1997 California Small Brewers Festival

[CA Flag]

The weather cooperated this year as the Great California Small Brewers Festival in Mountain View ran all weekend, August 8th and 9th. The site next to the Tied House brewpub proved very convenient. The 18,000 sq. ft. tent featured the 40+ breweries on three sides, facing inward. Food vendors lined an adjacent street and bands played in a separate, nearby tent. Fold-up chairs and tables offered the only seating. The volunteers did a good job pouring the 150 beers and telling a little about each one along with its associated brewery. The one cask-conditioned beer from Jack Russel was a real treat, their smooth and tasty Best Bitter. The hoppy Pale Ale from Elk Grove Brewing was another standout. Overall, the crowd was upbeat and the bands kept things lively. The number of strollers trying to navigate the dense crowds made it seem like a human "breeders cup day" at the racetrack. Thankfully, the few uniforms present acted more like "Pacific Blue" than "COPS in Detroit."

The organizers clearly did something right. There were glass washing stations in each tent corner and kegs of water with hand pumps among the seats. The sawdust ground covering kept the dust down throughout most of the day. The solid 10 ounce "glass" souvenir glass with its four ounce pour line was a nice touch. The $15 admission fee bought the glass and seven sample tokens. Since those wouldn't last long, extras were available for 50 cents each. One area needing attention for next year will be the physical layout. There was not enough space to visit one tasting table and then walk around to the next one. There were to many people in too small a space by mid-afternoon on Saturday. The clearly marked "token sales" table was amongst the entry ticket sales booth and it was absurd to stand in the lengthy line of new arrivals just to buy more tokens. Later, it was discovered that the designated T-shirt sales booth also sold tokens! For some reason, port-a-potties were lined up perpendicular to each other, hindering access and confounding people in their lines.

Following an alluring calls of "free beer" to the Cisco Systems booth revealed this high-tech sponsor was offering two sample tokens in exchange for submitting a résumé or business card. Only in Silicon Valley! Next festival, don't leave home without one. The great beer and good weather made the California Small Brewers Festival worth the journey. Next year let's hope for more space to make this lengthy event truly relaxing and accommodating.

Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - August, 1997

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