Midway through spring and with summer just around the corner, craft beer festivals seem to be filling the calendar just about every weekend. These are probably the best opportunities for both craft beer novices and aficionados to sample a wide variety of offerings from local and regional breweries. Vendors typically pour beers that are the most pleasing to the masses of palates, meaning they won’t necessarily break out their heartiest stouts or hoppiest IPAs. Nevertheless, festivals usually feature a wide assortment of interesting brews and provide the best forum for comparing brewery against brewery and beer against beer.
These events aren’t intended to be drunk-fests, but rather an opportunity for people to learn more about the craft beer industry and to try new brews with friends and neighbors. It gives the breweries a chance to gain exposure to large audiences, while showcasing their products. Many beer festivals are also fundraisers to support a noble cause or organization. My experiences have all been positive, and I look forward to attending one or more of the many Southern California festivals coming up over the next few months (and one in New Orleans, too).
The schedule really gets going in April. Taste of Brews in Corona will be held on April 18, while the weekend of April 25 features Brews at the Beach in Santa Barbara, Hops and Hopes Craft Beer Fest at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Rhythm and Brews Music and Craft Beer Festival in Vista, the Newport Beach Rock Star Beerfest and the San Clemente Micro Brew Fest. On Sunday, April 26, Stone Brewery in Escondido hosts Oakquinox, a springtime festival of barrel-aged and wood-infused brews.
Those are just a preview of May and the summer. Fairplex in Pomona will host the inaugural LA on Tap on May 9, celebrating the brews of the LA County Fair’s Los Angeles International Beer Competition and kicking off Craft Beer Week. That same day is the OC Beer Festival in Anaheim. The following week, Hangar 24 Craft Brewery in Redlands will celebrate its seventh anniversary by combining an anniversary party and air show on May 16. This event will feature only Hangar 24 brews.
Memorial Day weekend gets summer off to a grand start with the Summer Kick Off Craft Beer Fest at Liberty Station in San Diego on May 23. One of Southern California’s biggest summer festivals follows on May 30, but you’ll have to drive a bit farther to attend the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival in Paso Robles. Tickets to this one have been on sale since February. If that’s too far away, then check out the San Diego International Beer Festival during the San Diego County Fair at the Del Mar Fairgrounds from June 19-21. Stone will hold its annual Sour Fest on June 28.
LA Beer Week is scheduled for June 20-28, beginning with the LA Brewers Beer Week Kickoff festival on June 20 on the south lawn at Exposition Park, next to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Claremont Village will again be the site of the annual Blues and Brews Craft Beer Walk on June 27.
If form holds true with last year, Claremont Craft Ales will hold its third anniversary event sometime in late July. Rök House Brewing Co. in Upland recently announced its first anniversary celebration will be held on June 6.
The Interstate-15 Brew Fest kicks off on Aug. 1 at the Temecula Downs Polo Grounds, featuring an assortment of breweries ranging from the Rancho Cucamonga area to San Diego.
Perhaps my favorite of all the summer festivals is the Stone Anniversary Celebration every August. No dates have been posted for what will be Stone’s 19th anniversary event, but it is typically held the third weekend of August on the campus of Cal State San Marcos. Keep an eye out for this one, because it’s a must-attend if you’re able.
The California Beer Festival returns to Frank G. Bonelli Park in San Dimas Sept. 12-13.
Naturally, this is only a sampling of upcoming beer festivals in California. But if you want to attend the king of all beer festivals, the Great American Beer Festival will be held in Denver Sept 24-26. It features the largest collection of U.S. beer ever served, in the format of a public tasting event plus a private competition. Good luck getting tickets – but if you do, save one for me.
Articles from “Sips, Suds and Spirits” focusing on the local craft beer scene also appear in 9-0-9 Magazine. An abbreviated version of this story will be featured in the May magazine.