California Beer Fests

Beer Loves Music Yost TheaterThe Beer Loves Music Beer Festival was held at the Yost Theater in Santa Ana on August 3, 2013, a day that will live in infamy.

I’ve been to many, many beer festivals, and this was the most ill-conceived, disorganized one I’ve ever attended. Wait. I misspoke. This was the most ill-conceived, disorganized event of any type that I have ever been to.

The event sounded good on paper. Take a cool indoor venue, line up some good bands, and serve unlimited quantities of 50 different kinds of beer. As a bonus, give some of the proceeds to breast cancer research.

The implementation, on the other hand, was to sell an apparently unlimited number of Groupon tickets, have a few really slow moving people at the door admitting them, and then try to cram all those people into an indoor venue with limited space and no access to the beer.

I’ve learned by now that some of these events are slow to admit people, so I time it to arrive about 30 minutes late, assuming the line will be gone by then. We implemented that plan, but when we arrived at 6:35, the line was still around the building. We went and had dinner and returned at 7:30, but the line was still staggering. The only thing that saved us was that the one representative who apparently cared about the event decided that printed Groupons would be accepted with no need for scanning, and grabbed us out of the line. Thank God I printed my Groupon.

But the victory was short lived. Rescue from that line just put us into another line within the building, trying to get into the theater area. Then there was a line just to get the plastic cups for the beer. All the while I saw people pouring out of the building, so I knew this was not going to end well.

I explored the entire venue (very slowly forcing my way through the crowds), and found just three tables serving beer, each of them with two taps, and each of them with lines at least 40-people long. The organizers either really lied about the 50 beers, or I just did not see the other tables due to the crowds. We decided to do whatever it took to get a beer – just one – before leaving, even if it meant standing in line. We came down the stairs, rounded a corner, and there like a shimmering oasis in the desert (an extremely crowded desert) was a beer table with just two people in line. We eagerly handed over our cups and were rewarded with two cups of beer foam on top of about an inch of room temperature beer. As we continued around the corner with our treasures, we saw that this table also had about 40 people in line. We had just unknowingly approached it from an angle where we could not see the line. I’m surprised we were not lynched.

I will say this. The Yost Theater appeared to be a nice venue, and the one band we heard was very good. Although I had never been there before, I did some research and knew that it was basically a club, so I anticipated it would be crowded like a club. But this was ridiculous.

The flyer for the event said “Beer for Boobs”, which I thought was a reference to the breast cancer research. Now I realize what they really meant. You’d have to be a total boob to attend this event. Do not ever go to a Beer Loves Music event.

2012 Brew Ho Ho Anaheim Phoenix Club
The fine people who bring you the Brew Ha Ha, modified the name for the season, brought in some appropriate seasonal beers, and created the 1st Annual Brew Ho Ho at the Phoenix Club in Anaheim. We of course were invited, being influential members of the beer media (that, and because we paid for tickets). Here are our impressions.

First, kudos to the organizers for the efficient entry. It’s not that tough to get a large number of people into an event without a long wait time. Go to any professional sports event for proof. But it is beyond most beer fest organizers to make it happen. Not here. We sailed in without a moment’s pause.

Kudos also for the venue. The heart of the event was inside a large tent-type pavilion, but the event also spread out onto the grounds, where there were numerous, very un-beerfest like activities available, like giant Jenga games, bean bag toss and a rifle range. You read right. Nothing goes with a beer fest like firearms. Don’t worry; they did not permit beer on the firing range – you had to down it before entering. Safety first!

And what a great selection of beers! Stone Brewing offered its 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale; Noble Ale Works was there with Excuse Me, There is Schmutz in My Coffee and You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out, Kid; TAPS offered Toasted Santa; Warsteiner Brauerel had Warsteiner Premium Dunkel; and surprisingly, all the way from Chicago was Goose Island Beer Co. with 312 Urban Wheat Ale and others. The list of breweries goes on and on – Maui Brewing Co., Old Orange Brewing Co., Firestone Walker, Ritual, Speakeasy, Packinghouse, and more.

And the food! Slater’s 50/50 was there with its famous sliders, there were two food trucks, and there is a German place that apparently is part of the Phoenix Club, serving up a very tasty selection of sausages and other German cuisine.

And cigars! Try to smoke a cigar at most beer fests, and you’d best be prepared to find a corner to hide in while you smoke the evil weed. Here, there was a cigar vendor with very reasonably priced sticks ($9 for a 54 x 6.5 Oliva V), and a seating area behind the booth where all the cigar smokers enjoyed their sticks with good craft beers. (It was adjacent to the German beer and food. A good bratwurst, German beer and a cigar. Heaven.)

If you put a gun to my head (remember, they were available) and forced me to criticize something about this Brew Ho Ho, it would be the lack of live music. They did have a DJ, and he played a great mix of Christmas music and rock, but the event cried out for a live band. But that’s picking nits. This event was tremendous. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, because I was also quite effusive about last month’s San Diego Brewer’s Guild Festival, but the Brew Ho Ho has also made my must attend list.

— Aaron Morris

Brewerrs Guild Beer Fest San Diego 2012

Taken from the food trucks with iPhone panorama.

Epic is the only word to describe the 2012 San Diego Brewers Guild Festival. The beautiful location, selection of beers and great food combined to make this a memorable beer festival.

This year the event was right on the pier, with an amazing view of the water. Entry was a little slow. I don’t know why beer festival organizers cannot get it together in this regard, but the wait time here was far better than most.  Upon entry, you walked through a row of vendors and into a large building that held all the beer vendors. If you spent the few extra dollars for the VIP ticket (something I always recommend), you could go up some stairs to a room filled to the gills with beer and food vendors.

At this event, VIP really meant something. Usually, VIP just gets you early admission, and perhaps a tent where you can escape the sun. Here, it got you a special selection of beers and some amazing food, not available to the unwashed masses. In fact, once upstairs most were content to stay there, and the organizers sent people around to announce, “you know, there are other breweries downstairs.”

At that point I was already impressed by this beer fest, but when I finally did go downstairs, I was awed. The room was HUGE, and held dozens more booths with other breweries. There were also a number of vendors selling beer gear. If you walked the full length of that exhibit hall and outside onto the end of the pier, there was a small assortment of food trucks, allowing you to take a break with some food while enjoying the view of the bay. I imagine, however, that the food trucks did not get much business from the VIP attendees, because we were already stuffed with pizza and sliders and meatloaf and tacos and various desserts.

I have railed before against beer fests that use beer sample tickets, not because I want to drink mass quantities, but because it prevents me from tasting more beers than the number of tickets will allow. In other words, the VIP admission came with 20 tickets, but what if I prefer 30 2-ounce samples instead of 20 3-ounce samples? Same amount of beer, but I get to enjoy a greater selection, and that’s what a beer fest is all about. I was told by a number of sources that the City of San Diego had required the ticket system this year because things had gotten a little out of control the prior year. So, while the San Diego Brewers Guild Festival did use the ticket system (actually little tabs on your wristband), it all worked out. Most of the people serving up the beer understood the difference between a sample and a SAMPLE, so for the most part the 20 tab limit did not keep me from sampling whatever I wanted.

The San Diego Brewers Guild Festival now holds a position on my “must attend” list (a list that is getting longer and longer), and should be on yours as well.

— Aaron Morris

San Diego Brewers Guild Festival 2012

VIP Room

VIP Room

Main Hall at San Diego Brewers Guild Festival

Septemberfest 2012 Beer Festival in Santa MonicaThe Septemberfest in Santa Monica, put on by Drink Eat Play, is one of my perennial favorites. What’s not to like? Over 150 different beers served in unlimited quantities right next to the ocean. Add to that not one, not three, but TEN food trucks and a really good band called Petty Cash (covering the songs of Tom Petty and Johnny Cash – get it?), and you’ve got yourself a great day of beer drinking and socializing. Some of my favorite breweries present were Deshutes, Old World, Bootlegger’s, Eaglerock, Noble Ale Works, Fireman’s, Venice Beach, Tap It, Bierbitzch, and Primo, to name just a very few. Anchor Steam was on the list, but I didn’t realize until after the function that I had never seen them. I don’t know if they failed to appear or I just missed their booth.

Septemberfest 2012 Santa MonicaIf I had to find something to criticize, it would be the lack of any shade. Even with the breeze off the ocean, it was a bit warm for part of the beer fest. One of the breweries – the Old World Brewery out of Phoenix, Arizona – came with an absolutely brilliant, inflatable pub. Picture one of those bounce houses you see at kids’ parties, but with a pub inside instead a trampoline. Not surprising a brewery from Phoenix would come equipped with a respite from the sun. And speaking of brilliant, some attendees brought folding chairs with them and set up their own place to get out of the sun in the shade of one of the food trucks.

The sun was really not an issue, but some shade would be a nice addition. Note to Drink Eat Play: Since you already sell VIP admissions, make it a little more VIP by adding a VIP tent where attendees could relax out of the sun.

But sun aside, this was one great Beer Fest, and if you reside within a couple of hours drive, one you should plan to attend next year.

— Aaron Morris

Santa Monica Beer Fest Septemberfest 2012

Santa Monica Beer Festival 2012

Beer Festival Septemberfest 2012

Beer Festival Septemberfest 2012 Santa Monica

Santa Monica Septemberfest 2012 Food

California Beer Festivals -- San Diego Beer WeekWe previously reported on the Beer Garden event at the end of the San Diego Beer Week, but now we have the details for the San Diego Brewers Guild Festival that kicks off San Diego Beer Week. This is one you don’t want to miss, given the outstanding craft beers produced by San Diego breweries. We recommend spending the few extra bucks for the VIP pass on this one.

The San Diego Brewers Guild Festival will be comprised of over 500 individual special events staged throughout San Diego County as part of this celebration in the heart of the craft beer movement.

Showcasing virtually all of San Diego’s breweries and award-winning local beers that have contributed to San Diego becoming known as the leader of the craft beer excitement throughout the United States, the San Diego Brewers Guild Festival will also feature an extraordinary food line up with specialty beer pairings, music and more craft beer related activities.

Featuring:

  • Over 100 of the finest beer offerings from San Diego Craft Breweries.
  • Excellent food from Allied Guild Member Restaurants and Brewpubs.
  • Live music and entertainment throughout the Festival.

Location: Embarcadero area Harbor Drive, Downtown San Diego, California

General Session (2pm – 5pm) ($35 now, $45 at the gate)

  • Commemorative event acrylic tasting glass and 10 tasting tabs.
  • Food available for purchase.

VIP Session (1pm – 5pm) ($55 now, $70 at the gate)

  • Entry into event one hour before the general session opens.
  • Meet and greet with some of your favorite San Diego local brewers.
  • Special 4 ounce commemorative tasting glass and 15 tasting tabs.
  • All access pass to special VIP area featuring complimentary food pairings provided by Allied Guild Members.
  • Admission to the general admission session area where additional food will be available for purchase.
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