Summer Craft Beer Weekend in Truckee, California

Craft beer weekends are the best weekends. Is that a saying? Because if it’s not, then it should be. My most recent beer weekend was a summer craft beer weekend in Truckee, and perhaps one of my favorites to date. It had beer (more than 30 breweries), it had live bluegrass music, and it had beer and food pairings. Best weekend ever? Northstar California’s Beerfest & Bluegrass Festival was in its 10th year this summer over July 4th Weekend. It started with the Brewmaster Dinner Series (which I’ll discuss shortly), with the main event being the craft beer and bluegrass festival that takes place Saturday afternoon at the Village at Northstar.

But what makes Northstar California’s Beerfest & Bluegrass Festival one of my favorite summer beer festivals in recent memory boils down to a few things, not the least of which is the value and quality of beer. Advanced sale tickets are $30, which is comparative to about 4 beers (after tip) that you’d probably get from a local craft beer pub. Admission gets you a commemorative pint glass for sampling beers for three and a half hours. In other words, you neither should go thirsty, nor drive home (free shuttles are offered to and from Truckee and Kings Beach).

This year’s festival featured more than 30 breweries, which included the Great American Beer Festival's most award-winning brewery, Alaskan, as well as a couple of my favorite breweries on the West Coast, Deschutes, Firestone, and nearby Knee Deep Brewing. A number of the other breweries were from within an hour of Northstar, such as The Brewing Lair, The Brewer’s Cabinet, FiftyFifty Brewing, and Great Basin Brewing.

Meanwhile, amidst the beer samples, live bluegrass music rang through the air from the stage on the main level of the Village at Northstar. This year’s lineup featured Ventucky String Band (with special guest Brent Harding of Social Distortion), something of a swing and bluegrass mash-up, and The Railsplitters, described as a high-energy bluegrass and Americana band. After sampling a number of beers (mainly IPAs) for the first hour with my buddy Nick, we paced ourselves the rest of the afternoon, slowing down our sample intake, while instead taking in some of the live music.

But as I mentioned earlier, Northstar’s craft beer weekend officially kicks off on Friday night with their Brewmaster Dinner Series. Taking place a couple evenings during the summer, the event features a five-course menu, each course paired with a different craft beer, and with live music. Long story short: arrive very hungry and very thirsty.

This year’s Brewmaster Dinner, taking place on the patio of Martis Valley Grill, featured one of the beer festival’s breweries, Blue Frog/DNA Brewing. I was lucky enough to sit at the table with the owner's family, who couldn’t have been more down to earth if they tried. I learned about their background and history, including the name of their new line of beers, DNA, which in actuality was named so because of the initials of the daughters, Ashley and Daniella.

However, what stood out to me about the Brewmaster Dinner was how well the beers played off the flavors of each course. I often find with beer and food pairings that the beers don’t necessarily complement the flavors of each dish. That wasn’t the case here. The Dry Dock Double IPA, for example, featured notes of grapefruit and citrus that paired well with the citrus flavors from the stonefruit chutney used with the smoked pork tenderloin course.

Needless to say, I left in a food coma. The next Brewmaster Dinner at Northstar California will be on Friday, September 2, while the Northstar California’s Beerfest & Bluegrass Festival will return next summer over July 4th Weekend again. If you prefer to pair your food with wine, the 31st Annual Autumn Food & Wine Festival returns the second weekend of September.