Hops and Crops picks up where it left off

Auburn’s annual music and beer festival returns after the pandemic.

The unmistakable nose of hops and yeast hung lazily in the warm, late summer air, drifting among the standing, the sitters, the blanket-on-grass loungers, the musicophiles, reaching all the way to the restored farm house, the barn, even the chicken coop.

Two years gone to a pandemic, Hops and Crops, Auburn’s annual music and beer festival, was back at Mary Olson Farm on the warm, Saturday afternoon of Sept. 17.

Seemed all comers were happy about the fact, delighted with this latest sign of a return to normalcy. After all, two years is a lot of time to miss the fun.

And what was not to like — what, with 25 brews on tap, the pourings of three cideries, the music of four fantastic bands, great food from Thai U Up, Scooby Dogs, 314 Pie and Legendary Doughnuts — all at the beautiful, historic, rebuilt Mary Olson Farm, snug in its canyon just across Green River Road from Green River itself?

“Two years of nothing because of the pandemic to being able to do a beautiful beer and music festival here at the beautiful Mary Olson Farm” said Billy Jack Newman, brewmaster at downtown Auburn’s Rail Hop’n Brewing Co.. “This is exactly what we needed after COVID. Every single brewery here has got amazing stuff.”

You’d get no argument about that from Jackie Stone as she sipped happily from a Republic of Cider variety she’d never tried before.

Stone, a teacher at Arthur Jacobsen Elementary School, brought her “super-mutt-but-mostly-border-collie,” Cascade, to the festival, the small dog taking no interest in the suds, but more than willing to sample from passers-by that universal communicator of human-to-canine love, the old rear-end scratch.

“I teach in Auburn, but I don’t live in Auburn, so I don’t do much here,” said Stone. “I’ve seen quite a few of my parents around, so it’s been fun to connect with them in a different way. My husband and I are trying to do more Auburn events.”

Auburn native and festival aficionado Gwen Streeter noted that the legacy of former museum director Patricia Cosgrove lives on at the farm and in the festival—in the good behavior of the people and even in the dogs they’d brought.

“All the people are just like, chill,” said Streeter. “I haven’t seen any animosity at all. Not even the dogs. The dogs are well behaved. Patricia Cosgrove made sure that happened. At the first Hops and Crops, she was dog-monitoring. She had a goat on a leash, and was making sure everyone’s dogs were cool. She went to everyone who had a dog.”

Auburn residents Lenny and Kathi Wiuff were certainly enjoying themselves.

“It’s a smaller crowd than I’d expected, based on the fact that we had two years where it was shut down,” said Lenny. “I’m ashamed to say that this is the first time we’ve come, though we have lived here for five years. I like it. This is the first beer festival I’ve gone to, but the people are friendly and the bands are good. I didn’t expect them to be that good. I’m looking forward to having a hot dog. I’m, like, a hot dog aficionado.”

“This is bitchin’,” added Kathi Wiuff. “I really love this. It’s so beautiful here.”

Present to pour were Acorn Brewing, Bad Jimmy’s Brewery, Fort George Brewery, Black Feet Brewing, Half Lion Brewing Co., Rail Hop’n Brewing Co., Republic of Cider, Scamp Brewing Co. and Wheelie Pop Brewing. Making up the musical lineup were Kate Dinsmore; La Fonda; Massy Ferguson; and Warren Dunes.

Dedi Sayarath, who’d come up from Tacoma to pour Black Fleet Brewing Taproom and Kitchen’s signature ale, Crown SMasHer, said customers’ reaction to the single-malt, single-hop ale, “reminiscent of a Pilsner, crisp, refreshing and bright with effervescent carbonation…” was good.

“They like it,” said Sayarath.

All proceeds from the event support the free education program at the Mary Olson Farm, which welcomes in more than 2,500 students annually for history and environmental science field trips.