Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Of Poured Drafts and Downpours...

Last Saturday, my girl and I met up with Zack (sporting some new lambchop 'burns) in Vienna to pedal out to the Old Dominion Beer Festival via the W&OD Trail. We hit the trail around 10:45 a.m., amazed that the weather seemed to be holding up well. By the reckoning of most of the meteorologists, it should have been raining already. Instead, the sun shone with all of its strength as we rode, occasionally playing cat-and-mouse with the wandering nimbus clouds that prefigured the coming deluge.

The ride out was quick. At one point, a couple of roadies passed us—all stern-faced, with mouths twisted downward at the edges in a competition rictus, arms cocked mantid-like over their aero bars in a parody of supplication, bodies sheathed in lycra like colorful sausage casings—while we were casually riding along. Zack and I looked at each other and laughed, then poured on the power, quickly catching up to and passing the "serious" cyclists. (I was turning a 46x16 and spinning like mad; Zack was pushing something like a 50x15, and this latter seemed like the perfect gear for swiftly laying down distance on this relatively flat bit of trail.) It wasn't long before my girl passed by the would-be racers as well; I think they had spent their reserves passing us the first time, or maybe a training attitude burns more glycogen than one would expect. This same thing happened again a few miles later with a trio of racer types astride carbon fiber bikes, who then caught up to me and Zack at a light, but decided that they'd had enough humiliation at that point...that, or they'd noticed Zack drafting them with his hands dangling by his sides just before we pulled ahead. Either way, they didn't pursue us with any aggression when the light changed.

We got to the brewery with time to spare before the official opening at noon. King Sol, hovering directly overhead, gave no indication that he might be dethroned any time soon. We rolled up onto the brewery grounds and quickly located the Pedalshop booth, where Mike was getting things ready. I settled in while the others picked up some pogs and roamed the booths to bring back samplings. The first taste of beer to hit my lips came from Dogfish Head. They were serving up 60 Minute IPA and Aprihop; I had the former. It hit the spot, but seemed a bit off. As some of the other team members rolled in, I was able to take a walk around and check out all the breweries.

After a once-over, I was pretty disappointed to learn that some of my favorites were no-shows, among them Anderson Valley, Bison, Weyerbacher, North Coast, and Russian River; in short, many of the ones that would have made this 10th Anniversary gathering really special. Alas, it was not to be. Oddly, Stone, Great Divide, and Bear Republic were huddled together under a single inconspicuous white tent roof with no signage, so it took a while to even notice they were there. And many of the servers where random volunteers, a change from years past, when brewery reps were tipping the tap handles and would occasionally pour you a freebie. Bear Republic (yeah!) was pouring Red Rocket Ale and Racer 5, Great Divide had Titan IPA (at the curious and rather unreasonable cost of two pogs) and another that slips my mind right now (Wild Raspberry Ale?), and Stone was serving up Arrogant Bastard and Smoked Porter. I made it by the Shenandoah booth and took in a little of their locally-famous Chocolate Donut Beer, which was pretty much spot on, tasting like, well, a chocolate donut. Lancaster and Victory were offering their standbys, Hophog and the anthrhopomorphic (forgive the cheesy portmanteau) Hopdevil, respectively. That's about it, as far as the beers I stuck with for the day.

We hung out for a while, slamming beers and talking bikes with Jim C., Jen, Nick, and Nate. John-o showed up with his kids, as did Jeff, with his wife and daughter, sneaking in between the beers and the bullshit. It wasn't long before my girl and I grabbed some food, spurred on by the memory of last year's mistake, when we ate nothing until the evening, the food arriving too late to cut the alcohol flowing in our veins. Back at the booth, I talked at length to several prospective customers, discussing their two-wheeled wants and needs and suggesting they stop by the shop sometime soon for a fitting and more information.

The afternoon began its slow, furtive slide into evening right before our eyes, which failed to really notice anything beyond the edges of that familiar alcohol-induced tunnel vision. Presently, two girls who had earlier dropped off their bikes at the booth for safekeeping reappeared and rewarded my idle bike chatter with 11 pogs—a real boon since the festival promoters this year decided not to include "starter" pogs with the entry fee. I distributed the bonus pogs to anyone in our group who didn't have a beer in hand.

After a while, Zack took off, citing another commitment, and others began slipping away—plans to ride the Cranky Monkey race (now rescheduled for July 30th) on Sunday had, it seemed, put the brakes on overindulgence. Lee showed up with his girl to man the booth for the 4:00 shift, taking over my spot and picking up the conversation.

Soon the clouds began to gather and the skies opened up with the first bouts of what turned out to be a four-day deluge of diluvial proportions. The booths were soon packed with fest-goers seeking shelter from the downpour. Those caught out in the elements comically palmed their glasses—lest their beers be diluted by raindrops—and scrambled to find empty space under the booth tarps. Several sots began mud diving in the huge puddles that sprang up all around like rampant chancres, providing the stranded with a little amusement to go with their dwindling refreshments. Under the tarps, the trick was to make your beer last until the rain subsided, while simultaneously willing away the spent beer that threatened to overwhelm your bladder and start a storm of its own.

We waited for a lull in the downpour, then got our stuff together, said our goodbyes, and headed back on the 15 mile ride to the cars. I have to say that, comparatively speaking, I was pretty sober for the return trip. Regardless, the ride back in the looming dusk seemed interminable, and I felt like the sprints earlier in the day had taken something out of me. I pedaled sluggishly and without zeal through the light rainfall, just looking forward to getting there, which is unusual for me. If I had had more to drink, perhaps my perspective would have been brighter...too bad all those excellent breweries stayed home.

Next up in the fall is Capital City's Brew Festival in Shirlington. Hmm, last year's fest at Shirlington was interrupted by a heavy downpour as well; let's hope this isn't a trend.


gmr2048 said...

Sounds like a pretty good time despite the drenching and absence of old favorites.

I ended up having family obligations in PA this weekend, else I would have joined you guys. Will have to try again in the fall.

DT said...

Yea, likewise I had family obligations down in Ocean City. I put on my own family brew festival though, pouring From Away IPA, Raspberry Wheat Ale, and a Belgian Wit...mmm...good.

Looking forward to Cap City this year and PARTAKING!