In the early afternoon of September 26th 2009, I realized that Vincenzo Giammanco had pulled off exactly what southern California beer lovers have been thirsting for.
He seemingly single-handedly organized and pulled off the most enjoyable, high quality beer festival I have seen in a long time. With so many of the beer events that have rolled through Los Angeles recently leaving that 3-hour frat party taste in your mouth, Vincenzo and his inaugural California Beer Festival renewed my faith in the beer community’s ability to offer that elusive combination of atmosphere, quality, diversity and entertainment that all beer festivals should strive for.
Held in the picture-perfect seaside town of Ventura in a moderately sized park at the end of Main Street, I expected there to be a decent turnout for the California Beer Festival. For it’s first year out of the gate, I was very curious to see how this festival would play out and what kind of people would come. What I did not expect to see as I walked towards the park, were several-hundred people waiting in a thick line wrapped clear around the entire block.
Turnout was very high, as people showed up in droves to the already sold-out fest, many without tickets, hoping to get in. The line moved fast and entry was a breeze. $40 (door price) gets you into an adult playground beer lovers dream about. Upon entry, you got a wristband, a commemorative drinking mug, and a fistful of tickets; each redeemable for a hefty pour of any of the 60-ish breweries setup in the park. Walking through the gates, my eyes glazed over taking in the view. I panned the grassy area about the size of 4 football fields and took in the sight of colorful booths announcing the wide variety of breweries and food vendors representing. A stage was setup at the top of a small hill overlooking the park where some great bands played throughout the day. Taking in all the big-name and little-known breweries, my mouth watered with anticipation. I felt like a powerful magnet was pulling me in every direction at once. Regaining my composure, I decided the orderly thing to do was just go around the park from one side to another, booth by booth. Throughout the 4 hours of my stay, I sampled many fine brews. Sometime between the 10th and 15th very large beer sample, I realized, sadly, for several reasons – none of them a time, beer ticket, or money restriction, that I wouldn't be able to try them all. Although my beer fantasy of drinking fine beer after fine beer for 5 hours straight was being dashed, I was conformable in the resignation that I'd have my fill and then some before I left. Note to self- next festival be sure to bring a designated driver- surely a job I would loathe to have, (perhaps a non-beer lover would be perfect choice- if you can find one.)
Some of the beverage highlights of the day were · Octoberfest (Anacapa Brewing Co, Ventura CA)
· Maple Nut Brown (Anacapa Brewing Co, Ventura CA)
· Hoptober (New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins CO)
· Kellerweis (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co, Chico CA)
· Oatmeal Stout (Telegraph, Santa Barbara CA)
· Rincon Red (Santa Barbara Brewing Company, Santa Barbara CA)
· Red Ale (Creekside Brewery, San Louis Obispo CA)
· Tower 10 IPA (Karl Strauss Brewing Company, San Diego CA)
· Windandsea Wheat (Karl Strauss Brewing Company, San Diego CA)
· Newcastle Brown Ale. (Scottish & Newcastle, Tadcaster England)
Throughout the day we met a ton of cool, friendly people. It’s somewhat unusual to go to a special event like this where the central interest is narrow in scope, but the diverse of people there is so wide. Everywhere you looked there were all kinds of very friendly people of all ages and hailing from all over the map. From San Diego to Bakersfield and everywhere in between, people were drawn to Mission Park in Ventura to join together and share their love of great beer. On behalf of everyone who was there, everyone who wishes they were, and everyone who will go to the next one, I raise my glass to you Mr. Giammanco- thank you for a great Beer Festival!
Writing/Photography by David Glasgal