Collaboration is in the air.
Just when I'd been anticipating the almost-annual collaboration brew, a special beer Humboldt brewers create and put on tap for Beer Week, I discovered an equally inspired mashup: Yoga plus beer tasting — a yoga class that goes straight from namaste to IPA.
This is a thing. For the past four or five years, microbreweries around the country have been staging yoga events followed by beer tastings. Sometimes the tasting is interwoven between poses. After all, if you can set a water bottle down beside your mat, why not a beer glass? Organizers say that brewery yoga bridges two sometimes-gendered passions: boy meets yoga, girl meets beer.
I'm not loving those stereotypes, but I totally love beer yoga (beerga?). I've practiced yoga for 20 years and taught it off and on for 15, and I'm not willing to confine it to a purely spiritual endeavor. With all respect to those who feel otherwise, for some of us moving mindfully is lovely in a gym or a yoga studio, a park or a brewery.
So here I am, along with a couple of dozen other people on a Sunday afternoon, carrying my yoga mat into Lost Coast Brewery's new brewquarters in Eureka. Waiting for us in an upstairs event space is instructor Angelina Henderson.
She speaks softly, and we strain to hear as she guides us through neck stretches, gentle twists and lunges. The room is warm and bright. Through one bank of windows, we can see multi-story fermenting tanks gleaming in the late afternoon light.
Beer is fermenting in those metal tanks. And four tasters await us after our final, languid savasana. The next $15 class is planned for 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 17.
But before that, there's Beer Week. To prepare, all six of Humboldt's commercial brewers have been trading emails to create a shared recipe for a chocolate dry Irish stout. They gathered at Redwood Curtain in Arcata to make this year's collaboration brew, starting early on a Wednesday morning, trading stories, sipping beer and watching Redwood Curtain's Drake Mollberg do much of the work. "I know my system," he said, with a smile and shrug.
The brew will go on nitro taps, getting its bubbles from a blend of nitrogen and carbon dioxide, so expect the creamier, slightly heavier character of a nitro when you order yours.
Look for it on Friday, April 1, at the six breweries plus HumBrews, kicking off 10 days of heady fun for Beer Week 2016. HumBrews owner Andy Ardell, inspired by a Medford, Oregon beer week, got Humboldt's Beer Week going in 2011 to highlight local beers. The collaboration brewing began in 2012, and more events have been bubbling up ever since.
My advice? Spend at least one evening at a brewery you seldom visit. Maybe it's too far from home. Maybe you didn't like the lineup last time. Go again during Beer Week and taste whatever is new. Brewers devise new recipes all the time. Surprise yourself. Then, spend at least one night or weekend day at your favorite event. You can browse the official lineup at www.humboldtbeerweek.org, but check websites and Facebook pages of your favorite joints, because this thing keeps expanding.
Every brewery gets a "marquee" night, and Ardell's HumBrews gets two (it's good to be a founder). This year, featured breweries are: Humboldt Regeneration, with a malt appreciation day on Sunday, April 3; Eel River Brewing, with a vertical tasting of five years of aged Triple Exultation on Monday, April 4; Lost Coast Brewery, with beer-appetizer pairings and beer bingo on Tuesday, April 5; Six Rivers Brewery, with beers conditioned in small casks called firkins on Wednesday, April 6; Mad River Brewery, with beer and Cypress Grove cheese pairings on Friday, April 8; and Redwood Curtain Brewing, with cellar releases of aged beers on Saturday, April 9.
Other "marquee" events begin on Friday, April 1, when HumBrews holds a beer and four-course buffet dinner featuring the collaboration brew and a keg from each Humboldt brewery ($30, starting at 6 p.m.).
The Humboldt HomeBrewers Festival on Saturday, April 2, is a marquee event not just for Beer Week, but for Humboldt's year in beer, with roughly 100 home-crafted beers to sample and dozens of brewers happy to tell you why they make it like they do. It runs from 2 to 8 p.m. at the Arcata Community Center, and it's safest to snag your tickets in advance ($40 in advance and $45 at the door).
HumBrews takes its second marquee turn on Thursday, April 7, with an all-Humboldt tap takeover, including more of the collaboration brew. Rounding out the marquees is a "hangover cure brunch" from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 10 at Harvest restaurant in Arcata.
Beyond those, you'll find the official, "hard" opening of Lost Coast Brewery's new digs, which have been softly open for months now. Expect live music from 3 to 8 p.m., food trucks and a multi-tap beer truck outside, plenty more beer inside, and games for kids and adults. Along with its regular beers, Lost Coast will roll out some specialties, possibly including a mango-infused Sharkinator and an oak-aged Scotch brew. The day begins with a 2 p.m. VIP event to meet the head brewer and the owner over beer, munchies and music, as well as a tour ($20).
The Local Beer Bar in Eureka plans Beer Week events starting at 4 p.m. every weekday, including food and beer pairings on Monday, April 4, a sour night on Wednesday, April 6 and an IPA night on Friday, April 8.
If you missed trying Mad River's Humboldt Brownie Double Brown Ale before it won a Silver Medal at the Great American Beer Festival, you've got a second chance on Saturday, April 2, when it goes back on tap at the brewery and should also be available in 22-ounce bottles.
And there's another "awwww"-some collaboration: a father-son brew, by brewer Carlos Sanchez and his son Darius, which goes on tap on Monday, April 4 at Six Rivers.
More Dates with Beer
April 10-16: Redwood Curtain celebrates its fourth anniversary by releasing a new beer every day, leading up to a noon-to-midnight anniversary party on Saturday, April 16. Expect music, food trucks and special events throughout the week.
Saturday, May 7 is Big Brew Day nationwide, and the Humboldt Homebrewers Club will celebrate with a free open brewing session from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Humboldt Beer Works in Eureka. You can bring your own brewing rig, or just watch, ask questions and pick up ideas. Participating brewers can also compete for a chance to have their recipe brewed and served at Six Rivers and then entered in the Great American Beer Festival. Now that's a collaboration.
Carrie Peyton Dahlberg hasn't decided yet which yoga poses go best with beer. (For more on yoga, check out her Yoga Journal article on adapting poses for larger bodies.)