Beerfest here in Bismarck is a little bit like a birthday and Christmas all wrapped up into one. I look forward to it for months in advance and always take the day off of work just because I’m pretty sure the day would be a waste anyways, what with all of my excitement.
This year I decided to be more prepared.
Let me first explain the concept.
Upon entering, you receive a little sample size glass and a card with 30 squares. There are 30 booths, each with their own different beer. You pick your booth, get your glass filled and they mark off a square. (Also, there’s free food, some years it’s ribs, this year was more appetizer based. Nothing super great to speak of.)
In previous years, I would rush in and just start randomly going around to whichever booth I felt like. Often, by the end of the night, forgetting which booths I had visited and which beers I had liked or which ones I hated. This led to repeated trips to vendors whose beers I THOUGHT I liked before realizing that they were, in fact, the opposite.
So this year, I went in with an actual plan. A fairly obvious plan, but one that would help my feeble mind keep track.
I came up with a grading system of smiley faces. Kind of like this, only if written by a drunk with a free pen.
Each booth would get a corresponding happy, neutral or sad face based upon a set of criteria. Those criteria included the actual taste of the beer, the pleasantness of the person serving the beer, and the pour (whether my glass was filled or if it barely broke the halfway mark.)
This way, late in the evening, I would know where to venture with my leftover squares.
Friends with Beer
The evening started well, I was going with friends, including an old friend I haven’t spent a lot of time with lately. Also, Beerfest is the one time a year I see some of my friends who I almost never see except at Beerfest, simply because we don’t generally run in the same circles or time or other circumstances have drifted us apart. But Beerfest generally assures we’ll bump into each other again and it is always under the best of situations, drunk with beer.
Another great thing is the chance to make NEW friends. While I am normally an extremely shy person, almost cripplingly shy, pour a few beers into me and it’s a different story. I met a guy with an interesting mustache who was incredibly nice, got a few business cards from people I will never do business with, danced with some strange people, and shared the wisdom of my beer rating system with many.
We generally try to get a picture of Deck with the Beer Girls, this year we never quite accomplished that task. In fact, the only photo I was able to snap of the beer girls was this one from 5 miles away.
The girls were really sweet, but it was such a busy night that we just never got around to the photo. I guess there’s always next year.
There wasn’t a lot of major beer news for me. The only really wild and interesting beer I tried and wasn’t able to get myself to make a proper decision on was Shock Top’s Twisted Pretzel Wheat. You go to a bar, eat pretzels and drink beer. Well, with this beer you take care of them both by just drinking the pretzels in the beer, I guess. It was a flavor that wasn’t unpleasant as much as a little unexpected. I know, it says Pretzel Beer, but I didn’t know how much like pretzels it was actually going to taste.
Another interesting beer that I wasn’t entirely sold on, not being a huge fan of coffee, but which a lot of other people seemed to enjoy was Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Mokah. It’s a stout brewed with chocolate and coffee and even though I’m not in love with the coffee side of it, I can taste why it could be a great beer for people who do enjoy it. Basically, I’m saying I wanted to love it and I do recommend it. Plus, with 10% ABV, how can you resist?
The rest of the beer was either stuff I had tried before or wasn’t great enough for my mentioning (or, I lost my card after the night was over and those are the only two that really stand out on the top of my head.)
There were a couple of pumpkin beers, but I didn’t try those because I have been burned by pumpkin beers in the past. Really not a fan of the pumpkin beers I’ve tasted, so far. Maybe I should have tried them, but I couldn’t bring myself around this year.
A little drama was reserved for the end. Frank, Bismarck’s reigning beard champion, whatever that means, had his enormous and frizzy red beard pulled, which he took offense at. Frank tugged the offending little guy’s hair and almost pulled him to the ground and that was that. Not much to cry about. I guess the lesson there is don’t tug a dude’s beard without buying him dinner first. Or don’t take a beard to an event consisting of drunk people. Or maybe there is no lesson.
After the Final Call
Ultimately, it was a good time with friends and beer and free swag.
I have realized that I’m getting older and softer. In years past, filling up an entire card was ridiculously easy and the night was spent searching the floor for lost cards or befriending people who might leave early and not use their cards up. All in the hopes of a few extra squares.
Now, filling up a card is a real chore. One that leaves me feeling questionable the next morning. I wasn’t sick this year or particularly hung over, but it did take me an hour or two longer to get motivated enough to get out of bed.
Whether that’s an issue of age, a liver telling me that I’ve done enough damage in my youth, or a result of being married and only drinking once a week which has lowered my tolerance, I’m not sure.
What I am sure of is that even while my drinking days are lessening, Beerfest will be on my calendar for years to come. Oh, only twelve months until next Beerfest! Better get my tickets and get the day off!