by Scott Cratty
Q: What’s more fun than barrel full of Stickee Monkee?
A: The 3rd annual Mendocino County Homebrew Festival! The Fest is an informal, low-key, but serious competition, brimming over with unique taste experiences all crafted with passion by equally unique, sometimes slightly off-beat people. In other words, this is a very Mendocino event, full of real people, taste, and life.
The Mendocino Homebrew Festival features original homebrew from throughout Northern California and offers more taps than you can get to, full of quality brews that you can get nowhere else. Think you have tried it all before? Here are a couple of last year’s brews: “A complex mix of malted grains, rye, and wheat, with fresh honey at EOB, along with an addition of fresh roasted coconut and fresh ground Fijian Kava added in secondary fermentation,” or “Light wheat beer with home grown red beets cooked/mashed and strained into secondary fermentation, along with a few ounces of agave nectar, and dry hopped with fresh whole Centennial.” You can’t get these creative combinations just anywhere.
It is a great vibe for sure, and a worthy memory, but this competition will also have amazing beer because it has one of the best prizes on the planet. The winner of the Brewer’s Choice Award gets to hang out at Anderson Valley Brewing Company, brew their beer at scale with the Brewmaster, and have it served at the Tap Room and likely elsewhere as well.
For a humble admission price, your ticket includes a tasting glass, beer, your chance to cast your three votes for the People’s Choice Favorite, live music, and a room full of exemplary people and discussion. Farm-to-Table food and other merchandise, as well as the warm feeling of knowing you are scoring a great time while also supporting an important cause, just adds to the bounty.
It all happens November 2nd from 3-6pm at the Conference Center in downtown Ukiah. (If you are really into great beer and fun times, you can get in an hour early, along with the Brewmaster panel, by purchasing a Very Important Taster Ticket.) Brewer sign-up information can be found on the website.
All this fun has the compounded benefit of supporting one of the best local nonprofits around. All proceeds from this event go to the Good Farm Fund, a community nonprofit which produces several of Mendocino County’s most enjoyable events. Good Farm Fund came into existence as a way for local small farms to support each other so that they can survive, inch toward thriving, and produce more sustainable, top-quality food to create a more resilient community. It provides direct economic development support to small farmers in Mendocino and Lake Counties, as well as funding ‘Market Match’ programs, which help low income customers shop at local farmers markets, increasing local food security for all members of the community.
If you are not a Ukiah native, it helps to stay the night so you can experience downtown Ukiah and the rest of the Feast Mendocino festival. The Homebrew Festival is a kick-off for this annual celebration focused on fun and food, particularly mushrooms, running November 1-10. For overnight attendees, I recommend starting with a visit to the Saturday Farmers Market just a block from the Festival from 9am–noon. Weather permitting, Ukiah’s downtown merchants will be putting on sidewalk sales, and the Fest will feature an outdoor entertainment lounge.
If you love great beer, make sure you check out the Fest’s major sponsor, Draft Punk in Laytonville. While you are in the county, you should also investigate Ukiah Brewing (Ukiah), Anderson Valley Brewing (Boonville), North Coast Brewing (Fort Bragg), and Overtime Brewing (Fort Bragg). If you enjoy the Mendocino experience, join the Homebrew Festival email list so you get a heads-up about their always-sold-out events.