West Coast

Serious Bahl Hornin’ at the Anderson Valley Boonville Beer Festival

-Bahl hornin’- Boonville Boontling term for good drinking   

Maybe it was because we took a year off from this festival last year, 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, and every year it keeps getting better and better.  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 to stay there.  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 don’t think I’ve ever been to an event with such an array of different people.  And I go to Burning Man people!  The potpourri of personality types make 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 by the time Saturday hits.  My husband has an excellent track record of going completely nuts Friday night, resulting in not being able to partake in the beer at the Festival on Saturday.

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 back in the 1950’s for producing high quality hops, apples and timber and is now being regarded as top wine growing/producing region.  The Valley was recognized by the AVA in 1984 and is known for growing superior Cabernet Sauvignon and old vine Zinfandel grapes.  It seems like more vines are being planted and wineries pop up every time we visit.  Anderson Valley is becoming a popular wine tasting destination with highly-regarded wineries like Francis Ford Coppola and Jordan Winery and Vineyard being located here.

Chances are that you’ve heard of Anderson Valley Brewing Company.  This brewery is located in the heart of Boonville, minutes away from the fairground where we camp.  This Brewery is a highlight of the beer festival.  This place is a super fun stop the night before the Beer Festival with ridiculously good beer.  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 is now a top beer producer averaging an output of 45,000 barrels per year.  The taproom has about 20 beers on tap including limited-time seasonal varieties.  I tried their chai solstice brew and salted caramel porter.  Both were fantastic.

Boonville is typically hot as hell this time of year, and complete misery in the summer.  A couple of years ago the temperature reached 90 degrees with 90% humidity.  This was in April!  This year was a much better experience with the temperatures being in the 60’s.  This Festival this year had over 80 breweries including Ballast Point, Bear Republic, Anderson Valley Brewing, Deschutes Brewing, Lost Coast and Sierra Nevada Brewing among many others.  What I like about this Beer Festival is that there are all kinds of beer offered, so if you are beer picky like me you’ll always find what you’re looking for.  My favorites this year was a bourbon barrel spiced ale from Anderson Valley Brewing and a chocolate coffee porter from a forgotten brewery due to being 4 beers deep at the time 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 keeps getting better and better.  The camping and beer are great but it’s the people you camp with that make it a blast.  See ya next year Boonville!