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Sunday, October 15, 2006
like a beerful Appalachian Brigadoon
Listening to:John Barleycorn, live Jethro Tull
Reading:Empress Orchid
Weather:a nipple 25
The Bramwell Oktoberfest last weekend was absolutely joyful, as expected and as usual. It was the 10th Annual, and I'm looking forward to 10 more.

Like my own personal beerful Appalachian Brigadoon, this fairytale town of Bramwell rises from the mists every Columbus Day weekend as I drive down into the valley past Pinnacle Rock on Route 52. Two hundred year old oaks line the brick streets, I crush the occasional acorn under my feet, the air is brisk and smells like rain and smoke and leaf mold, fallen leaves rustle as I walk toward the bridge over the meandering Bluestone River. I cross the old wooden bridge and see the beer lion flag flying out the 3rd story window of George Sitler's gorgeous old coalbaron's mansion. I walk through the gate in the stone fence around Snapps's garden to see smoke rippling out of the top of Lively Jorge's teepee and Cameron standing over by the woodpile reaching for a bottle opener for that Hefeweizen in his hand. "Cat's here!" The gorgeous fall colors reflect in the pond bordering the garden. The familiar adventure has begun.

Though it's open to the public, and a couple hundred or so buy tickets and walk around Saturday amongst us sampling handcrafted beers and chatting with the brewers, for me this is primarily a reunion of old friends. Every year we the Fest core start rolling in Friday night and have a little pre-Fest sampling of a few choice bottles Owen and Kerry (our esteemed head judges) bring in from far away as we do last-minute preparations for tomorrow's fest. This year some of us broke out the guitars a night early and sat around the teepee playing Beatles and passing the pipe of peace.

Saturday starts fairly early as Lively G hauls a little trailer behind his ATV around the town, dropping off tent poles and tarps, then tables, stage risers, and last ice, taps, and cups. Tent erection is usually a fairly hilarious show, as 6 or 8 fest enthusiasts stand around beer in one hand, scratching their heads with the other hand, and looking at a pile of about 20 poles of varying sizes and ends trying to figure out how the hell these things go together. But we get a little faster at it every year, though some of those poles have seen better days by now and need a little Appalachian engineering (duct tape) to keep them square and upright. This year actually went as smoothly as ever, as last year George S mercifully and painstakingly taped together groups of poles by function after each tent was deconstructed on Sunday. Thank you, G, you da man.

This year on Saturday it was cold and rainy all day, somewhat rainer than usual, but it didn't seem to dampen the spirits of the festers a bit. The kids sold every potato cake and pepperoni roll they had made, and turned a smart profit for their labors. Rory, George S, and I each had toddlers when we were in law school together, so now our children are teens learning to drive, and the Ofest has become an annual reunion for them, too. In some ways it doesn't seem it could be that long ago that our kids were ice skating around the soap suds of the tub together. But in some ways it's like a lifetime ago. It's been so cool to see how they interact with each other for this one weekend they see each other year after year. They jumped around a played together for a few years, then came the shy phase where it took them a few hours to warm back up to each other, now they are looking and acting like young adults and pretty much immediately glad to see each other again. And if I don't say so myself, they are amazingly cool and interesting and good people. We done good.

This year there were some new babies, too, as John and Joe, a couple of sweet 40-something guys I went to law school with, have married 20-something women and have become dads for the first time. I just sit back and smile, thinking about the quasi-grandkid I'm about to have (Spring, my daughter's half-sister who lived with us through highschool and is finishing her nursing degree at WVU is having a baby in March). And the blue ball just keeps rotating and revolving around the sun.

It's nice to see Joe Clayton hasn't changed, though he didn't seem to have the cigar stump between his teeth as usual this year, did he quit? Renee and I got to fantasize, as we do every year, about buying whichever house is for sale in town and what? Fixing it up and trying to live Ofest year round? If you're willing to live in Brigadoon you can buy a giant chunk of amazing house for a song. Or a song and half anyway.

It's enormously satisfying to get to spend even one weekend a year hanging out in a storybook little town drinking tasty handcrafted beers outdoors with old friends. Lucky me.


permalink posted by cat 6:00 AM

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