With all the hoopla surrounding the Super Bowl in South Florida the following weekend, many of you missed out on an event just as grand and showy; an event of epic proportions that slipped under the radar for most folks; a gathering place for beer lovers and aficionados across the region: the 4th Annual Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival in Jupiter, Florida, held Saturday, January 30, 2010.
While it may not boast million-dollar athletes smashing heads for football supremacy, the event is a veritable beer-lover’s paradise, a showcase for some of the nation’s most talented craft beer makers and those throngs of die-hard supporters and fans who worship in the church of beer.
The Wanderlushes made the hour-plus trek north to Jupiter’s Roger Dean Stadium, Spring Training baseball home of the Florida Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals. Beer and baseball…who thinks of these things? The baseball stadium sat empty, of course (Spring Training doesn’t begin in earnest until March) but its periphery was stocked well with a whole host of beer makers. Much like vendors at a Middle Eastern brewing bazaar, there were myriad tents and displays for the stars of the show, the beer makers themselves (and their wares) offering three-ounce samples to the eager consumers who made the trip. All you can drink is the rule, though with that many beers available, proper pacing on our part would be important for maintaining one’s motor skills. After all, it is a long drive back to Fort Lauderdale and even the most ardent of beer drinker knows to enjoy beer responsibly (unless you are in a setting that would allow going overboard and someone confiscates your car keys, despite your boozy protests).
After receiving our badges and sampling lanyards (not quite backstage access at a Motley Crue show, but impressive none the less), we parted the beery seas and found ourselves knee-deep in a cadre of boozy types of every ilk: sophisticates, yuppies, beer prognosticators…as well as the craft beer curious. The first rule of these affairs is to be patient and not let the crowd (which was considerable at this point) get to you. Yes, there are many beers to sample; yes, some people are gracious and courteous in their sampling; and yes, there are, ultimately, going to be scores of lisping, drooling drunkards reeling and stumbling their way through the event.
To the casual observer, an event such as this may seem a bit over-the-top (can you really enjoy sampling 50 beers?) And I would agree, to a certain extent, that it is. Bud Light, Coors and Landshark Lager drinkers need not apply at this institute of higher drinking. This isn’t your pretentious, over-age, networking under the influence keg party. These are professionals, both in mind and spirit. Craft brews in America are more popular than ever, with every state in the union boasting one or more reputable breweries, from the smallest “mom and pop” set-ups to large beer outputs, all lovingly created by beer lovers who think life is too short to drink crap beer. Many of these intrepid entrepreneurs are former career people who’ve thrown the nine-to-five daily grind out and replaced it with a career that may or may not prove to be a road to riches, but is rewarding none the less.
But back to the Festival. Closing time, if you can call it that, was 5:30 p.m. This gave us just over two hours to make the rounds and complete our stadium crawl. And we did it with gusto, sampling beers in a circuit that would have made any pub crawling college freshman drool. We did take a small break to enjoy some street meat, a.k.a sausage and peppers, from one of the numerous food purveyors stationed in and around the stadium gates. We were all feeling the familiar buzz about us, so food was mandatory in order for us all to further our slash-and-burn beer conquest. There was live entertainment provided, but no one noticed the folk song duo playing on the makeshift stage amid the beer stalls. Poor guys, they didn’t stand a chance with this crowd. At one point in the afternoon several slightly inebriated festivalgoer’s chatted us up. One man, I forget his name now, introduced himself and simply walked away. No queries about our situation or how we were enjoying the event, just a simple, friendly greeting (slurred) and off he went.
Overall, our impressions with the 4th Annual Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival were resoundingly positive. As beer lovers ourselves who are constantly on the lookout for new and interesting beers, we were all impressed by the beer selection. Some were better than others, but like good wine or music, everyone has their own discerning tastes and would enjoy this once-a-year event. The Wanderlushes look forward to next year’s event, wherever it may be.