As the temperatures begin to soar across the country, craft beer lovers head out to get their fill of free tastings at festivals that are becoming more and more frequent.

For many a craft beer event isn’t just about the free, sometimes limitless tasting of their favorite beers. It isn’t just to get free stuff as the big guys toss t-shirts, hats, stickers and anything else they could plaster their names on and schlep out to each passerby. Instead, if one can push aside the veil, look beyond the drones of sample after sample, things start to look a bit interesting.

Never underestimate the beauty of a properly made pretzel necklace.

Eric Gibson

The craft beer community is just that, a club for boys and girls that anyone can join with the right gumption, know-how, and proper assemblage of yeast, wort, and hops. Despite the growth and fragmentation the industry is starting to see, what remains at the local level is still a bunch of big time home brewers with shiny equipment busting out some wild and exciting recipes. But the job of running a brewery doesn’t allow many of our heroes time to exchange quips or samples with each other.

Luckily, we have a festival for that.

Nothing brings the industry’s movers and shakers together like free beer. Of course behind it all is the premise that it will get people in their doors, or show some exposure to those just starting out, or even to just showcase the incredible talent of a feisty homebrewer who concocted the next world shattering combination of ingredients that makes the beer snobs and hipsters go ooooh! Wading through the river of attendees will be the same people they came to see, all eagerly waiting in the same lines with the same four ounce sampler glass trying to get a hold of that home brewer’s juice.

Ingredients on display at the Firestone Walker booth.

Eric Gibson

They question the process, provide tips to the new guys, or just get drunk like the rest of us. Sometimes the criticism is harsh. “Sterilizer and soap shouldn’t be a part of the flavor profile” says a brewer laughing as he pours his sample out. Other times, the praise is well founded. “This is amazing. So how did you…” trailed off a brewmaster as he held his sampler glass to the light to admire the color.

Despite the lines getting longer, and many attendees going just to slam a few high gravity beers from the places they know, among the pretzel necklaces and free stickers is the backbone of the craft beer community, still sharing secrets and experience and enjoying doing what they love. Making and sharing their beers.

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