Love Beer? Volunteer!
Last weekend was the most fun I've ever had at a beer festival. I drank only water.
Am I mad? No, I'm a volunteer. This was the first time I'd been on the other side of the serving table, but it won't be the last.
The Pink Boots Society's 10th Anniversary Festival celebrated women in the beer industry, with event proceeds benefiting a scholarship program to help more women advance their careers. With nearly 40 vendors serving quality brews, there was something for everyone.
But who pours the beer? Well, it's a combination of pros and volunteers. In my case I was paired up with Cat Wiest, brewmaster at Seabright Brewery in Santa Cruz (she's the one talking about her jasmine pale ale in this news clip) and all-around cool person.
We poured for 3 1/2 hours, as appreciative guests stopped by the booth to enjoy Cat's excellent beer and chat with her. I got to learn a little about how festivals work and pick the brain of a professional brewer as time permitted, which was not only informative but also a blast.
My pouring technique improved over the course of the event as I tried my best to represent Seabright, and I loved watching folks react to the beer. The jasmine pale ale, for example, had edible glitter in it. This got people's attention, but beyond the glitter there was substance, as Cat received numerous compliments on the brew's drinkability.
Thanks to Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control regulations I can't vouch for the beer's taste, but I can tell you it smelled fantastic. I can also tell you that guest reactions said more about the beer than I ever could. The way their faces lit up, the questions they asked, people coming over and saying, "My friend told me I have to try the glitter beer."
It all brought a smile to my face as well. I was somehow vicariously experiencing the awesomeness of the beer through these happy people. Every pour, every toast, every conversation made me feel a part of the festival in ways I've never felt as a guest.
Don't get me wrong, I'd just as soon be drinking beer. In fact, the minute I got home I cracked open a bomber of something delicious. But setting aside instant gratification for a while to savor the experience of others enjoying themselves was cool.
So was hanging out with Brewmaster Cat, who spent the afternoon spreading good cheer and good beer. Again, I learned a lot from the experience in terms of how to pour, how to interact with guests, etc. Just as important, I remembered how much fun it is to spend time with beer people.
And I realized that we're all part of a larger community. Our goal in this case was to help women advance their careers in the beer industry. Taking a longer view, looking around at the various vendors, I saw a group of individuals dedicated to the craft. These people are as passionate about brewing and serving great beer as you and I are about enjoying it, possibly more so. It's truly inspirational.
Support a worthy cause like the Pink Boots Society. Support your local brewer. If you're in Santa Cruz, stop by Seabright Brewery and support the great work Cat is doing.
And if you've never volunteered at a beer festival, get out there and do it. Hanging out with happy people all day is awesome, and you might even learn something. Besides, water never tasted so good.