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Bonnaroo, Outside Lands to celebrate the art of craft beer

June 7, 2012 |  5:00 am

Bonnaroo, the Southeast's answer to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, launches Thursday in Manchester, Tenn., and it boasts a lineup that includes Radiohead, the Beach Boys, Skrillex and a seminar on the various hop varieties used to brew beer. As destination festivals around the U.S. have gradually ramped up their VIP offerings, Bonnaroo and its sister festival Outside Lands in San Francisco have evolved into music-focused events for the gourmand. 

The four-day Bonnaroo will boast its own house beer, a light blond ale brewed by Chico's Sierra Nevada, and showcase additional offerings from 21 breweries at its Broo’ers Festival, a tent Bonnaroo co-organizers Superfly Productions have erected for 10 years now. At the Broo’ers Festival, guests can buy pints as well as smaller tasting-sized portions. Additionally, Superfly's Outside Lands, slated for Aug. 10-12 at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, will add a mini-craft beer festival of its own for the first time this year.

"Beermakers and winemakers are just like musicians," said Bonnaroo co-founder Jonathan Mayers. "People seek them out. There’s so much crossover between the worlds. You go to Bonnaroo and discover a new band, but you can also discover a new kind of beer."

Among the breweries slated to appear at Bonnaroo in 2012 are Brooklyn Brewery, Magic Hat, Schlafly Beer and Streetwater Brewing Co. Bonnaroo is also expanding its Broo’ers University program, in which those from the craft beer industry will host discussions and seminars about the beermaking process. The aforementioned Sierra Nevada will stage a "Hops 101" session, while representatives from Schlafly will discuss beer and comfort food pairings. 

"We experimented with it last year, and it was a hit," Mayers said. "The thing is, you’re in Bonnaroo for four days. You can get tons of music in, but people want other experiences, whether it’s going to the cinema tent or checking out some comedy. There’s enough time for all of it. You’re basically living there for four days."

Superfly has made it its mission to combine music with high-end food and beer. Outside Lands, for instance, is as much of a food and wine event as it is a concert, holding its own "A Taste of the Bay Area" attraction. This year Superfly brought the foodie and music experience to Brooklyn with "The Great GoogaMooga," an event where chefs and breweries received top billing over artists such as the Roots and Hall & Oates. 

"There’s so many similarities between the worlds. If you think of a chef, a chef is taking different ingredients and putting it together to become something. It’s an art form," Mayers said. "It’s just a different platform."

While Chicago's Lollapalooza boasts the food-focused "Chow Town," and Coachella has increased its offerings with acclaimed food trucks, neither goes to the extremes of holding beer seminars like Bonnaroo. Coachella, in fact, limits its beer offerings to one, a mass-produced brew whose presence is ubiquitous on the Indio grounds. 

"It’s a hard thing to balance," Mayers said, acknowledging that Bonnaroo has a lounge area named after a mainstream brewery. "You have to make different choices about the look and feel of your brand and event. You also you have to make it work financially. But this just springs out of our own interests, like, ‘we should have great beer here.' " 

"It’s also real," Mayers continued."It’s just like seeing a live band. You can't replicate either of these experiences online. So whether it’s going out for a new beer or seeing a band, it’s a real experience that brings people together."


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-- Todd Martens

 Image: The scene at Bonnaroo, courtesy Superfly Productions / Bonnaroo.com