Humboldt Beer Week

8 Oct

As September wore on, Humboldt Beer Week approached and in my head, I was thinking of all the blog material I was going to have when the dust had settled.  But when the first beer was poured at F Street Beer Fest, there were some 35 individual events happening in the coming 9 days.  Although it might be possible for someone to attend all or some of the events and blog about it, it certainly wasn’t going to be me.  Then I thought I would blog about events I attend.  No, that’s a bit scattered.  I like to think I know everything going on in Humboldt County beer-land and I want to be there for everything, but my wallet, liver, family and work cannot handle it.  Besides, the timing is just plain bad for me.  I will tell you more about that later.

Yes, I admit, your Humbrew Nation blogger cannot be your reporter on the scene for everything Humboldt Beer Week.  But I want to be.  Dearly.

Although the basis of this blog is “This happened here, and I drank this beer, it was good, and this is something you may not know”, I will do that and have, but I have to mix it up from time to time.   So I decided to bring you the story of Humboldt Beer Week, it’s inception, its effort, where its going and where it should be headed.

Humboldt Beer Week isn’t so much about one event or one effort behind one event (say like Hops in Humboldt) but more about coordinating the local breweries and craft beer providers to doing special events at one time.  They can be, as you have found out, festivals, special beer releases, food and beer pairings, pints for non-profits, and themed beer nights.  It is simply people asking these places to have special events during Beer Week.  That’s it.   Oh, we have meetings and we all have our tasks and chores to do so there is more to it than that.  But at its core,  it is “who knows who”, some e-mails and knowing who to talk to.

Humboldt Beer Week had its first effort in 2011.  It had little planning behind it, about a month and mostly just a couple of people doing the work.  I remember seeing the 2011 website after beer week had happened and not knowing anything about it until then.   I said it before, and I’ll say it again; the first annual anything isn’t going to be this awesome mega-thing.  Like everything else, it starts small and builds itself.

Fast forward to April 2012.  Saison Du Humboldt hits and I think it’s just about the coolest thing since malted barley.  While interviewing Dylan Schatz, head brewer at Mad River, about the collaborative brew, he mentions maybe doing it again for Humboldt Beer Week.  That, unfortunately, didn’t happen, but I diverted from the interview and asked Dylan who was it who was behind Beer Week.  I had been trying to figure out who the brains was behind the project for a while, and Dylan gave me the name of Andy Ardell, proprietor of Humboldt Brews.  I filed that away for future use.

Fast forward again.  At a midsummer meeting of the Humboldt Homebrewers, the upcoming Humboldt Beer Week was mentioned.  I was chosen as liaison to contact the Beer Week people and see how the homebrewers can be involved.

I contacted Andy and told him I was interested in having the homebrewers be involved somehow in Beer Week.  He told me that “we” were starting planning meetings soon and I was free to join them.  “We” turned out to be mostly Andy and Victor “Vico” Hernandez and a couple other folks that have planned things with Andy in the past.  By the end of the meeting, I realized that I was no longer homebrewer liaison, I was a member of the planning committee.

That did not rankle this blogger like it could have to some.  However, it settled in with me quite nicely.  As a side observation of myself for the reader, I have come to a point in my life where community service is something I enjoy.  I have many outlets for this, but one involving craft beer had yet to come around.  (I even have one community service project rolling around in my head that could put Humboldt on the map for something very cool…but cost around a million dollars — baby steps)

Up to this point — and I think I have mentioned it in this blog before — I have held a belief that Humboldt County is a craft beer destination, we just haven’t embraced the idea enough or utilized this asset in the way it can be.  Take a look at the Mendocino/Sonoma craft beer scene.  They own the mid west-coast title of craft beer destination.  If one was on a brewery tour from San Diego to Seattle, Mendocino/Sonoma would be a natural midway stop.  I think Humboldt can take that title away.  And we need to.  Humboldt cannot rely only on its natural beauty to bring in tourists and boost the economy.  We must do things like this to sustain us.  And Humboldt Beer Week is not so much about one small period in the year, but about bringing craft beer tourists here year round.  So that idea plugged into Beer Week naturally.  In a perfect world, there would be a “Humboldt Brewers Association” and Humboldt Beer Week would be their project.  The brewers all do know each other and help each other out, but nothing on the official organization level.  Hint, hint, wink, wink to all you pro-brewers in Humboldt.  But that doesn’t exist, so a few of us on the outer circles took on the project.

That first meeting was a whirlwind.  F Street Beer Fest was in its planning phases already but with a date two weeks prior to Beer Week.

“Let me talk to Darren at The Local and see if he is willing to push it back.”

“I know the Hoptoberfest people, I’ll talk to them about some cross promotion.”

“We are planning something special every night that week.”

“I’ll get the posters printed up and order the t-shirts and glasses.”

“Mad River has an anniversary that week, I’ll talk to them.”

“I’ll email Six Rivers and Eel River.  Lost Coast already has one event planned.”

“We need more sponsors, I can pick up one or two and I’m in for sponsorship myself.”

And that’s it.  A group of people that know people.

Then an entirely unplanned event happened that made Beer Week much more interesting –and stressful– for yours truly.  Anyone who had been in Humboldt Beer Works knows one thing: its small.  We had almost everything a homebrewer needed and we utilized every square inch of that place.  It was always our goal to move within a year, and opportunity literally came knocking on our door in month 8.   A property owner who had experience in selling homebrew supplies came to us and offered us a space he owned for rent.  A much bigger space.  We couldn’t pass it up.  The only problem was the timing made the move on the cusp of beer week.  But with crisis, comes opportunity.  “Crisitunity”, Homer Simpson once claimed.  Suddenly, Humboldt Beer Works became part of Beer Week with three events.

Due to my own doing, I actually participated very little in Beer Week.  But business comes first sometimes.  And we try to fit as much fun in our business as possible.  Thursday, we hosted the Humboldt Homebrwers monthly meeting.  It was probably one of the better, most well attended monthly meetings we have ever had.  The next day, Friday, we had our ribbon cutting with the Eureka Chamber of Commerce.  Saturday, we had our grand re-opening, but tied it into Arts Alive.

Humboldt Beer Week will happen again.  And again and again.  It will be back in 2013 bigger than ever, unless the world ends in December.  I would like to thank Andy Ardell and Vico Hernandez for a great ride.  And a raise of the glass and big thank you to Meredith and Talia at Six Rivers Brewery, Julie and Tera at Mad River Brewing Co., Drake at Redwood Curtain Brewing Company and Jere with Lagunitas for the Arts Alive donations.  You guys and gals are the best.

Over 200 different beers, 36 events, 9 days, 9 venues, 2 festivals.  And one hell of a week.

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