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The Davis Beer Fest Helps!

Churches are supposed to help people, it’s a pretty basic concept.  As a matter of fact, you might say part of my job description as a pastor is to be someone who helps people, help people.  And if you get to help people while drinking beer, well that’s a day well spent.  Helping people and drinking beer at the same time is the genius idea behind the 7th Annual Davis Brew Fest held this past weekend at Sudwerk.  The Beer Fest supports Citizens Who Care for the Elderly of Yolo County, and is superbly run with the support (and location) of the folks at Sudwerk.

Usually if you tell someone you spent the afternoon under an overpass drinking, they’d assume you’d either had a really bad week or just got evicted.  But when the parking lot of Sudwerk gets turned into a veritable home show of beer – tables and tables of beer to be poured along with a few chairs for the tired and an area of live music and all under the overpass – well then its slightly more reputable.  Slightly.

Upon getting my wrist band, I was handed a nifty little glass with which to meander around and get to sampling.  An event like this is a perfect excuse to try some things you might not be inclined to order a pint of, or would even hesitate to order a single bottle of anywhere else.

I was determined to try only new beers, even if from breweries I was familiar with, and I got right to work with the Mammoth IPA 395.  Those familiar with this column may be inclined to think me a cheater, going right for an IPA, but the very nice rep behind the table from Mammoth alerted me that this was no ordinary IPA.  Every beer rep says that, but still, she mentioned it was brewed with sage and that was enough to pique my curiosity.  She poured the glass full, and I took my first whiff.  Expecting a hint of sage in the nose for effect only, I almost fell over when I actually smelled it.  I felt like I opened up a bottle of Italian seasonings and poured it into my nostrils, but no, that was just the beer.  The taste was just as interesting, and pungent.  Whatever IPA-ness there is in this beer was, for me, all but obliterated by the sage and spiciness.  While notes of juniper and sage and rosemary might get some folks nostalgic for a walk in the woods, I wasn’t into it for this beer.  It honestly felt like they took the drippings off of a roast chicken (rubbed with sage, of course) and poured it into the wort for fun.  I’ve tried my hardest lately to be charitable with beer I don’t care for (thanks, Dr. Bamforth), but this was just too much.  It was gimmicky and obnoxious and over the top.  And it tasted like chicken drippings.

Needing to cleanse my pallet, I tried a few other things without much fanfare and then was recommended to try a beer from an Irish brewery.  Assuming the Irish know their beer, I walked over and was poured a Legbiter.  Ironically enough, Legbiter is an English Pale Ale, and a decent one at that.  The smell was a lovely contradiction to the roast chicken of my previous beer with a nice balance of malts and hops along with hints of toffee and butter.  The maltiness plays the strongest of the variety of flavors happening here, and it finishes that way.  It was a nice beer, but I found myself wondering if I was impressed simply because I was still so upset about drinking the chicken drippings earlier.

Needing to warm up because for June 4, the weather felt closer to January 4, I was alerted that the Firestone folks had one bottle of their Velvet Merlin left – a stout on a day where a stout made the most sense.  I walked over and noticed the “one bottle left” I was promised was nowhere to be seen, so like a newbie ordering off the secret menu at In-n-Out, I sheepishly asked if they had any Merlin left.  The gentlemen behind the table gave me a knowing glance that said, “You’ve been tipped off, well done.”  As a reward for my insider’s knowledge (thanks Cam!), I was poured a glassful of this black stout.  With a lighter-than-I-like-my-stouts alcohol content, I was surprised at the largesse of the flavor.  The nose was a fantastic coffee and dark, dark chocolate with a hint of vanilla to keep you honest.  And the flavor was bigger than expected as well – a really solid stout from a brewery I obviously need to try more of.

It was a windy, cool, rainy day last Saturday, yet people came out in droves to taste beer and support Citizens Who Care.  If they were smart, they tried the Firestone Velvet Merlin to keep warm and avoided the Chicken Drippings IPA from Mammoth (aka, IPA 395).  If you are smart, you’ll put this event on your calendar for next year. Helping and trying many different beers are both laudable goals in life.  Doing them together?  That’s just brilliant.


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