I had been counting down the days until November 12th for weeks. There were so many exciting events that I’d been waiting for. Pacquiao was to fight Juan Marquez, one of the greatest Mexican boxers of our time, Cain Velasquez from the UFC was undefeated going into his fight with Junior Dos Santos, and my favorite place to go for great beer was throwing one of the best beer festivals around. Though the two fights were great, it was hard to watch both my Hispanic brethren lose the way they did. At least the amazing time I had at the 6th annual West Coast Barrel Aged Beer Festival left me feeling good enough to cope with my losses.
Located at 1001 B st, The Bistro has been among my favorite places to go for great craft beer for years. Owners Vic and Cynthia Kralj, who opened the bar in 1994, are a very festive bunch, hosting a number of awesome beer gatherings like the Wet Hop Fest, IPA Fest, and the Double IPA Fest. The Bistro is also known for having a variety of musicians and artists perform almost nightly. This past weekend I was able to attend, arguably, the best beer festival in the Bay; The Barrel Aged Beer Festival.
That day I approached the familiar corner of B Street and Main and I noticed many jolly people outside enjoying the beautiful East Bay weather, sipping on their snifter glasses, and listening to the music coming from inside the bar. I went inside and seen a man playing some uplifting guitar chords, entertaining the many beer enthusiasts who were attending. I wandered through the crowd looking for signs that would direct me to the tickets booth so that I could commence my tasting adventure. Needless to say I was eager to get my first sip. Part of Main St was closed off for the event, and as I walked out the side door of the bar, I found the tents that covered the many kegs full of artfully crafted, barrel aged goodness. I was hardly able to contain myself…but I held my composure as I had walked up to the ticket booth and loaded up on tickets. I admired for a bit the commemorative Bistro snifter I was handed, then grabbed the beer list containing all the beers available with their brief descriptions and headed toward the closest beer booth.
The first item on the list to catch my eye was the Drakes Total Recall, a blend of two beers aged in a port barrel. Never mind the fact that I’m a huge Arnold Schwarzenegger fan, but it struck me as an awesome beer name. The scent was sweet and the taste was light and round. It was an awesome first choice. Some beers that followed were Drake’s Brette Davis Eyes, Shmaltz Genesis 15:15, 21st Amendment Drunken Monk, Glacier Brewhouse Czech Imperial Stout, and many others. My taste buds were tickled. Thats right! TICKLED!!!! But in all seriousness, they were tickled.
The people were many and at times it was a bit difficult to navigate from booth to booth but everyone was respectful and seemed willing to share their opinions and notes of what they had tasted. Some would keep it simple and mention whether it was sweet or sour, while others detailed the many subtle flavors in each sample. Many enthusiasts were repeat attenders who’ve been to many if not all of the Barrel Aged Beer festivals before. My pal and Bay Area on Tap co-conspirator Chris never misses it. After attending my first one, I can see why. The enthusiasm and appreciation for beer was definitely a feeling shared amongst everyone there, and I loved it!
The music certainly added to the complex tastes that I had been enjoying. The Blue Ribbon Healers performed quite the show for us folks. Since I am unable to describe their brand of music, I’ll steal their quote from their business card in saying that it was “Foot-Stompin swanky tonk and thrashed out old-time jazz”. With an old fashioned guitar, a mandolin, and a stand up bass, their sound seemed very fitting for the occasion.
I was able to talk briefly with Rob Pale, the guitarist, and Cindy Rose, self labeled “gypsy queen of the mandolin” about their favorite beers and where they’re from. The Blue Ribbon Healers come from the Florida Panhandle and have been on tour along the East Coast, making stops in the fall to the West Coast, specifically the Bay Area, and even more specifically The Bistro. Of course I had to ask about their favorite breweries since we were at a beer festival after all. Rob and Cindy both like beer from Lagunitas and Anderson Valley. There was one beer they mentioned that they only find out in the east that is a hands down favorite of theirs called the Highland Oatmeal Port from the Highland Brewery in Asheville, North Carolina. Check it out here
If you’re interested in hearing some of their tunes or stop by one of their shows, check out their page at: http://www.myspace.com/theblueribbonhealers
But of course for you to know how it all went down in the small town of Hayward, you would of had to been there. Make sure you don’t miss it next year. Vic and Cythina know how to host some great festivals for all types of beer lovers.
If you’re ever in downtown Hayward, make sure to stop by The Bistro and see what’s on tap! http://www.the-bistro.com/
Here’s to the next adventure in the Bay,