Idaho microbrew lovers can celebrate like a bunch of kids on the last day of school because it's time for the annual Mountain Brewer's Beer Fest in Idaho Falls. Now in its 14th year, the North American Brewer's Association has earned a reputation for putting on one of the greatest beer fests in the Northwest. Year after year, volunteers and crew organizing the event work tirelessly to ensure the festival goes off without a hitch. Most of the volunteers are regular repeats and with their help, the NABA crew has fine tuned their efforts into a well-oiled machine of efficiency and fun.
Part of what makes this particular festival so popular is that, after taxes, all profits go directly to nonprofit organizations like the Idaho Falls Crime Stoppers, the gay awareness and AIDS support group Breaking Boundaries, and a new foundation established by NABA for local charities. Last year, the festival raised more than $50,000. Also, the festival organizers provide free bus shuttles from hotels and local landmarks to and from the event held just outside town at Sandy Downs Race Track. These yellow school bus rides are pretty special in themselves, with choruses of colorful (off key) beer drinking songs as revelers head to and from sampling some of the best microbrews in the country. More than 80 microbreweries are scheduled to pour hundreds of beers, from nationally distributed brewers such as Alaskan, New Belgium, Full Sail, Samuel Adams, Sierra Nevada and Widmer, to local Idaho and Northwest brewers like Big Horn (The Ram), Big Sky, Pelican, Snake River, Laughing Dog and more.
Last year, there were nearly 6,000 attendees. Festival organizers expect this number to increase, based on online and advance ticket sales. Boise ticket outlet The Ram was surprised when they ran out of tickets, a noticeable change from last year.
The weather has always been good in years past, and this year's forecast is for high 60s with plenty of sunshine. I've also always appreciated that the festival runs from noon until six p.m., which is plenty of time to enjoy drinking in the sun, while being short enough a span to avoid sun stroke and too nasty a hangover. Be sure to bring sunscreen and pace yourself. Pop-up canopies and camp chairs are welcome, which helps create a home base to sit back. Enjoy the live music—Idaho Falls band The 4 Fathers are playing this year—and people-watch.
Availability of hotel rooms was still good when I booked my room last week. Help the festival maintain its good record and just say no to drinking and driving, before, during and afterward. Book a place with a restaurant on site or within close walking distance, as after the festival, you will probably be hungry, but might suffer a noticeable lack of energy. See you there.
June 7, noon-6 p.m., Sandy Downs Racetrack, Idaho Falls. Tickets are $20 in advance through northamericanbrewers.org or $25 at the gates. For more information, call the Beer Fest Hotline at 208-528-MBBF.