Social studies

Chad Leonard, one of the organizers of the Backwash beer festival, poses with swag from the competition.

Chad Leonard, one of the organizers of the Backwash beer festival, poses with swag from the competition.

Photo/Eric Marks

We are, for the most part, a social species. We like to get together, celebrate things and bond with others over common interests. We also, still broadly speaking, like to alter our consciousness—whether spinning yourself dizzy as a child, or through alcohol or other intoxicants as an adult, many of us like to catch a buzz.

Combine those inclinations and you basically have a party. Make that party really big, full of strangers and all about my favorite drink, and you have yourself a beer festival. Worldwide, there are hundreds of these wonderful occasions to taste, drink, discuss and worship beer. Whether to raise funds for charity, have brewers compete against each other, or just to promote beer and brewing, beer festivals are a great opportunity to sample lots of brews in fun settings with others who love beer and a good time.

Of course, being a city that loves both festivals and beer, Reno has a handful of worthy beer fests each year, and you just missed a good one, Strange Brew. While some festivals are content to maybe offer some beers you’ve never had, maybe a few special releases, Strange Brew outdoes them all with its unique twist, living up to its name by asking brewers to create the weirdest beers imaginable. Four years strong, Strange Brew has been hosted by local brewpub The Brewer’s Cabinet in their parking lot. This year, more than 20 breweries poured dozens of crazy brews, like a light sour served with a glazed cricket, a spicy chicken wing-inspired brew, an earthy ale aged on mushrooms, as well as slightly less wild recipes like a delicious tiramisu stout or key lime pie saison. Keep your eyes peeled for advance tickets in early 2018 before they sell out again.

As if a festival celebrating beer wasn’t enough, beer lovers had to go bigger still and combine a bunch of events, “mini festivals” if you will, and create entire weeks dedicated to celebrating beer. The “beer week” was born. Reno has stepped right up to join major burgs like Philadelphia and San Francisco in holding our own Reno Craft Beer Week. For local beer lovers, it’s an embarrassment of riches, more events than you could afford, fit into your schedule, or should subject your body to. How better to start off a week of beer events than a beer festival? Reno Craft Beer Week kicks off June 2 with Backwash, the annual home brew competition and fundraiser. Since 2011, Backwash has recruited local home brewers to brew and pour their finest. Attendees taste a wide variety of local hobbyists’ beers and vote for their favorite, and the winner gets to brew their winning recipe at Silver Peak. Charity, live music and delicious beer made by your friends and neighbors is a great time. (Disclosure: I have entered Backwash in the past but am not entered or attending this year and have no connection to the event otherwise.)

Backwash just gets the ball rolling for our Beer Week. The very next day you’ll have the option to go whole hog with two more events I’m excited for. Imbib Custom Brews is celebrating their second anniversary with food, games, and of course, great beer, while Chapel Tavern hosts Jupiter Fest, a celebration of barleywines, imperial stouts and other strong beers. (Gravity is a measure of the sugar density and resulting alcohol in brewing beer. Get it? Gravity on Jupiter is really strong.)

From beer dinners to tap takeovers, Reno Craft Beer Week is like Christmas in June for beer geeks, although, with nine days of beer-y goodness, Hanukkah might be a better comparison. Get out there and enjoy the beer.