Break out the brew: Northstar celebrates 12 years of beer and bluegrass |

Break out the brew: Northstar celebrates 12 years of beer and bluegrass

The 13th annual Beerfest and Bluegrass festival will be held at Northstar this weekend.
Justin Scacco /

Expert picks for top summer beers

• Max Grush, DNA Brewing Co. — “It’s going to either be a 707 Session IPA or our Dock IPA, which is a grapefruit, citrus, double IPA. It comes in at 8.5 percent, but it drinks much smoother than that.”

• Mike O’Brian, Drake’s Brewing Co. — “The Fly Away Pilsner. It’s a nice easy drinking, northern German-style pilsner. Very big for summertime drinking, and we just brought in our first canned beer this year called Kick Back. It’s a session IPA, 4.3 percent, easy drinking.”

• Mike Sinclair, FiftyFifty Brewing Co. — “You’ve got to try the ‘Hazy’ in a can. The West Coast Haze out of a can tastes amazing. If you go to a bar, make sure to try our Eclipse, which is our flagship barrel aged beer. In the middle of the summer when everyone’s drinking light beers and IPAs, try a big barrel aged beer and just see what your taste buds see in it.”

• Nick Connors, Kern River Brewing Co. — “Our Isabella Blonde has really easy drinkability and has a nice finish to it … most people gravitate toward that on a really hot day.”

• Sabrina Terrazas, Boochcraft — “Our Apple Lime Jasmine is what people gravitate more towards because it’s more of a champagney cider. My personal favorite is the grapefruit hibiscus, but all of them are super refreshing, especially over ice or mixed with other drinks.”

Beers of every imaginable type and variety were paired with the instrumentals and vocals of a trio of bluegrass musicians last weekend as Northstar California Resort celebrated its 12th annual Beerfest & Bluegrass festival.

More than 40 breweries showed up, lining The Village at Northstar on July 7, to provide hundreds of guests relief from the afternoon heat.

From innovative IPAs to traditional German-style pilsners, each of the dozens of brewers pulled a pair of their best out to bring to the festival for sampling.

Among the breweries, a handful of local outfits were on hand, adding a taste of the Truckee-Tahoe area to this year’s event.

Mike Sinclair, of Truckee’s FiftyFifty Brewing Co., brought out the brewery’s flagship West Coast Haze and also its Castle Peak Kolsch.

“Big hop character, but not a lot of bitterness, that creates a great aromatic hop character, but a really easy drinking body,” said Sinclair on the West Coast IPA.

“I also brought a German Kolsch, which is a really nice easy drinking, summer-style beer. Our brewmaster really focuses on our German styles and is very true to style, four ingredients, keeping it simple.”

Returning for a fourth year was a company with ties to Tahoe’s North Shore in DNA Brewing.

“My wife and I are Tahoe locals, we live in Incline Village, and about five years ago we had an opportunity come up to get into the craft beer industry,” said DNA’s Max Grush. “Ever since then we’ve been diving headlong into it.”

DNA Brewing, based out of Fairfield California, brought the company’s lead beer, Nautical Red, and its newest creation the I80 Pale Ale.

“(Nautical Red) had been created as an experiment … that’s the beer that started us moving on the craft beer train, and DNA was launched six months later,” said Grush.

“We just launched the I80 Pale Ale. We figured we needed something a little lighter, a little easier, something people could pull off the highway and get a pint of.”

One of the most unique drinks on hand came from Boochcraft, a company that has created a high alcohol by volume kombucha-style beverage. Kombucha is a fermented black or green tea drink known for its alleged health benefits.

“We’re not considered beer, we’re fermented tea with cold-press juice,” said Sabrina Terrazas, the brewery’s event coordinator and marketing for Northern California. “So, it’s actually good for you. It’s good for your immune system. It contains probiotics, which are good for your intestinal tract. It’s high in live cultures, high in enzymes, and it’s high in vitamin B12.”

The Chula Vista, California based company has year-round flavors of grapefruit, grape, ginger, and apple wine, as well as seasonal selections.

“All of our stuff is considered gluten free, vegan, raw, and organic,” Terrazas said.

“We are 7.0 percent alcohol, so it’s almost like an IPA. We’re the first one’s on the West Coast to do it.”

The Kern River Brewing Co. was also slinging beverages at this year’s festival as the brewery celebrated 12 years in business with its Golden Stout. The unique take on a stout comes in at 8 percent alcohol by volume, but it’s the golden color that really separates it from traditional beers of that style.

“The light body really surprises people,” said the brewery’s Nick Connors. “And it’s not quite as full as a typical stout.”

More than beer

This year’s festival featured a handful of family events as well, including soda tastings, use of the skating rink and the resort’s Kids Zone, and a new event — the Northstar Mountain Beer Run.

The inaugural event was won by Jack O’Brien, whose drinking and running skills went unmatched during the race on July 6.

“It was an exciting and interesting event, running a 5K with three chances to drink beer with friends and family — it intrigued me,” said O’Brien.

“It was a good time, there were kids out there drinking root beer. I recommend it for families and people next year.”

During beerfest, the stage in The Village at Northstar featured bluegrass musicians Ike & Martin, Dirty Cello, and Sean Watkins.

“This is one of those random things that kind of come up, and I’m happy to do it,” said Watkins, who is also part of the Grammy award-winning band Nickel Creek. “It’s been a lot of fun.”

By the end of the evening, Watkins had the rest of the musicians on stage with him as he and girlfriend Dominique Arciero belted out bluegrass tunes to the audience gathered on the resort’s skating rink.

“It’s really charming,” said Arciero on her first visit to Tahoe. “I’ve never been to a ski lodge in the summer, so that’s kind of a trip. First time in Lake Tahoe … and the hospitality has been top notch.”

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at

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