Smokey and the Brewer

A long way to go…

Every once in a great while, a great idea is born.  Most of the time, those ideas die on the vine, but…occasionally they bear fruit.  A few springs ago I was up alone having a few beers and chatting with my friend George in Portland.  He was telling me that after a year off, the Bill & Bill’s Brewfest was going to take place.  George (Bill) and Jared (Bill) are a few homebrewers with big dreams of going pro.  To build a groundswell of support, they’d been brewing like mad and each summer host a beerfest in their backyard, charged a cover, provided food and live music.  I told him I should drive some beer up and be a guest brewer, he replied “You totally should.”  We left it at that and hung up.

A week later this idea was festering, like a bunch of drunk gummi bears were gnawing on my brain.  If the Bandit and Snowman could go fetch 400 cases of beer in Texarkana and get back in 28hrs, why couldn’t I haul a bunch of kegs to Portlandia and back?  I looked at my keg inventory and the calendar.  I came up with a brew schedule and enlisted two friends to make the drive.  My roommate Jacob and my buddy Brian, then got to work.  I txt’ed George, “Get ready, we’re making this happen!”

Bill (Jared) & Bill (George)

The beer was planned out, but the trip involved much debate.  What to do about LA?  The fest was Saturday and it’s 18-20hrs of driving to get there.  We didn’t want to show up exhausted so we decided we needed to arrive Friday late afternoon.  Working backwards that meant leaving La Mesa around 9pm Thursday night.  Plus side is we wouldn’t hit traffic in LA, downside was we’d all work a full 8 to 10hrs and then get on the road for 20 more.  What could possibly go wrong?!?!


Oopsour is loaded!

My lineup:
5 gal kegs
Maori Pale: 6.5% IPA, 25% rye, 5 varieties of NZ hops
West Coast Bitter: Kelsey’s 4% IPA-lite
Blind Pig, need I say more?
Ouiji Red, hoppy red (based on Alesmith Evil Dead) brewed in tribute to the old woman who died in my house
American Nut Brown

3 gal kegs:
2yr Pacific Old Ale
1.5yr RIS
The Cosby, 2nd batch
2yr Wee Heavy
American Barleywine

Additionally I went to my 3 favorite breweries and picked up a total of ten growlers from Pizza Port OB, Alpine and Ballast Point.  Fully loaded we were hauling up 44.5 gallons of homebrew.  Figuring the beer (in water weight alone) was over 356lbs, plus 3 guys all near 200+, and our gear, we were grossly exceeded the hauling weight of my Honda Element.

Keg Guardian

Jacob in the sleeping chair.  We had removed 1 seat from the BrewBox in order to fit all the kegs and our driving rotation was: Pilot, Co-pilot (on deck to be next driver) and on Deck, which meant you got to sleep.  We were doing full tank driving rotations, and due to the weight and the aerodynamics of a lunchbox, we were getting about 210miles/fill.  Which was HORRIBLE on a 1,081mi drive.  Average was about 18mpg.

Now, I did tell George we were coming up, and he let the other “Bill”-Jared know as it is hosted at Jared’s house.  Other than that, I told him to keep this little trip under his hat.  We pulled out and hauled booty north.  Ol Smokey was out there somewhere, but we managed about 80mph most of the time.  Except LA, it’s not that there was traffic, it’s that the quality of the roads are so poor.  Between high speed + over max payload capacity + LA roads, I’d end up buying a new suspension for my Element and Brian helped me install it some 6 months later after being told by the oil change tech “Buddy, all your shocks/struts are leaking badly.”


Throughout the night I slowly started giving hints that something was afoot.  A FB post here, a 3am txt msgs there…but my friends didn’t catch on.  So about 12pm Friday after 15 hrs on the road (and about the time Jacob and Brian realized that this trip was mostly driving) I was sitting co-pilot and I sent one of my best friends a msgs. 

EW: “Hey, what ya doing tonight?”
T: “Got a hot date!”
Jacob as an aside, ‘not anymore he doesn’t’
And I send him the follow pic:

T: “What is that?!”
EW: “Download it, zoom in.”
T: “Are you serious?! You’re 180 miles away?! This weekend is already a boozefest and you’re driving here?!”
EW: “With 2 buddies and 10 kegs worth of beer!”
T: “I’m going to reserve a stomach pump for later tonight.”
A minute later he realized what I’d done.
T: “You’re a real jerk, I have to cancel my date because ‘an old friend came in from out of town'”
EW: “See you in 2hrs!”

Mobile Setup

And with that the word spread fast and my phone was blowing up as everyone changed their Friday night plans.  Get to Jared’s (Bill #1) and start setting up as people leave work and rally. George is there (Bill #2) and we get everything setup before taking off. We’re all sick of the car and we took off for Apex, GBO (another Portland friend) said he’d meet us at the fest. Sun was out so this place was packed. Mostly CA beers which was a big disappointment. However, it’d be my go-to spot if I lived in Portland.

The Vaporizer from Double Mountain. Good. Nothing great, nothing horrible,solid beer.

Hop Stupid, standard G. Then bought an Abacus for the gang since they were a bit pissed about the crappy gas mileage and the trip was costing more than expected.

After which we went to a dive bar in NoPo called Kenton Station to meet up a friend w/ a kid who lived nearby. Had some forgettable red ale and was space mad, so we cashed in for the night. I had about 7hrs of sleep in the last 50+ hrs so it was time to crash the hell out.


Next day we grab breakfast in SE and then head over to meet GBO at Cascade. Had a few beers there, Red Rye which was G, and the Gose, which I wasn’t that excited about. I would have liked to have staid and drank more, however, it’s beerfest day, and the Green Dragon is across the street.

GBO and his girl Amber and I hit that while my friends go find whiskey and cigars for the fest (excellent idea). For some reason a big crowd must have cleaned their taps as it seemed half the beer we wanted was off tap. They had a Deschuttes night and Abyss was still on tap. Can’t go wrong there.

1 and done. Grabbed a growler of their imp stout. Guy filling the growler was like watching a monkey have relations with a cantaloupe. I’ve never seen a worse fill in my life and had to ask him to keep filling as the ‘foam won’t turn to beer and magically fill the growler up.’  Color EW unimpressed. 

Brian, T, Audrey, Jacob & EW @ HotD

GBO hints that HotD may be pouring Adam from the Wood. We head over and enjoy Cherry Fred, which was pretty intense beer, and is time to head to the fest. Some cute girls on rollerblades were involved but my single friends managed to shoot themselves down, which was entertaining. Not for a lack of trying to get them to the homebrew fest, but for some reason it just wasn’t the year for this party.

Festivus Time!

and talking…


Beer time!  I spent the next 7 or 8 or 9hrs pouring my brew and talking So Cal homebrewing.  They had 2 stations of beer + me, which was pretty amazing for a backyard beer fest.  Everyone was in a good mood and in all, it was worth the drive.  At least the drive up.







My buddy Jim aka GBO and I. He wrote a review of the event found HERE. All those growlers were total overkill. Those beers did blow the geeks away, esp Poorman’s and Bacon & Eggs. I think I sent GBO and his buddy home with 8 growlers of my homebrew. I did bring the growlers up so Bill & Bill could see what is offered in SD. They were supposed to make a trip to SD but was canceled, so I brought the beer to them.

Great view of the band.


Cigars had been passed around and thankfully I didn’t hit the bourbon bottle hard, although others did. When Travis left Cascade to go find bourbon and cigars I thought “this is a bad idea.” I think I told Jim “this is a bad idea”. When I lit up around midnight I thought “This is a bad idea”.

On the plus side, everyone was drinking all over the place and so I mostly just let the cigar burn itself out. Likewise, i was manning my taps all night and chatting so much w/ everyone else I didn’t totally over consume. I had 2 small sips off the flask before those guys just went straight to drinking out of the bottle.  Morons.

The next day wasn’t pretty.  We’d taken cabs and gotten a hotel room that night.  The best part of waking up was finding Jacob sleeping in a pit in his bed.  He was really pissed off that his mattress had a giant hole in it and he was “Going to talk to management!”  Turns out it was an air adjustable mattress and at some point during the night he’d mistaken the bed control for the TV control and completely deflated that side of the bed while trying to turn the volume down.  Still cracks me up to this day!

We’d all taken Monday off as well, expected to get through LA early afternoon and spend Sunday in Portland hanging out.  However, with our unexpected arrival the party had gone long and hard and everyone was not in the mood to do much.  So we debated and quickly decided it was best to just hit the road.  Suffering is suffering and we knew what lay ahead.

The only major highlight of the drive was Monday morning at 2:10am.

Both guys are passed out and I’m about 1/2 way through my driving shift, somewhere in BFE Cali. Cruise Control set at 80mph and that road is long, lonely and straight. A single sedan I’m slowly gaining on in the right hand lane. Aside from the occasional jerk with their highbeams on, its boring.

Having just fished a redbull out of the cooler, I’m attempting to open it w/o my eyes leaving the road when out of no where Jacob (sitting behind me) wakes up screaming into my ear:


This scares Brian in the passenger seat into undesired consciousness:


And me:


Had I not been trying to actively open that can I would have thought I had drifted off. Which is the whole reason I was getting a redbull in the first place.

Turns out that idiot was having a dream we were driving 80mph into a gas station, he woke up and in 1/2 vision/unconsciousness saw the car I was creeping up on and thought it was parked. Thank god he didn’t grab the wheel as he’s strong as hell and probably would have killed us.

Once we all calmed down and I was done swearing him out,

“Well guys, I’m going to just admit it: My bad.”-Jacob

We got home, tossed the remaining beer into the kegerator and finally fell asleep.  2,162miles driving over 35hrs for a total of 36hrs in Portland.  Over $600 in gas, and a new suspension later…it was so worth it!

Ol Beauford T. Justice never caught us either.

Categories : Beer Travels

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