|I’m a beer guy. And darn proud of it too. While admittedly I will readily eschew
that Budweiser for a crisp kolsch or that Miller for a hop laded IPA, nonetheless I’m still a
beer guy. Through and through. Yet, somehow, I found myself on the way to attend a,
shudder, wine festival. Something different to do on a lazy Sunday I told myself. Be open-
minded. Just try to blend in and on one will notice you. Then I looked down only to see
that I had on my favorite T-shirt, a green and gold beauty that shouted “Think Globally,
Drink Locally” on one side and “Drink Beer!” on the other. Great slogan on a great shirt,
but not quite the incognito attire I needed. Simple solution - turn the shirt inside out. Ah
perfect. Now it was only a plain T-shirt. I was just another person among many, which
also meant I could cancel Plan B - my Groucho mustache and glasses disguise. Beer guys
are always prepared you know.
I first sensed all was not normal as soon as I reached my exit on the highway and realized I
still had 50 more miles of one lane, country roads to navigate to get the Bremmer Valley
Winery, the host of the event. Clearly I was nearing the edge of civilization, as I knew it.
On the positive side, I was able to count 34 horses and 71 cows along the way. Try doing
that on the way to any beer festival. Never will happen. Beer festivals are always within
minutes of a real highway. Beer festivals and paved roads – perfect together.
Finally, a sign. Hey, sometimes little things mean a lot. Any sign would have been nice but
this one said “Wine Festival Here”. Here? Where? I bounced my car down a winding,
grassy, stone-strewed path until coming upon two individuals who waved my car to a
place in the already crowded grassy meadow that was serving as a parking lot. Trust me,
beer festival parking lots are never without those helpful white lines. I was directed to park
on an up slope, neatly sandwiched in between a car with a bumper sticker that read “Wine
is life” and one that said, “Wine, the fruit of the Gods”. My only hope was that the parking
guards would think my “Got Beer?” sticker was really a pro-wine, cynical, biting jab. If
only I had opted to bring my Woody Allen disguise instead of Groucho. Oh well. My only
choice now was to use blatant bravado to carry the day.
I boldly walked past the attendants. I politely smiled with just a hint of a sophisticated
sneer. Exactly like the ones I had seen so often on the wine experts faces on cable TV’s
Food Channel. I worried it might be just a bit too Elvis like, but they instantly waived me
on to the ticket tent. Thank you, thank you very much. I quickly paid the tariff, was
given a blue wristband (they’re always red at beer festivals), and a mini- glass. Three
ounces max. The glass’s narrow stem immediately gave me pause. A strong wind, an
inadvertent bump, or a high note by some opera singer in the crowd could prove
disastrous to this delicate object. Oh how I wished this was a beer festival sampling glass.
You know. Sturdy. Strong. Something to get your hand around. A vessel capable of
creating and surviving the festive part of a festival. And besides, it holds six ounces.
I made my way through the dense underbrush to the festival field, which was just that, a
field. I walked up to the first sampling tent, held out my glass, and pointed to a wine that
had the color of a pale ale. How could I go wrong? The pourer lifted the bottle and I saw
perched upon its top a measuring spout of some kind. At first I thought the four tiny
drops he poured into my glass was some sort of traditional ancient ritual to insure more
productive vines but I then realized this actually was my full tasting sample. Oh, the
humanity! No beer tap ever invented could even leak this tiny an amount. I looked
around and saw many of the other people holding up their glasses to the light. While beer
drinkers often do that when drinking fine craft ales to enjoy their color and clarity, I
concluded that this is done at wine festivals to simply see if any actual liquid at all had been
poured in the glass.
The wine pourer noted my stunned look and angrily barked out, “move on, Bud”. Bud??
Did he somehow know I was a really a beer, albeit not a Budweiser, guy? Doubtful. It
was much more likely that his admonition was the mandatory comment as prescribed in
the wine festival pourer’s handbook. In fact I think it’s listed right next to the one that
says “no beer festival pourer’s smile allowed” and “fun is almost a four letter word”. Sigh,
I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, Toto (good beer festival there you know).
Moving on to the next serving tent, I held my glass out and asked that it be filled with any
two wines that would give me separation, explaining I wanted the wine version of a Black
and Tan. Pretty clever I thought. I even offered them the use of my official, hand made
Guinness spoon. This time the “move on Bud” was a little more forceful.
I retreated to a nearby tree to study the page of listings of all the wines at the festival.
Don’t these people have a sense of humor? Where are the yuks in names like Blanc de
Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, Semilion, Cabernet Sauvignon and Fume Blanc? Brewers,
unlike vintners, name the product of their labors with a bit more whimsy. How else to
explain these gems from my last beer festival - Fat Angel, Old Foghorn, Hammer and Nail,
Dead Guy, #9 (that’s it, just # 9), Moose Drool, and the ever popular Alimony Ale, the
bitterest brew in America. Now those are names.
Wandering to the far side of the field I noticed three port-a-johns. Standard issue for
sure, still, there was something missing. But what? I’ve seen countless of them at beer
festivals and they looked exactly like these but….. but….. Then it hit me. These had no
lines. Put that in the column of thing you’ll never see at a beer festival. Remember
Mother Nature’s foolproof rule of judging - the longer the line, the better the festival.
Lastly I came upon the souvenir stand. Corkscrews aprons, wine racks, insulated bags,
and an array of t-shirts. And that’s what finally did it. The t-shirts. Six different shirts
were displayed each with the same slogan. I got closer just to be sure. Are they
kidding? On the front it read “ Think Globally, Drink Locally” and on the back it said “
Drink Wine!” I was flabbergasted. Plagiarism to wine person might be ok, but to a beer
writer it is unthinkable. “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more” I mumbled in my
best Popeye like voice. I frantically reversed my plain green shirt to reveal the truth. I
shouted, “It’s supposed to be DRINK BEER! Look everyone, it’s ‘Think Globally, Drink
Locally’ but it’s for BEER, BEER you bozos!”
I heard a few shouts for security so quickly decided to take the offensive. “Beer is even
better for you than wine” I extolled. I shouted out that researchers at the Nutrition and
Food Research Institute in the Netherlands just determined that wine raised serum
homocysteine levels, which are associated with increased heart disease, but that drinking
beer, did not! I told them that beer boosted the level of cardioprotective vitamin B6 by
30%, more than double the effect of wine! A few “ahhhhs” were clearly audible. I was
reaching them. “There’s even more” I continued. “There’s not enough flavor in wine.
There are dozens and dozens of hops, dozens and dozens of malts, dozens and dozens of
yeast strains. You may get bored drinking the same few types of wine, but you will never,
never get bored drinkng beer!” I had to wait at least a full half-second for the single, but
loud, applaud to die down. I had made my point. I could now leave this strange land in
good conscience. I turned to walk away happily knowing the last thing they would see
were those words on the back of my shirt that told them exactly who I am - a beer guy,
and darn proud of it too!
Now if only someone would help me carry these three cases of wine I bought out to my
|Vince Capano is a two time winner of the prestigious Quill and Tankard
writing award for humor from the North American Guild of Beer Writers.
Vince's column is now a regular feature of beernexus.com
Check back often for the next installment of
Vince's Adventures in Beerland
|Lost in a Strange Land