For me, the name conjured up the image of giant fields filled with whirling dervishes of body-painted hippies, stages full of bands I’d never heard of and glow sticks. Lots of glow sticks. When my cousin suggested going (she knew that I have a hard time saying no to any adventure), I thought it would be a good chance to challenge my preconceived notions.
After experiencing a weekend on The Farm, as the site in Manchester, TN is known, I decided that my pre-event imagination wasn’t far off. There were a lot of hippies. And body paint. And, for all of Security’s efforts, glow sticks. Lots of glow sticks.
But there was far more than that, too. At Bonnaroo, I realized that just because there are 80,000 of your closest friends rocking out in the same general vicinity, it doesn’t mean that you won’t have individually memorable experiences.
For this craft beer lover, Bonnaroo was a surprising experience for one simple reason: the Bonnaroo Broo’ers Festival.
Okay, I take it back. Two reasons: The Broo’ers Festival and the Broo U events.
Under one tent situated smack in the middle of the farm (aptly called Centeroo), the Broo’ers Festival was an oasis of tasty craft beers (and a shady spot when the sun was doing its damnedest to turn me into a well-done kebab). Featuring 25 different breweries from all over the U.S., including some of my favorites like Lagnuitas (CA), SweetWater (GA) and my hometown brewery, Crazy Mountain in Edwards (CO), there were also new-to-me brews like Schlafly (MO) and New Holland (MI) plus several booths from Tennessee breweries like Yazoo, Ole Shed Brewing and Tennessee Brew Works.
I have to say, my heart leapt like a giddy little school girl’s when I saw that tent. In my experience, festivals are spent supping on 24 oz cans of Coors Light.
No longer, I tell you.
In no time we were standing in line for tickets, chatting with two nice, handsome, obviously intelligent young men from New Orleans.
Did I mention that people who drink craft beer are, statistically, smarter and more attractive than people who do not drink craft beer?*
So, for the remainder of the festival, when there was a lull in-between bands, or it was insanely hot or I was hungry or thirsty, I would turn to Mariah, my cousin, and ask, “Want to go to the beer tent?”
Note: there was no food in the beer tent. However, there was Hamageddon situated conveniently across from the Broo’ers tent. And sometimes I prefer to drink my lunch.
Here are a few that I really enjoyed on a hot Tennessee day, before rocking out to my just discovered, new favorite band.
I’ve been aware of this brewery based out of Montgomery, AL for a few months, mostly because I’ve been trying to sample as many good Southern beers as I could before I headed back to Colorado. However, I have to say that Good People was one of my standout favorites at the Fest.
My pick: Hitchhiker IPA
Located in St. Louis, MO, this was my first taste of Shlafly. However, I listened to the brewer discuss sustainable brewing at a session during the festival and decided to give it a sample. I’m glad I did (and now I might have to stop in St. Louis on my next road trip out).
My pick: Dry Hopped APA
I can’t help it. This was my gateway craft brewery when I was a naive 21-year-old in Atlanta. I’ll always gravitate towards their booth if they’re present, for at least one frothy glass of nostalgia.
My pick: 420 Extra Pale Ale
Beers weren’t cheap ($3 for a tasting pour, about 2 oz; $8 for a 12 oz; $9 for a 16 oz), but they were so good. It was worth the price, especially when I found out that 16oz Bud Lights were $8–there was no question.
When I found out that my editor from the Weekly Pint, Christian DeBenedetti, would be attending Bonnaroo, I thought, “Cool. He likes big, hippy festivals, too.”
Sometimes I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
CDB was there working with the Broo’ers U programming as well as leading a panel on Sustainable Brewing with the brewers from Lagunitas and Schlafly and…Dave Johnston and Adam Aijala from Yonder Mountain String Band. Swoon. After some very intelligent discussion, the guys agreed to play a few songs and Ben Kauffman joined them.
Beer and Bluegrass? Nothing better.
Broo U classes are worth visiting, too; there were three session each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The one I sat in on featured some special selections from Brooklyn Brewery, Crazy Mountain and Yazoo.
It was most excellent weekend, one that it really hard to describe in total. However, I must say, for a craft beer lover it was one of the best non-beer focused festivals that I’ve attended. Which makes me ask the question: why aren’t more festivals focusing on craft beer?
I have a feeling that more and more large gatherings like this will be incorporating craft beer. Which makes this semi-hippy, music-loving heart just all that much more happy.
Want to hear more about why most people attend Bonnaroo (the music! the people! the camping!)? Tune in for the my next post where I’ll lay it all out.
*Of course I didn’t. This is a totally made up fact. But it could be true, based on what I’ve seen.