beer had to be Jeff’s Farmhouse Oasthouse IPA.
It was a great start to the day.
A fairly sizable line formed outside the gates as the last
prep work wound down and volunteers manned booths and began
strapping wristbands on the throng. We greeted folks from
our booth, joined at start-up by old beer buddy and fellow
Celebrator writer Jay Brooks, and handed out the latest issue
of the mag.
Nude Beer boasts topless models on the
bottle labels, tastefully covered with a peel-off logo. That
booth had a line all day.
Once the initial crowd thinned at the gate, Jeff was worried.
A first-time festival is a nerve-wracking juggling act for
a coordinator, keeping costs within reason and praying for
enough customers to at least break even, and the strain showed
on Jeff’s face. The day began a little chilly and overcast
— great beer-drinking weather for the Bay Area, but
a killer for an outdoor festival — and we were all wondering
if the masses would show. An early afternoon burn-off solved
the problem, and a sizable crowd made its appearance before
Music blasted from 20-foot-high speakers, a line formed for
the NASCAR simulator truck, mustard dripped from hot dogs
to chins, and the beer flowed. There were between 40 and 50
breweries represented, many by their distributors, and I’ve
rarely seen so many Belgian imports on one field. Local beers
ran the gamut from Drake’s hoppy IPA from San Leandro
to Speakeasy Prohibition Pale Ale from San Francisco. The
local brewery, Devil’s Canyon of Belmont, served an
IPA and an amber ale. Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing Head Brewer
Chad Brill offered his line of local organic beers.
I spent some of the afternoon assisting J. J. Phair, owner
of E. J. Phair Brewing of Concord. He had his custom-made,
umbrella-covered, molded-plastic beer box tapped with his
delicious IPA and wheat ale.
Jeremy Cowan, owner of He’Brew of San Francisco and
New York, held court at the next table, pouring rare samples
of his 10th anniversary Genesis 10:10. The beer is brewed
with a ton of fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice for a tart,
slightly sweet flavor that barely masks the 10% abv. “The
Bible verse refers to Noah planting a vineyard after the flood
and getting plowed,” said Jeremy.
Some newcomers included Pizza Orgasmica, a local pizza and
beer joint that brews its own at the Devil’s Canyon
facility, and Nude Beer, a bottled product boasting topless
models on the labels tastefully covered with a peel-off logo.
That booth had a line all day long.
Lisa sipped cider and manned the Celebrator table as the
music played and the day wound down. The fest site emptied
in an orderly fashion at closing while brewers broke down
and vendors cleaned up. Jeff, no longer nervous, finally had
time for a brew and a tired smile.
See you next year, Jeff, and hold a place for us at the Monterey
Brew Fest on September 9.
Mike Pitsker is an associate editor of the
Celebrator Beer News and a longtime beer-industry