I love beer. Why has it taken half my life to discover that? I’ve been locked for years  in this precise march step with wine, when my true nature dictates I should be doing a sweaty contra-dance with every craft beer that asks me onto the floor. Dragon’s Milk, Full Nelson, He’Brew Jewbilation, Dead Guy, Holy Sheet and my much beloved though currently unavailable St. Arnold’s — if I could drink them all daily, all day, I would.

So what could be more natural than volunteering at a beer festival? Why, nothing. And so we did, Mike & I, of a recent Saturday, at the Charlottesville Top of the Hops Beer Festival. For one sunny, Brigadoon-like afternoon, every last one of my smile muscles worked itself into pleasant exhaustion. We

Team Pierce, in "ridiculously happy" pose

volunteered in whatever capacity might be wanted, got free admission, met a thousand or so new friends (though I’m struggling to remember everyone’s name), a free meal, and all the beer we could drink. Whatever the definition of the word “awesome,” multiply it by a factor of 10.

The VIPs (i.e., costs more) broke the festival seal and primed us for the crowd to follow. Mike and I learned quickly how to squirt a 2-ounce sample into cute miniature mugs without making more foam than liquid gold. I know 2 ounces doesn’t sound like much, but while you can still do the math, multiply 2 ounces by 150+ different beers and unlimited servings. After the first hour of VIP tasting, the regular crowd shuffled in.

And what a great crowd! Many were called to wear their finest tees depicting favorite brews and drinking destinations. Custom beer cap earring and necklace creations  (including those worn by yours truly) inspired oohs and aahs, as did a kilt or two and genuine lederhosen. This was the first time I’ve seen pretzel necklaces, which the wearers tell me are for the aroma. Personally, if I had those hanging around my neck and a beer in my hand, I’d be chowing down on them. My favorite festival-goer was the charming young man celebrating his birthday in a crown and carrying a scepter. As Queen, I admit to coveting his scepter, and I’d give a gold coin or two to get my royal hands on the photos of me administering birthday whacks to this Subject with the wooden paddle he so willingly provided me.

It's my birthday; spank me. Please.

During our breaks we dove into the crowd. Table to table we presented our wee mugs for samples. I spotted a Texas Longhorn shirt and ran it down, snagging a Texas A&M chemistry masters grad. He took my question “Can you cook meth?” with aplomb, but that’s no surprise; he’s Texan. And of course, like you, gentle reader, he watches Breaking Bad.

 I found my voice, and myself, for a time again that afternoon, summoning the happy masses to the bar to share God’s gift of beer. Team Pierce pulled taps for Devils Backbone Brewing (“Get Boned!”), admired the remarkably polite  and intermittently colorful populace, and drank just enough beer to know that we were in a very happy moment. 

How can you not be happy with a beer?

And thanks to my friend, Marilyn, for volun-beer-ing. It’s a word that will forever remain in my vocabulary, parked beside a great festival memory.
Beer. It’s a wonderful thing.

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