It took us about 15 min. to find where the festival was held, because it was inside the San Diego fair and there were few (well, none that we saw) signs directing us to the Arena. I attended the fest with my friend, Anna, who is a Mexican whiskey drinker. It was fairly comical.
Beers from 20 States, 20 Countries and 117 Breweries were present! It’s hard to say how many we tasted, but of the 311 beers, meads and ciders representing their breweries, Alaskan Brewing Co., Allagash Brewing Co., Angel City Brewing, Brasserie De Landtsheer, North Coast Brewing and Left Coast Brewing Co. were among them.
The San Diego breweries were also in full force, with representatives and kegs from Alesmith Brewing Company, Coronado Brewing Co., Green Flash Brewing Co., Karl Strauss Brewing Co., La Jolla Brewhouse, Lightning Brewery, Rock Bottom Brewery Restaurant, San Diego Brewing Co., San Marcos Brewery & Grill and Stone Brewing Co.
The president of the San Diego Brewers Guild and the General Manager of the Home Brew Mart, Colby Chandler, was also representing one of the San Diego Breweries, Ballast Point Brewing Company. Chandler actually was the one responsible for designing the trophy, which adorns the engraved winners of each year. Unlike most trophies, this one actually holds the winner’s brew. Pretty cool.
Ballast Point was awarded honorable mention with their Abandon Ship Smoked Lager. My whiskey drinking Mexican friend quipped, "It tastes like bacon!" when she sipped the brown amber lager. Indeed, the smokiness really came out in the flavor, but it wasn't over the top. Aromas of roasted malts, caramel and burned barley seemed present. I suddenly felt like I was sitting around a campfire. I just wanted to "mention" that it was a very nice smoke flavored beer.
The Bruery, out of Placentia, CA was also in attendance, featuring their Orchard White (awarded the “Top 25 Beers of 2008” according to DRAFT Magazine, January 2009), Black Orchard (“A” Rating, BeerAdvocate Magazine, October 2008) and their Saison Rue (Gold Medal, Los Angeles International Beer Competition 2008 & 2009). The small craft brewery specializes in Belgian-style ales.
Sixty certified judges and professional brewers sampled 524 entries on May 9th at the Fair Grounds in Del Mar. Here are the results!
Belgian & French Ale:
First: San Pedro Brewing Co - Pedro Pilsner Second: Kulmbacher Brauerei - Edelherb Pils
Third: New Belgium - Bule Paddle Pilsner
India Pale Ale:
First: Ridgeway - IPA
Second: AleSmith Brewing Co - IPA
Third: Rock Bottom Brewing - North Star IPA
For the complete list of winners, click here:
I spoke with Chad Stevens, who runs the San Diego International Beer Festival. He joyfully explained how this festival is different, due to the sheer number of breweries represented and the venue location. The venue within a venue atmosphere allows the casual beer drinker an opportunity to try craft or harder to find beers, that perhaps they normally wouldn't try. In essence, Stevens is succeeding at expanding the local craft beer market by tapping into the crowds at the fair. No pun indented.
A longtime home brewer and an active member of local brew club QUAFF, he started to fondly speak of his friend, Dave Levonian, who was also a home brewer and QUAFF member that passed away in 2008. Apparently, Dave loved Saisons. In his memory, a couple of the brewers in San Diego (Port Brewing, Colby Chandler and Dean Rouleau) - have brewed “Brother Levonian” commemorative beers with proceeds going to Dave’s daughter’s college fund. Stevens poured me an ounce of the tangerine and pepper flavored Saison - it was excellent.
Brother Levonian Saison will not be released to the public. It is available through the Michael Jackson Rare Beer Club. It was the first beer Port Brewing's new head brewer, Mike Rodriguez, brewed after coming over from Boulevard Brewing.
I was really pleased to see a good number of women representing the breweries. I’ll be back next year and perhaps I’ll bring more whiskey drinkers - I mean - beer goddesses with me.