With proceeds from this year’s Legendary Boonville Beer Festival, The Wee Boont Foundation generously donated over $140,000 to multiple non-profits throughout the Anderson Valley. One of the most important recipients is the Anderson Valley Fire Department, of which our brewmaster Fal Allen is a volunteer lieutenant. We recently sat down with him to talk about the demands of brewing world class beer and keeping the Anderson Valley community safe on a day-to-day basis, especially during the impending fire season.
1. When and how did you come to volunteer for the AV Fire Department?
The fire chief had asked me several times in the past and I had always begged off (being too busy and all.) One day the chief asked me and I had been thinking I should join up – so I said yes. Now my only regret about the fire service is that I did not say yes sooner.
2. Why do you enjoy it?
Well, it is very exciting…and I get to drive the fire engines (who wouldn’t want to do that?) And I get to help people in need – that is a very rewarding feeling. The Fire Servuce can be stressful and sometimes very sad (we are the ones people call in their worst situations) but even at those times I know we are there to help and make those times a little better.
3. What’s the greatest challenge of being a brewmaster AND a volunteer firefighter?
On the days when we get a fire call and I am at work I have to decide where I will be most needed – [at the brewery] or on the call. AVBC allows for their employees that are volunteer fire fighters to leave work for emergency fire calls but sometimes I know I need to stay at work. And sometimes the call is of a non-critical nature and just too far away for me to get to in a timely manner – then I stay at work but I feel like I should be out there helping my fellow fire fighters. That’s tough for me.
4. How will the donation from the Wee Boont Foundation/Boonville Beer Festival be used by the AVFD?
I do know that money is always tight and we can always use new equipment. To outfit one firefighter costs over $3,000.00. A lot of our equipment is older and could be upgraded and there are a lot of new tools that make fire service safer, so the money will be well-used and greatly appreciated
5. What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen on a call?
I guess the oddest call I responded to was rescuing a fairly large dog from about 30 feet up in a tree – I’ll be damned if we could figure out how he ended up that high up in the tree, but we got him down safely.
6. Who was your childhood hero?
My parents. Both my parents were involved in the community. My dad was a surfer and a musician (as well as a college professor) and he taught me discipline, inspired me to be my own person and gave me a love for the ocean. My mother was a Girl Scout leader, an avid outdoors woman, a scuba diver, and an activist (as well as being a mother and working for the local radio station.) She taught me all the rest of my life lessons. Certainly they were [and still are] my heroes.
Fal Allen is a brewmaster, firefighter, musician, and all-around great guy. He literally wrote the book on barleywines and has been brewing professionally for nearly 30 years. You can follow him on Twitter @boontbrewer.