Serious Bahl Hornin’at the Anderson Valley Beer Festival

-Bahl hornin’- Boonville Boontling term for good drinking   

Maybe it was because we took a year off, or that it wasn’t a hellish 90 degrees like it typically is in Anderson Valley, but this year was one of the best times we’ve had at the Boonville Beer Festival.  This was my 4th time going to the Festival, and every year we go is better than the last.  This Festival has it all; fairground camping, beer and hundreds of drunken Northern California forest people.  Now that’s what I call a beer festival!

The town of Boonville is located in Anderson Valley, deep in the Mendocino County forest.  Boonville has a population of about twenty people (well, not that small but you get my point).  During the last week of April this tiny Northern California town draws in hundreds of drunken, beer-loving campers.  This event is unique because camping is essentially mandatory.  There’s not a hotel for miles and everyone camps together at the Mendocino County fairground.  Camping begins Wednesday and the beer festivities begin Saturday.  I find that the camping is the best part of the festival.  Picture the party atmosphere of Burning Man but replace the desert EDM hippies with Northern California forest hippies, Conservatives, Liberals, dirt bikers, loggers, ranchers and a handful of people from Reno.  I’m always impressed with the vast array of people that go to this event.  And I go to Burning Man people!  The potpourri of personality types makes for great conversations around the campfire at 2 am.  The key is to pace yourself so that you are able to enjoy the Beer Festival on Saturday.  My husband has an excellent track record of going completely nuts on Friday night resulting in a massive hangover on Saturday.  Ouch.

It’s a long 5-hour drive from Reno to Boonville, and the drive goes through the California Wine Country (yea boi)!  Anderson Valley was put on the map in the 1950’s for producing high-quality hops, apples and timber and is now regarded as a top wine growing/producing region.  The Valley was recognized by the AVA in 1984 and is known for growing superior Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel grapes.  It seems like more vines are being planted and wineries pop up every time we visit.  Several high-end wineries are in the Valley including  Francis Ford Coppola, Navarro and Jordan Winery.

Chances are that you’ve heard of Anderson Valley Brewing Company.  The Brewery is located in the heart of Boonville, minutes away from the fairground where we camp.   It’s a highlight of the Festival and a super fun stop Friday night.  And I don’t even like beer.  It blows my mind that the Brewery was founded in 1987.  Who would ever build a brewery in a small-ass town like Boonville in the 80’s?  This crazy idea proved to be solid gold and Anderson Valley Brewery is now a top beer producer averaging an output of 45,000 barrels per year.  Their taproom offers 20 beers on tap including limited-time seasonal varieties.  I tried their chai solstice brew and salted caramel porter and both were fantastic.

Boonville is typically hot as hell in April.  You can only imagine what it’s like there in the dead of summer.  A couple of years ago the temperature reached 90 degrees with 90% humidity.  This was in April people!  This year it was a much better experience with the temperature in the 60’s.   There were over 80 breweries at the event including Ballast Point, Bear Republic, Anderson Valley Brewing, Deschutes Brewing, Lost Coast and Sierra Nevada Brewing among many others.  My favorites this year include a bourbon barrel spiced ale from Anderson Valley Brewing and a chocolate coffee porter from a forgotten brewery due to being 4 beers deep when I tried it.  The festival lasts 4 hours….a true beer marathon.  Food trucks and other vendors are around to help you pace yourself.  Tickets to the festival cost $45 which is a steal for 4 hours of unlimited beer drinking.

The Boonville Beer Festival gets better year after year.  The camping and beer are great but it’s the people you camp with that make it a blast.  See ya next year Boonville!