Second annual 'Home Brew Fest' features craft beers,
swimming for the kids
By Lou Fancher
Like a lot of guys and a few gals, Steve Meagher made home-brewed beer for the first time when he was in college.
"It was awful, just horrible, because I wanted it to be high-alcohol and ready tomorrow," Meagher recalled.
But last year, at a 50th birthday-party-turned-homebrew-festival that will celebrate its second rendition Saturday at Orinda's Oak Spring Pool, Meagher's Irish red beer, "Wiley's Kilts," took the grand prize.
Festival co-organizer Chris Flum said his buddy's smooth beer won top honors partly because it was labeled correctly.
"Other beers might have won, but the brewer didn't know what they were brewing, so they called it a Belgian style when it was more of an Irish ale. Or if we were judging an entry on being a hop-heavy IPA, it didn't get a prize if it was actually a pale ale."
Flum isn't a home brewer but serves as one of the judges. The Orinda native said he can trace his pedigree to his great uncle, Bernie Stroh (yes, of Stroh's beer fame).
"My favorite festival entry was actually a sarsaparilla, a real mug root beer," Burt said.
Regardless of the labeling mix-ups and hurly-burly nature of the event, Flum and Meagher count the first festival a success. Eight brewers entered, judges from Anchor Brewing in San Francisco participated, the event reached capacity with 120 people attending and co-sponsoring Oak Spring Pool broke even.
"It turned into a big shindig," Flum said. "Everybody loves beer and you get about five beers for the price of two happy hour beers."
Tickets to the family-friendly festival are $10 and include a 5-ounce mug for pours, as well as appetizers and hot dogs for the kids. The alcohol is served to adults with wristbands in the clubhouse, while kids play in the pool under the watch of certified lifeguards.
Meagher, a physical therapist and ergonomics consultant, is in charge of awards. "I just make them up," he said. "Almost everybody gets a prize -- it's like Little League."
Last year's "best head" winner received a foam wig head. The "best body beer" winner went home with a mannequin torso; "most complex" received a Rubik's Cube. The grand prize is a gas lock (used in brewing to control the release of gases during fermentation) that Meagher spray paints a shiny silver -- and a private tour of the Anchor Brewery.
Meagher restarted his beer-making career with a visit to More Beer, a home brewing supply store on Detroit Avenue in Concord. Having successfully made blueberry beer last year, he said the rise of craft beer has built an underground community.
"It's sort of like today's woodworking," Meagher said. "I do it for the giggles and because I like doing birthday challenges."
In 2011, he rode up Mount Diablo on a unicycle. Last year, he launched a beer festival. It might be a good idea to find an antique bicycle and tune it up before September. Meagher is planning a two-day, 200-mile ride from Seattle to Portland on his 1880s-style bike. You can bet he'll be looking for company and a few folks interested in a post-ride brew.