I have been to fall festivals, Medieval Festivals and plenty of music festivals. This past Saturday, I had a chance to attend my first beer festival. I liked it. The 7th annual Riverside Craft Beer Festival was a sight to behold. Tickets for the event were $40 if purchased in advance or $50 at the door. For that price, you were given a wristband and a plastic pilsner glass with which you could sample as much beer, cider, stout or seltzer that you wished from the more than one hundred vendors.
It is difficult to drink $50 worth of beer in one afternoon, but knowing that the proceeds were going to Community PedsCare and to the local Rotary Club made the ticket price worthwhile. There was also a live band playing right by the St. Johns River. The band was the Firewater Tent Revival. You might remember them from my column about this year’s Roots Revival. It was nice listening to them play while sipping on a beer or three.
Many of the brewer’s tents were giving away various items. Besides a belly full of beer and cider, I was given two beer glasses, several stickers, many coasters, several koozies and a tin sign from the Full Sail Brewing Co. There were more than 40 breweries from Florida and 60 others from around the nation and the world. As hard as I tried, I realized pretty early on that I was not going to be able to try them all. Some water and some pizza from one of the many food trucks that were also at the Riverside Arts Market helped me rally for the final hour.
At the beer festival, I saw many veterans of other beer festivals wearing the most ingenious necklace for the occasion. I have never seen a “snacklace” before, but I will be wearing one if I am lucky enough to attend another beer festival. Many festivalgoers had put pretzels on a string and wore them around their neck. Some of the more ingenious added cheese puffs, crackers and other snacks to the mix around their necks. I am sure they made good use of those snacks between beer tastings. I think that it probably also helped to cleanse the palate a bit so that each new beer flavor could be distinguished from the previous offering.
You are probably wondering which beers I enjoyed the best. I am glad I took pictures of some of my favorites because for some reason, my recollection of that afternoon was a bit hazy the next day. The Guava Gose by the Collective Arts Brewing Co. was a light and fruity way to begin. The Orange Blossom Brewing Co. had a delicious pilsner that had hints of honey and orange that I sampled a few times both because of its flavor and their location next to the music stage. The Kyla Hard Kombucha was a pleasant surprise. I loved their grapefruit flavor and look forward to trying some others. I enjoyed the Mexican offerings from both Full Sail Brewing Co. and the Chihuahua Cerveza Co. The biggest surprise for me was how much I enjoyed the Volcano Juice Ginger Beer Shandy by the Halyard Brewing Co. It is the only ginger beer I have ever liked. For dessert, I loved the Hazelnut Spread Imperial Milk Porter by Brew Bus Brewing.
I would like to thank the Rotary Club of Riverside for putting on such a well-thought-out event, and my Uber driver for getting me back safely to my hotel room.
Eric lives in Suwannee County and is a public school educator. He is an independent contractor. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.