King of Beerfests

Beerfest brings out the best in Fort Lauderdale

Debauchery was on Beatcomber's mind at this year's Beerfest, the ninth-annual installment of the sudsy celebration sponsored by this columnist's humble employer. It was a heavenly evening, with a broad smudge of high, wispy clouds pearlescent against a pastel sunset. A warm breeze blew off the New River, across the grassy knoll of Esplanade Park, through the wagon-circle of vendor tents. A primal scent of boiled crawfish, grilled beef, jerked chicken, and — sniff sniff — beer thickened the air. What started as a light and lively crowd became, by an hour into the event, a bustling throng intent on having an excellent time. It was a typically diverse South Florida crowd of friends, friends' parents, enemies, enemies' enemies (technically friends), and their parents, but not their kids (too young). Almost 4,000 in all, brought together by beautiful weather, great food, and the genial bonhomie generated by getting full-throttle blitzkrieg drunk. Because, really, who doesn't like beer?

Of the 105 brews offered, Beatcomber made a mission of trying each one. Twice. In four hours. Yes, the sheer volume was impressive, even godlike, but it was something far more powerful than spirituality that inspired me: journalistic integrity. If a working journo has to journo-lize at a party thrown by his newspaper, it's his professional duty to get shitfaced. Where's the honesty, the reliability, in a chaste observer of bacchanalia? How could my faithful readers trust an account of Beerfest if I couldn't speak of beer from firsthand experience? So it was for you, friends, that I firsthandedly experienced every ale, lager, cider, hard lemonade, wine cooler, and malt-liquor energy drink at Beerfest. And several vodka tonics. And two glasses of red wine. And a shot of Patron. Damn, that's a lot of integrity.

While Beerfest was indeed — as its nuanced moniker implies — a veritable "festival of beer," it also could've been called "Bandfest," because there were several great ones present ("Portapottyfest" is another suggestion, though that doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.) Many people don't realize that rock musicians harbor a profound appreciation for alcohol, but it's true. It's also true that some play for the simple joy of playing; others play for the simple joy of doing lines of cocaine off an underaged groupie's inner thigh. But all musicians play for free beer.

To settle my curiosity, and just because it seemed like the easiest way to get a column out of this mess, Beatcomber took one query to each band: What's your favorite beer at Beerfest? After all, Beatcomber never shies away from the hard questions.

Joe Dupell,bassist, the Heavy Pets: "I went especially to the Dogfish tent when I got in. And I like the blueberry beer."

Ryan Neuburger,drummer, the Heavy Pets: "I like Shipyard."

Because they were the first band, the Pets were tragically sober when questioned. Still, as party-starters, they couldn't have done a better job, radiating back the last rays of the evening and leading a small but devoted crowd in choruses of "Yeah yeah yeah yeahs" and, my personal fave, "Whoos!"

Aaron Gentry, guitarist and vocalist, the Freakin' Hott: "I can't say I'm looking forward to 'trying' any of them, because I've already drank every beer here."

The Freakin' Hott: Sexy, sassy, loud, and energetic, no band better embodies the deliciously seedy, rock 'n' roll underbelly of this town. If you haven't seen singer and New Times contributor Maggie-Margret smack a tambourine against her ass while singing about cocaine, you're missing out on a fundamental rite of adulthood.

Jason Budjinksi,New Times calendar editor and singer, the Bittercups: "That's a funny question. Bitter beer, that's what I'm hoping for."

Dominic Sirianni,New Times contributor and interim bassist, the Bittercups: "Sparks, because it's high-octane rocket fuel for my body. It's like a poor man's speedball."

It should be noted that neither of these poor slobs actually drinks alcohol (the Bittercups were celebrating their own personal "Bottled Waterfest"). And still, during the 'Cups' set, Budjinski writhed across the stage floor as often as he crooned into the mike or made kama sutra love to his keyboard. He might be the best frontman in South Florida, but due to the obvious conflict of interest, you'll never read about it in New Times.

Billy Bowen, bassist, Brendan O'Hara and the Humble Ones: "PBR in a can. You can take the boy out of the trailer park, but you can't take the trailer park out of the boy."

Brendan O'Hara, singer, guitarist, keysman, Brendan O'Hara and the Humble Ones (duh): "I used to have an Australian fake ID, and this is the easiest thing to say in an Australian accent: 'Can Oi haff a Widmer Hefeweizen?'"

By the time BOH&THO hit the stage at 10 p.m., many of the tents had — gasp! — run out of beer. That fact, coupled with the band's good-natured, infectious vibe, attracted a huge crowd reveling in the kind of perfect buzz only drunk-dancing under the stars with 1,000 of your closest friends can provide. South Florida, this is your life. Drink up.

Correction: Last week, we improperly credited the photo of Brendan O'Hara and the Humble Ones. The picture was taken by Laura Bartick.

 
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