Tom Durkin
Special to Prospector

Sierra BrewFest on tap for 25th annual event

Many anthropologists believe that women invented beer thousands of years ago while the men were out hunting. In fact, the Mesopotamian goddesses Ninkasi, Siris and Siduri were worshipped by beer lovers of both sexes about 5,000 years ago.

However, it was only 25 years ago that Music in the Mountains discovered beer was a very effective way of raising funds for the nonprofit organization. Music in the Mountains brings classical music to the community, including a very active music education component in local schools.

Saturday afternoon, however, it’s all blues, soul and rock at the 25th annual Sierra BrewFest at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. The ever-popular Jamal Walker Band is returning for a repeat engagement.

Last year, they had the people dancing and singing on the grass.

Another repeat from last year is a beanbag-toss game called Bag-O. The winning team gets four tickets to next year’s BrewFest. Four-person teams can assemble in advance or on the spot.

Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the gate for unlimited tastings. Non-tasters and designated drivers get in for $10. Kids under 18 are free. Parking is $5 per car.

Beer here … and more

At last count, 46 breweries had signed on to donate their best beers, and ciders, to the fundraiser, said Sandra Barrington, chair of the BrewFest for Music in the Mountains.

“It’s getting bigger every year,” said Cristine Kelly, executive director of Music in the Mountains.

She said the event is so much fun she’s planning on maybe postponing her vacation so she can attend.

BrewFesters will have a choice of well more than 100 beers, and quite a few ciders, to taste. Each brewery will have various versions of their unique brews.

Several “local” breweries are contributing to the cause, including Ol’ Republic and Sierra Moonshine of Nevada City; Auburn Alehouse and Knee Deep Brewing Co. of Auburn; Out of Bounds Brewing Co. of Rocklin; and the American River Brewery of Rancho Cordova, reported Barrington.

Besides some familiar names, like Sierra Nevada and Lagunitas, this year’s BrewFest features several new breweries.

“It’s the 25th anniversary of the BrewFest, and we have some new breweries this year,” she said.

Among those making their debuts at Sierra BrewFest are Deschutes Brewery and Ninkasi (remember her?) Brewing Co. of Oregon, and Einstock Icelandic Craft Ales of (where else?) Iceland.

For those who prefer cider, another ancient beverage, 2 Towns Cider, Ace Cider, Common Cider, Stella Artois Cidre and Johnny Apple Cider will be serving up their craft brews, all gluten-free.

Always known for having good food, the Sierra BrewFest will have even more vendors this year to complement the many flavors of beers and ciders, Barrington said.

Way Yum Sushi, Coloma Wraps, Lazy Dog Ice Cream, An Honest Pie, Papa Murphy’s Pizza, The Old 5Mile House, Ajay’s Montana Bananas, Xochimilico Mexican Restaurant, and J Dogs will serve up a diverse array of culinary delights.

A beginner’s guide to beer tasting

Like fine wines, craft-brewed beers aren’t to be guzzled. That’s why the tasting glasses are small.

There’s a basic protocol for seriously tasting a beer, explained Simon Olney, award-winning brewmeister and co-owner of Ol’ Republic Brewery.

First, you look at it, he said. “You’re looking for color and clarity.”

Next, you smell it, seeking the aromas of the hops and the malt, he said.

Only then, do you taste it. “You taste it on the front, middle and back of your palette,” Olney said. Ask yourself, “Does it have a clean finish?”

Of course, it all depends on what taste you like. Hops make the taste of the beer bitter, whereas the barley malt (or other cereal grain malt) adds sweetness.

Olney advised starting out with the lighter, milder brews like lagers and amber ales. Then move on to IPAs (India Pale Ales) and finally, the dark, stout, “full-flavored” beers.

Asked why ales are so popular right now, Olney replied, “I have no idea.” He added that he prefers lagers, which are harder to brew.

As of press time, Olney and his partner Jim Harte hadn’t decided exactly which of their craft brews they’ll be serving Saturday. Olney did, however, mention something about a couple lagers and “at least one surprise.”

Thank you, ladies

Nobody knows who invented beer first. Her name is lost to history.

That was then, this is now. Things have changed. Now it’s mostly men who make beer. And we have refrigeration.

On another level, things haven’t changed all that much. Saturday afternoon, men and women will be drinking beer and dancing just as they have since the dawn of history.

Tom Durkin is a freelance writer and photographer in Nevada City. He can be contacted at

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The Union Updated Aug 21, 2014 10:53AM Published Aug 21, 2014 10:53AM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.