The 2011 Emerald Coast Beer Festival — PREVIEW

September 7, 2011

I received a card from a very nice young lady of 88 years the other day. Just a quick conveyance of appreciation from a fan of my work, it stands as a touching and genuine counterpoint to other mail I’ve seen directed my way lately. I hope I’m reading the handwriting correctly… Marjorie, you made my day.

My feelings for the content of the card are bittersweet at the moment. She mentions that she doesn’t get around much anymore at her age and, therefore, doesn’t see many chances to try the beer I write about every week. As I’ve lived with and around three grandparents who all eclipsed the 80-year mark, I understand her difficulties. Should I take anything emotional from this, it’s a reminder to not take youth for granted and to appreciate the access most of us have to the niceties of life.

I say bittersweet with an added note of disappointment for Marjorie as Pensacola’s premiere beer event is upon us: The Emerald Coast Beer Festival at Seville Quarter on the 8th & 9th of September. If the sweet dear has trouble travelling to downtown to have a pint then the swirling crowds of hopheads sipping suds in the heat is probably out of the question. I can perform a public service for all other potential attendees, however, and give my advice for navigating this event with its staggering selection of beer and close quarters with strangers.

Any advice I give here is for the beer tasting itself on the 9th. If you’re there to casually sample and hobnob, you probably needn’t arrive quite so early. For the serious ones with their game face on, I suggest getting in line up to an hour before gates open. Dress in loose, cool clothing as the early September sun still packs a sizzle. A little sunscreen wouldn’t hurt, too.

Have a game plan. Mine is always to eschew the stuff I can readily find in stores. Unless it’s a special, hard to come by “commercial” beer, I stick to the regional home brewers and microbreweries. Look for the Escambia Bay Home Brewers, Random Acts of Brewing, the Carboy Junkies and LA Lagers amongst others. Ask them what they did to make their beers unique. Remember, you’re here to explore.

Given the short amount of time allowed for sampling, people tend to marathon their beers. Pace yourself and ask for small samples. Make sure to eat some starchy food beforehand to absorb the ounces. Not too much, though, as it’ll expand the more liquid you put in there.

Finally, the fest is for information and enjoyment… not to get loaded. Be responsible and you should find yourself having a better time. If there’s still room down below, Hopjacks is tapping a special keg from NOLA Brewing filled just for them with Saaz dry-hopped Hurricane Saison with lavender. I’ll be drinking one of those for my new friend Marjorie.