Legendary Boonville Beer Festival

America: A story in three parts
By Chad R. Mitchell

“Well I’m going out west where I belong
Where the days are short and the nights are long

And I’ll walk a little walk I’ll twist a little twist
I’ll shimmy a little shimmy I’ll fly a little fly
Yea we’re out there having fun in the warm California sun”
The Ramones – California Sun

Umm. Yeah... I agree.
Umm. Yeah… I agree.

America. Land of the free, home of the brave, and it’s where we come from. It’s impossible to capture it all without devoting an entire blog, or book, or many books, to its secrets, wonders, and charms. It’s always a strange thing to go home, after traveling for so long, and nothing feels the same, but all feels so very familiar. There is so much that we have done, and so much we would love to share, but I thought I would focus on three different experiences that hopefully capture a slice of this American life…


Part 1: The Legendary Boonville Beer Festival
Disclaimer: I respect the fact that some of our readers are not okay with drinking alcohol. We do consume responsibly and always encourage everyone to enjoy moderately. 

Every year in the town of Boonville, there is a most magnificent festival that transforms this small town with a population of 8,000 into a bustling city of more than 50,000 beer tasters and their designated drivers. Craft brew is still a small percentage (7%!) of the massive beer industry, but for those who desire a better beverage than a fizzy yellow lager there is hope… and the best place to find it may be at the Anderson Valley Beer Fest.

This massive party beer tasting festival is the bahlest (Boontling for Excellent or Great… more on that later…) festival of its kind and one that we have participated in for three years. In fact we planned our arrival in California to coincide with its scheduled dates… and begged our friends to help us plan for the camping and food preparations that would be required. In planning to go I realized we have learned a few things, and thought I would share a few tips on surviving enjoying this festival to the fullest.

5 DOs and DON’Ts of AV Beer Fest

Camping. Those port-o-potties won't be this clean later...
Camping. Those port-o-potties won’t be this clean later…

Do: Camp on-site.
Don’t: Arrive late.
This is a a big one… Camping is $15 per person, per night. I highly advise planning on staying two nights (the Beerfest is only one Saturday afternoon), and to arrive very early the previous day if you hope to have a decent spot. It is held at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds, and basically you will be staying in a field, horse stables, or the main arena of the grounds. They provide bathrooms, but they get completely overwhelmed by the second night… Bring TP, and possibly a portable potty… oh, and ear plugs… Yes. Ear plugs… Some of the revelry goes quite late and you will appreciate the silence when you fall exhausted into bed. Also it can get cold up there… bring a warm sleeping bag or two.

Campsite Set...
Campsite Set…

Do: Make a pretzel necklace
Don’t: Drink all of your calories away
A pretzel necklace is a great way to keep the beer from wreaking havoc on your stomach, and it is a great palette cleanser between tastes. Plus it keeps you thirsty for all of those extremely hoppy beers…  Definitely eat on the grounds as well, even if the beer is filling it isn’t a good idea to let it be your only fuel. Also drink water… it makes the day last longer and far more pleasant. Oh and think of the fashion statement you will be making with the extremely hip Pretzel Necklace…

No… Not like this at all…

Do: Talk to the brewers
Don’t: Force yourself to finish every brew
Yes, it is all-you-can drink… and yes, there are over 80 breweries represented… and, yes they are all amazing… but don’t force that somewhat warm sample down, pour it out, enjoy another… pace yourself. There’s always more. Make sure to talk to the brewers, they worked hard to get there, and find out what sets their beer apart. This is still a somewhat new and exciting time for craft brew, and the brewers have lots of good information to share. Learn! Make time to sample Anderson Valley‘s selection of brews. They are magnificent and without this brewer the festival would not be happening. They rock! Bonus tip: Some of the breweries give away free swag… hats, stickers, glasses, etc. It doesn’t hurt to ask!

You don't have to speak boontling to buy a ticket... but it might help...
You don’t have to speak boontling to buy a ticket… but it might help…

Do: Learn Boontling
Don’t: Charlie Ball yourself by letting loose a slider.
You will understand this one better if you take time to learn the fascinating local dialect. It is a relic of a time long gone, and adds a slice of culture to this Tidrik. Purchase the book for extra fun!

With this friend by my side, all times are better.
With this friend by my side, all times are better.

Do: Bring friends
Don’t: Be a creep
This one can be filed under the “duh!” category… but some people may not realize it… This is an occasion to bring a crowd, create a site, and socialize. It is time best spent around the campfire, and chatting late into the evening… perhaps even enjoying a meal or two together. It is also a good time to walk around and meet people, enjoy the atmosphere, and maybe even do a bit of dancing at the campsites that welcome such things. However, remember that there are some people who really would rather not have a random roamer stumble into their site and steal their supplies…

All in all, the best advice I can give is that you experience this slice of American life if you are in Northern California in early May. It is a homegrown festival that still has a feeling of innocence and goodwill. It may be over-the-top, but almost everything is in this part of the world, and I will have more on that later!


  14 comments for “Legendary Boonville Beer Festival

  1. Pingback: Blame Britain, a short excuse of sorts
  2. Pingback: America Part 3: Family, Friends, Community

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