Beer of the Series: Russian River Beer Revival & BBQ Cookoff

Sorry I've been AWOL. I was out of town last weekend and was dead swamped & tired this week. On a related note, if you're ever in Middletown, CA, don't go to the Chevron. They sell Nazi-emblazoned pocket knives. And no, they were not Hindu swastikas.

Also, if anyone's in The Beast tomorrow night, I may be working at Drake's for the Aroma Coma/Aroma Prieta release. I'll definitely be there, and if they need help, I'll be working.

Edit: just to be clear, while they participate, this is not a Russian River Brewing Co event; the name refers to the actual river.

Guerneville. It's a strange little place on the Russian River. A kind of a… gay hick resort town. There's not much in the way of good beer, though right as you get into town, you will pass by Stumptown Brewery. The bar itself is an absolute dump of a dive (meant in the best way), but the real draw is the enormous back deck. Enter the bar, get a beer*, order food at the food counter, and head out to one of the picnic tables overlooking the river. Consume. Then, remember that you are in Sonoma County and it is hot, and walk down the stairs to the riverbank, strip down to your skivvies, and jump into the Russian River. Repeat until shower. (Optional: rent a canoe in downtown Guerneville and row to the bar & back.)

(*-for the love of argyle, do not order any of the Stumptown beers. They're truly awful.)


However. While that is indeed a fun afternoon, the most fun you'll have is at their beer fest. It's laid out down on the beach area, below the deck, taking up every inch of flat land available. There're about 30 breweries pouring from all over Northern California & Reno/Tahoe (and a few from beyond). It's planned well enough that there's never a line for anything (except RRBC, which is true at every festival), and you can always move around quite freely. Also at the fest are thirty competing barbecue teams, and best of all, everything is included. (Seriously, I hate spending $60 to enter and then having to spend another $20 to eat. Isn't it in everyone's best interests that everyone be fed well?) It sprawls out all over the beach, it's warm & sunny (though there's plenty of shade), you can hop right into the water.

Our gracious, drunken hosts, Stumptown101_2488

A note: You will NOT be in any condition to drive after the event, and River Road is twisty, narrow, and involves narrow bridges. Seriously, don't. What I usually do is stay at Johnson's Beach, which is admittedly pretty easy when my friends in Santa Rosa go out on Thursday to secure a site. I also like the fact that I can sit around a campfire & sleep in a tent, but still go get a burrito and barhop (seriously, Guerneville is such a cool, weird little town). There's other camping available and, being a resort town, there're plenty of room & houses available to rent in the immediate area. Stumble back to your hotel/campsite, drink a liter of water, and chill out for the evening.

The tough part about this event is that it sells out almost instantly. They do sell some online, and at a handful of bars/brewpubs in Sonoma County. The online sales usually sell out in like six minutes, so I'd suggest you make a trek up to RRBC the day they go on sale and grab them that way. (Even if you fail, hey! Consecration on tap!) And even finding out when they go on sale is hard. Keep an ear out on Twitter. Usually mid-June. This year's fest is in three weeks, and there are a few available on craigslist, with more likely to go up closer to the event as people bail. It's a fair amount of work, but if you're into beer, meat and beaches, it's so, so worth it.

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