My first trip to the San Diego International Beer Festival was three years ago; It was something of a surreal experience, like Christmas day, you just want to rush around and try everything you could get your hands on. 60 minutes into your 4 hour drinking session you would realize that maybe a little restraint was in order, as you wobbled your way through the crowds. Restraint might not be the right word, perhaps its best to just say that it’s better to take your time and savor the new and unique brews being offered to you, instead of throwing them back and rushing to find more.
A lot has changed for me and the festival since that not so long ago time.
In preparing to write this blog I found myself with a lot of different thoughts and emotions on the festival held this past weekend at the Del Mar fairgrounds. A lot of my thoughts could be considered contradictory, or perhaps even negative, which I don’t want to give the impression that I wasn’t having a blast. I just wasn’t quite sure on the best way to organize my thoughts. So I turned to the man who all men turn to in their darkest hour – Clint Eastwood
So I present to you the 6th annual San Diego International Beer Festival a.k.a ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’
The Beer. The hero of this movie has to be the beer. There is just a lot of variety in styles, flavors and ingredients that it’s hard not to find a lot of beers to please the palette.
One thing that has changed for me at the festival is, I tend to shy away from breweries that I have access to on a regular basis. Unless they are serving up something new I try and seek out new brewers and beers I’ve not had a chance to sample before. A brewer that most of you are probably familiar with, but one that I have only in the last six months been drinking is Deschutes, out of Bend, Oregon. Their ‘Hop in the Dark’ was probably my favorite of the show. Also of interest was the ‘Voodoo Doughnut’ from Rouge Brewing, a bacon maple ale that was what I would imagine a liquid breakfast would be like in a perfect world.
Also of note are two new brewers who I came across.
Rough Draft is a brewer I first came across back in April at the North Park Beer Festival and was very excited by the two beers I was able to sample, the Eraser IPA and the Amber ale if memory serves, at that event. Well, I was insanely delighted by what they brought with them over the weekend, the standout being the “Hop Therapy IPA”. If you are afraid of hops, than this beer is not for you. I’m already planning out my first trip to the tasting room to really indulge in more of that fantastic brew. I’m not even sure’ hoppy’ is a sufficient description, but by this point of the afternoon, my notes were a mess.
Another new brewer, this time I was not familiar with at all, is Stumblefoot Brewing Co. located in San Marcos, CA. They only had two of their beers with them, but they sure made an impression on me. First was the ‘Schwartz be with you…Black Lager’. I do like a nice lager on occasion and this one certainly found a way to stand out with its dark roast qualities. Normally a roast flavor isn’t something I’m looking for, but it works really well in this beer. Second up was the ‘Otay Chipotle Stout’, its smoky with chipotle flavor and a little heat on the back end. Very enjoyable.
Honorable mention to Moylan’s : Hopsickle Imperial Ale – I love Moylan’s, so this beer doesn’t surprise me, but I love it just the same.
I’d also like to offer my congratulations to Lost Abby for winning best in show for Carnevale, which is a beer I really would have loved to try, but that leads to…
No beer! A lot of beers were in short supply, and this was pretty frustrating. Maybe shelling out $90 for the VIP tickets would have prevented this, but I felt $90 was a little excessive.
I honestly lost count of the times we would get to the table to find out that the beer we had been waiting in line for was gone and had been for some time. A lot of the stations were completely empty by 2pm, which was an hour before our session was to end. It put a damper on things, but it did also drive me to try more beers that maybe I would have passed over otherwise. Still, it really shouldn’t have come to that.
One reason they may have been out of beer could have something to do with…
The crowd. The popularity of beer drinking in San Diego continues to go up, so it’s only natural for the popularity of the event to go up as well, but sweet fancy Moses, there were a ton of people there! Perhaps they oversold the event, I don’t really know, but when you have that many people and a limited amount of beer that you can serve per session, something has to give. In my case, the beer gave out before the people did. I’m not sure if this was the case for every session but I would not be surprised if this is just how it was all weekend.
That said, the vast majority of people there were great to chat with and had a good humor about them. Of course, whenever you get that many people together you are bound to get some clowns too and I know for sure some clowns were out Saturday afternoon. I guess it’s not the fair if there are no clowns.
All things considered, beer shortages and all, the festival was as fun as ever and I’m always excited for the chance to spend the day drinking beer with some of my best and closest friends. I know it sounds silly to a certain extent but, in my life, beer brings people together. Its been over some pints of some the best beers on the planet I’ve been lucky enough to forge some outstanding friendships and the San Diego International Beer Festival is where a lot of those friendships started.