Sunday, September 03, 2006

Beer and Jazz at Shockoe Bottom

For several years, the River City Real Beer & Seafood Festival in Richmond, Virginia, celebrated regional seafood and craft beer. Recently hijacked by large concerns, it became a festival bereft of 'real' beer and, wierdly, also of much seafood!

So, the Richbrau Brewing Company in Richmond took the initiative last year and organized the Shockoe Craft Beer Festival. Shockoe Bottom is an area near the James River fronted by a series of rebuilt canals and walks. A low area, it was submerged by Hurricane Gastone a couple of years back.

Clipper City Brewing Company participated in the inaugural event last year, and again this year. There appeared to be about 15 breweries; the food selection wasn't much, but the music seemed to be a draw, with several bands both days. It ran Friday and Saturday, 25/26 August.

It was a warm weekend, but we found no hesitation among Richmond beer enthusiasts to enjoy our Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale and our dark, rich, full-bodied Imperial stout - Peg Leg. In fact, it was the women who asked for the stout more than the men.

Among the many enthusastic beer fans, I met Michael Gourrier. He is a Katrina survivor. In addition to the loss of his livelihood and his house, he lost his entire collection of 8,000+ jazz records, 45s, and 78s - a priceless, unrecoverable loss. He had been a jazz DJ on New Orleans radio for years; he and his wife have relocated to Richmond where he hosts a Sunday morning jazz show - Bebop and Beyond with Mr. Jazz on WRIR, a Richmond public radio station.

We talked at length. His enthusiasm was infectious; his sang-froid, inspirational. I laughed in agreement when he adjoined his two passions: "Jazz is like beer. There's more than one kind. But the average person will say, I only know this kind."

WRIR streams its music live via the internet. I listened last week and am listening today. (His substitue host this morning, Giz Bowe, is staying true to Mike's choices of bobp and neo-bop.)

Mike this week is in Chicago for the Chicago Jazz Festival. A theme of this year's Festival is the connection between Chicago and New Orleans; several performers from New Orleans are participating. I believe Mike will be emceeing some of the shows.

I would be remiss if I didn't thank our Richmond distributor, Legendary Distributors, and especially its chief, Rick Uhler. Noticing that we would run out of beer on Saturday - we poured 8 full kegs of Peg Leg Imperial Stout and Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale! - Rick ran back over the bridge, a good 2 miles, to his warehouse, loaded up his truck with more beer, and drove back.

And thanks to Richbrau lead brewer Mike Banks and his crew who organized the Shockoe Craft Beer Festival, the marketing company they hired, and all the volunteers who helped to pour beer at the booths.

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