Monday, November 10, 2014

Strange, Happy Brews

Posted By on Mon, Nov 10, 2014 at 2:28 PM

click to enlarge Home-brewer Justin Whitaker with a slosh of The Lush. - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • Photo by Heidi Walters
  • Home-brewer Justin Whitaker with a slosh of The Lush.
Justin Whitaker's booth, in the lobby, had first grabs at all of us rushing into the Eureka Theater for StrangeBrew Beer Fest 2014 last Saturday night. It helped that he was strategically placed across from Cypress Grove's cheese table.

"Everybody's going for The Lush," said Whitaker, who home brews with his wife, Eryn.

Truth, though: Everybody was going for everything. It was the world's slowest, most gentle riot. A glacially paced mosh pit. And other light-of-day-iffy descriptives that people come up with when they're drunk on the elbowing nearness of other happy people and on endless little shots of weird beer.

So very happy. - PHOTO BY KEN MALCOMSON
  • Photo by Ken Malcomson
  • So very happy.
StrangeBrew, a fundraiser (in its seventh year) for the dilapidated dear old theater, is, in fact, a love fest. An orgy of I'll-drink-whatever-you-throw-at-me. 

Inside the theater proper, you had to wade your way through the happiness to get from beer stand to beer stand. There seemed an especial madness around Mad River, with people taking extra swipes at the fried chicken pineapple garnish which was supposed to be paired with the Fingerlickin'. Not that the proprietors seemed to care. They were, like everyone else, all teeth (or beard with hidden, implied teeth).

Mark Nicely, left, and Mad River brewmaster Dylan Schatz. - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • Photo by Heidi Walters
  • Mark Nicely, left, and Mad River brewmaster Dylan Schatz.
"The barleywine's pretty darned good," said Mad River brewmaster Dylan Schatz. 

"And the Fingerlickin'," said Mark Nicely.

"C'mon, I'll get you some," said Schatz.

The Fingerlickin' was fizzy and crisp and so-fine with the chicken garnish.

It's all about the versatile, multi-beer-friendly garnish. Here the chicken two-times with Mad's mango brew. - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • Photo by Heidi Walters
  • It's all about the versatile, multi-beer-friendly garnish. Here the chicken two-times with Mad's mango brew.
Then there was the Cuban Embargo, a lime-laden hit with weed on the nose. Also good with the chicken garnish. And a mango number, very chicken-welcoming. And then, getting serious, the bourbony barleywine, a licker-lover's dive off the back porch into the best swimming hole. Good, strong, smooth — but having no truck with that chicken. And for dessert? Satan's Bake Sale. Like we always say, don't be afraid of mint-chocolate chip stout. 

click to enlarge What's in it? The Mad River folks will tell you. - PHOTO BY KEN MALCOMSON
  • Photo by Ken Malcomson
  • What's in it? The Mad River folks will tell you.
Over at Eel River, some were falling for a delicate number named the Citrarillocoe Clusterfuck. Others were going for the Sassi Hore II. We think they went for the name, then stayed for the taste.

click to enlarge Eel Rivers' genius. - PHOTO BY KEN MALCOMSON
  • Photo by Ken Malcomson
  • Eel Rivers' genius.
"It's really hoppy but not too hoppy," said Zack Taylor, a forest service fuels specialist from Orleans, about the Cluster-eff. "Very floral but not too much bite."

Zack Taylor, fuels specialist from Orleans, fuels up on an Eel River concoction. - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • Photo by Heidi Walters
  • Zack Taylor, fuels specialist from Orleans, fuels up on an Eel River concoction.
Lagunitas, meanwhile, was very popular despite only serving bottled stuff (apparently there was a glitch with their strange-brew delivery). 

Some men complained that there were "lots of lemony blondes here" at the fest, but these fellas' sourness wasn't catching. At least, not among those for whom every sip of anything was a delight.

"What's your favorite beer?" asked a university professor.

"Let's see ... I think I like beer," said Denise Burns, a retired Sacramento teacher. She'd just been describing the subtle nuances of several brews, but never mind. "But my favorite beer is more."

click to enlarge Denise Burns likes beer. - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • Photo by Heidi Walters
  • Denise Burns likes beer.
But OK, hold on, wait, hold your horses and, please, restrain your jumpy green long-legged insects. Sure, people were saying they loved Six Rivers' Donkey Punch, and it was delicious. But others pretended to swoon for the Dry Hoppered Ale — one made with mild-mannered grasshoppers, the other with spicy — which the Six's master brewer, Carlos ("everybody calls me 'Los'") Sanchez called a collaboration between himself and one of the brewery's chefs, Norby.

click to enlarge Six River's jumpy delights. - HEIDI WALTERS
  • Heidi Walters
  • Six River's jumpy delights.
"He gets these Mexican grasshoppers," Sanchez said. "I dry roasted them and then put 'em in the keg and filled it up with beer."

click to enlarge "Los" Sanchez, master brewer at the Six. - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • Photo by Heidi Walters
  • "Los" Sanchez, master brewer at the Six.
The mild version of the hoppy (ha ha) ale was, um ... . And maybe the spicy version, with chili added, was super good, too, who knows?

"I loved the idea of making it for this event, but ..." admitted Sanchez.

The only answer was to drink more: sweet-tart cider from Humboldt Cider Co. (Cereza Piña Ocho!), Imperial Lips and Assholes from Redwood Curtain (apparently, the fest attracts potty mouthed brewers AND lemony blondes), and a little Humboldt Regeneration.
 
Cider is the new beer. - PHOTO BY KEN MALCOMSON
  • Photo by Ken Malcomson
  • Cider is the new beer.
click to enlarge Redwood Curtain gets strange. - PHOTO BY KEN MALCOMSON
  • Photo by Ken Malcomson
  • Redwood Curtain gets strange.
click to enlarge Humboldt Regeneration Brewers Eric Tschillard and Matt Kruskamp. - PHOTO BY KEN MALCOMSON
  • Photo by Ken Malcomson
  • Humboldt Regeneration Brewers Eric Tschillard and Matt Kruskamp.
If StrangeBrew didn't make you happy, then that is sad. Unless you just didn't like the situation in the men's room.

Well this is a sad state of affairs for the men. - PHOTO BY KEN MALCOMSON
  • Photo by Ken Malcomson
  • Well this is a sad state of affairs for the men.
Even so, maybe you should take a cue from Roy Sheppard, who just goes ahead and embodies Happy, whether he's drinking beer or not.

click to enlarge "I was born happy," says Roy Sheppard, and neither 24 years of teaching McKinleyville kids nor retirement have blighted his outlook. - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • Photo by Heidi Walters
  • "I was born happy," says Roy Sheppard, and neither 24 years of teaching McKinleyville kids nor retirement have blighted his outlook.

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Heidi Walters

Bio:
Heidi Walters worked as a staff writer at the North Coast Journal from 2005 to 2015.

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