on saturday, i – along with several other members of the new orleans craft mafia – participated in the inaugural top of the hops beer festival on the northshore, at fontainebleau state park. being a big lover of beer myself, i was really looking forward to it, not just as a vending opportunity, but as a beer-drinking experience.
the weather had been predicted to be sunny and 0 % chance of rain. unfortunately, that didn’t really work out. it was mostly cloudy, VERY windy (gusty, even, resulting in greenKangaroo’s tent blowing over during set-up and making us all nervous throughout the day) and threatened rain all afternoon. luckily, only a few drizzly drops made their way to the ground late in the afternoon, though it was sprinkling consistently while we broke down at the end of the day. but no major catastrophe ensued, and the sun did peek out a few times, enough to keep everyone warm and add to the enjoyment of the day.
i somehow didn’t really remember to take many photos – must have been all those 2oz samples of beer i chugged down in the first hour or two! i knew i had to sober up by the time i left, so i could drive home safely, so i tried to do most of my beer drinking early on. it’s a strange event, having scores of beer vendors lined up in a row, pouring endless 2oz samples. it’s not enough beer for you to fill your tiny mug and walk away to enjoy it; just long enough to take a few swallows, try to savor each particular beer as best you can, and move on to the next one. after a while, it becomes hard to distinguish each beer.
i do remember particularly enjoying a few beers that i’d never tried before. i checked out all of heiner brau‘s beers, as i’d previously only had (and love) their amber. but they were out of their strawberry beer before i got there, sadly. many folks were talking about that one, so i’ll have to see if i can check that out another time. i tried lots of beers i’d heard of before but never tried – chimay, hoegaarden, several flavors of flying dog and sam adams i’d never tried, some of zea’s flavors i’d never had before, covington brewhouse, some of the lazy magnolia‘s, and nola brewing‘s new hurricane saison (very nice!) – and many new beers, most of which i can’t remember, that i hadn’t ever heard of before. i came home with several keychain bottle openers from budweiser (you can’t ever have enough of them, even if it does say budweiser) and a new green coozy from bayou teche brewing, for their LA31 beer, which is new to the new orleans market. (i liked it!) i drank a lot of beer.
i can’t say there were many beers i didn’t like (though i don’t ever have to have dixie’s blackened voodoo ever again), but i can say there was a new favorite from everything i tasted today: mc auslan’s st. ambroise apricot wheat ale. i think i could actually drink a whole six pack of that stuff. often, i like the taste of a beer in small doses, but can’t manage to maintain my interest in it for an entire six pack. but this one, i think i can. the smell alone was just amazing. and i don’t even usually like fruity beers! (like, i hate abita’s strawberry beer.)
so yeah, it was a really fun day. fun hanging out with my nocm homies (including mallory of miss malaprop, who helped staff my booth, and her bf dave, who is a filmmaker and took some b-roll video footage of us for future use). i saw a few friends i had no idea would be there, and i got to not only meet kirk coco, president and co-founder of nola brewing company, but he bought my one-of-a-kind “craft beer drunk here” mixed media stencil clock! i’m gonna have to make it over to tchoupitoulas street to take a brewery tour soon, cuz i love their beer and love supporting the local microbrewery.
oh, and i was smart enough before i started drinking beer to ask some of the beer vendors to hang on to their bottlecaps for me, so by the end of the day, i had a HUGE grocery bag full of a wide variety of craft/microbrew beer bottlecaps for future folk art/crafts. i don’t know why i’m so obsessed with bottlecaps, but like much advertising and product design, i find them to be tiny little metal pieces of artwork all on their own, that are awesome embellishments and/or materials for signs, folk art, clocks, mixed media pieces, cufflinks, etc. and, well, it’s recycling, too. so now i’m well-stocked for a while. yay!
i look forward to participating in the top of the hops fest again in the future. hopefully they will add more food and crafts vendors, and maybe offer slightly longer hours to partake of all those beers. but otherwise, i’d say it was pretty well done. if this sounds like fun to you, they’ve got another one coming up soon in lafayette, and have plans for greenville, south carolina and i think even louisville, kentucky later in the year. it’s a great idea; wish it had been mine! what a fun job it would be producing these beef fests all over america!