The weekend began with a bang as the participants of the Santa Rosa marathon kicked off the starting line. To some, this is the last qualifying race to the Boston marathon and to others, just a way to exercise before a nice cold brew at the finish line. 26.2 miles later, we all arrive at Julliard Park in downtown Santa Rosa where participants and the general public can stretch out, cool down, and carb-load their way to beer happiness.
The Ready, Set, Growl beer festival itself is only 2 years old but it already draws a huge amount of fans – local and international. Folks, the hype is real. Their inaugural year brought the infamous Heady Topper IPA from The Alchemist, located in Vermont, and rated 100 on BeerAdvocate. Today, the surprise guest brewery was most definitely Evil Twin Brewing, placed in Brooklyn, which showed up with an amazing array of beers and had people line up for days! (okay, maybe not days, but a few long minutes).
The beer arena was a smaller fenced section within the racing grounds. As we walked in, a line of excited attendees were waiting for their custom 32 oz. growler and a go at the brewery stands. Directly beside the entrance, we played with a litter of puppies from the Puppy Lifesaver Rescue, which is a local rescue organization – life is ruff so have a beer and save a puppy, right? We also had Whole Foods make an appreciated appearance offering tasty snack-sized bites from kettle chips to chili lime pistachios. This is an absolute must on any future festivals!
In addition to the 40+ local breweries, we had local homebrewers, ginger beer providers like Crabbie’s, and organic local cideries. It was great to see so many new faces and names since the wine aspects of the Napa region often overshadow these smaller players. Examples like FogBelt, Foxcraft, Carneros Brewing, Cooperage, Golden Road, Out of Bounds, and Plow Brewing, had great products to offer and are now on my go-to-list. Some notables on this sunny day did include:
- Crabbie’s Spiced Orange Ginger Beer – Nothing like a ginger beer concoction on a hot summer day!
- Hermitage Brewing Scotch Ale – Balanced scotch notes with a malty backbone. Surprisingly refreshing from one of my favorite local breweries. They brought the limited Sour Pumpernickel Rye.
- Sonoma Beerocrats’ Nasturtium Saison & Papaya IPA – Having recently written about local plants/spices, this was particularly intriguing. The papaya notes were slim but it gave the beer a subdued sweetness that was very unique.
- 3rd Street Aleworks - Special shoutout to these guys as they’re solid brewers, right across from Russian River, who helped created the custom growlers.
This was such a special event and I'm glad I attended. I regularly run races and understand the runner's high it comes with and the environment the Ready, Set, Growl provided in addition to the finish line was amazing. High energy and big smiles; high fives and congratulatory hugs; healthy people enjoying healthy lifestyles. After all, a little beer never hurts, right? I look forward to seeing this event grow and will definitely look to attend next year.