Thursday, June 26, 2014

Beer, Glorious Beer!

On Sunday I was a volunteer at the Northern Virginia BrewFest. Excited at doing this for the first time, I arrived early. I had been hoping to pour beer for Old Bust Head Brewery or Devil's Backbone but neither of these were on the list for Team Orange. I looked up and down the sheet not recognizing any of the names and then asked the advice of Hank, a guy I'd been chatting to, who seemed to know about every pint pulled in Virginia since time began. He studied the names earnestly and then gave me 3 options. Because I had been the first to respond to our team leader Lou's e-mail I was allowed first pick, and so Blue Mountain Brewery became mine.
We all milled about until Bob the big boss called us to attention and read out the rules. It was all very simple and common sense and I was itching to start. We were all given free t-shirts, a beer glass and 4 tasting tickets to use once we'd finished our shifts.
Because apparently our glasses had a tendency to walk, Lou attached a stylish name tag to all our glasses. He said he wanted us 'to have a ball!'
Lou walking us down our block and showing folks where their stations would be for the next few hours.
I got to Blue Mountain and found I had 4 pumps! Most of the others had 2. But there was a positive side to this because we were all advised to try our beers so we could talk with experience when questioned by the punters, so I set to work immediately.
Within half an hour I had learned all about my beers and the brewery which is located in Afton, VA, SW of Charlottesville. Devil's Backbone is also down that way so I see a superb winter day trip in the future.
After a while I had a helper, Carlos, who turned out to be from Costa Rica, the country that would finally knock England from the World Cup. We couldn't believe it and became fast friends, laughing at the fluke that had placed us together.
This old fashioned popcorn was being made a couple of stalls down, a major pull for many, but not for me.
Before the public entered the VIP's had an hour to walk around. They had paid extra to begin their tastings without the crowds but there weren't that many of them. This was a bonus for us since it meant we had time to walk up to other breweries, chat with the crew and taste some more beers, in a professional sense of course, in case any of the public asked about other breweries. We manged to get a lot of tastings in but when the public entered, it was all hands on deck. I really don't know where the morning went but those few hours seemed to pass in minutes. Beer lovers are very happy and sociable people. Everyone was so friendly and chatty, asking about the beers. I glowed when folks thought that I worked for the brewery since I could answer most of their questions, and it soon became apparent that we had one of the best beers on the field. Dark Hollow is a stout aged in Boulder Trace bourbon kegs for 120 days, and you can really taste the whiskey. I rarely like stouts but this was delicious, and everyone else thought so too. We actually needed to change the keg on our shift, it was so popular.
These guys came back for a third glass of Dark Hollow and they weren't the only ones.
Me and Carlos on duty! I loved this job, it brought back memories of the many evenings that I worked in a pub back in England. I hadn't lost the knack and wasted very little beer, even knowing when the pipes weren't working right. I had a whale of a time and hope to work at the Fall Fest, maybe even for Blue Mountain again. Anyone interested in their beers can check out the site here. I also recommend the Local Species, a summery fruity Belgian style beer, aged in the Boulder Trace barrels for 100 days.
Steve came to meet me once I finished my shift and we headed over to the food tents.
The Super Burger. But I wasn't impressed, eating only half of it. But not to be daunted by this we started off on our beer tasting session, with me on the punter's side of the taps.
DuClaw's biggest draw, the Sweet Baby Jesus, a peanut butter chocolate stout, a firm favorite's of Steve's and one he thought I should try, being a new fan of dark ales. But alas, it wasn't for me, despite the 'Reeses' influence. I kept sipping hoping that somehow my taste buds would belatedly whoop 'Hallelujah!' and find the ale decidedly delicious, but it wasn't to be. I had to pass across my glass so Steve could polish it off and he was noticeably disappointed in my verdict...
But he soon cheered up when we came across this strapping lass and I insisted on a photo which promptly made it onto Facebook.
The sun was belting down and after filling our glasses again we decided to find a shady area to chillax and have a smoke. Steve had brought two humungous Romeo & Juliet cigars, and I have to admit being a little intimidated at their size. I hadn't had a cigar since the last time we were here and they weren't this big then.
Steve could sit and just hold his in his mouth but somehow I didn't possess that skill. I kept trying and it kept drooping so I had to continuously support it with my hand.
Steve taking a photo for some folks also kicking back. We continued walking about, puffing on our huge cigars and using up our beer tickets. We bumped into Lou a few times who was really enjoying himself and I stood in briefly for a guy so he could run over to Blue Mountain to get a glass of the Dark Hollow. He'd been hearing about it.. We also met other crew members now off duty, everyone was so nice. I think Steve's also interested in volunteering in the fall, he was pretty impressed with the camaraderie, and obviously the opportunity of free tastings.
And so one last photo to finish the day before we headed home for naps. I really couldn't have put it better myself!

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