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Yesterday, Janet and I decided to make the hour-long trek up to Northampton, MA for the Great New England Brewers Festival.

The GNEBF is the largest regional craft-brew festival in New England, showcasing 40 local breweries and a number of international brews, giving beer aficionados over 90 beers to choose from over the three day festival.

As beer festivals go, the GNEBF is a bit pricy. It cost $6.00 per person just to get through the door and to get the cheap plastic souvenir cup, and six ounce samples were $1.25 a pop each (except for the international beers which ran $2.50 for six ounces&#41. Add $3.00 for parking and you end up with an expensive way to spend the afternoon.

The primary reason that Janet and I went up to the festival is because we are horribly uneducated on our new local beers. Sure, I can rattle on for hours about the differences between an Anderson Valley Hop Ottin IPA and a Lagunitas Maximus IPA… but ask me the difference between a North East Brewing Lobsterback IPA and a McNeill's Dead Horse IPA and I'll just shrug my shoulders.

So, we figured that we could go to the festival and try 10 or 12 different local beers and get our local brew bearings. However, as I sit here in my lonely computer room, I realize that I could have picked up full 12 ounce bottles of most of the beers available at the GNEBF for $1.00 each at Crazy Bruces, and enjoyed them without having to worry about the car crapping out on the way there (or the way home&#41, or having to deal with the crowds or anything like that.

But there is more to a beer festival than just drinking beer… it lets you spend time with the brewers themselves so you can get an idea of what they are trying to accomplish with the beers that they chose to showcase. That's why they call it a brewers festival, right?

Wrong. In the State of Massachussets, the brewers were not even allowed in the festival due to some archaic laws about brewers and the specific type of alcohol permits required to serve their beer… so instead of having them at the festival milling around to answer questions, the festival organizers simply banned the brewery staff from the premises.

In other words, there was no benefit to driving out to Northampton over buying 10 or twelve singles at Crazy Bruces and kicking back on my porch to enjoy them. What a gyp.

Basically, we drove two hours (round trip&#41 to sit in the middle of a dusty fair ground to drink beers with Budweiser-clad college boys and drink overpriced samples of beer at a brewers festival that didn't have any of the brewers in attendance. Even seeing a familiar face from the 1999 Barleywine Festival at the Toronado and bumping into another ex-San Franciscan with a Toronado t-shirt isn't enough to justify the time and wear-and-tear on the ol' Civic.

Posted in Barflies At Large.

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