A New Kind of Beer Festival +

As the number of beer-centered events continue to increase some are morphing into day-long destination happenings. They combine a standard 3-4 hour beer and wine tasting with an accompanying concert highlighting entertainment both during and after the formal tasting. Come for the festival and stay for the music. One of the first such occasions happened last year as the folks from Brew Ha Ha Productions teamed with Synergy Global Entertainment SGE to produce Cali Uncorked. Billed as a combination beer, wine, music and comedy festival, its success led to the team returning in 2016 with two more fests and more to come in 2017.

Ye Scallywag

Ye Scallywag took place in late October at San Diego’s Waterfront Park. Additional sponsorship and promotions came from radio stations 91X and KFM BFM and brought together about 10,000 people for a day of punk rock, beer, wine and food on an unseasonably hot day in San Diego. Crowds were at a maximum during the tasting portion, increasing throughout the day as folks arrived for late afternoon/early evening sets by Bad Religion and NoFX. The Bombpops, Wakrat, Reel Big Fish, Against Me and Goldfinger entertained earlier. For the price many pay for a concert alone, 3-4 hours of craft beer and wine tasting was also included. Breweries from San Diego, Southern California and even a couple from out of state were represented. Brewery staff and volunteer pourers were undoubtedly tired by the end of the tasting portion, but were likely rejuvenated by the talent on stage. An abundance of food and drink were also offered for sale during and after the included tasting.


A few weeks later, Cali Uncorked saw its rebirth as the first annual Driftwood, a Country Music, craft beer, wine and BBQ festival. It took place upon the substantial grounds of Doheny State Beach. With an abundance of space to spread out, attendees, breweries and vendors enjoyed a less crowded experience. Spacing the pouring stations throughout the venue and allowing for dispensing from either side of most pop-ups made for shorter lines, but busy servers. This reporter got a feel from the inside, assisting Stereo Brewing during the nonstop 3 hour general session. Jerrod Niemann and Rodney Atkins headlined at the festival, with performances also from Thompson Square, Parmalee, The White Buffalo, Mariachi El Bronx and Danny Worsnop.

A portion of the proceeds from Driftwood went to benefit the San Onofre Parks Foundation and the Doheny State Beach Interpretive Association DSBIA. The foundation works with the California State Parks to develop, preserve and enhance California’s coastal parks. DSBIA is dedicated to protecting Doheny’s beaches, facilities, and marine life.

OC breweries included Artifex, Barley Forge, Bootleggers, Bottle Logic, Chapman Crafted, Left Coast Brewing and Stereo. AleSmith, Coronado, and Mother Earth came from San Diego. Ritual Brewing, Firestone Walker and Telegraph Brewing also attended.

A nice selection of wines from California’s wine regions was also flowing for wine enthusiasts.

For those more inclined towards more-intimate festivals, there are many. Let’s talk about two well-executed ones.

Brew Ho Ho!

If you are reading this early there may still be tickets available for the fifth annual Brew Ho Ho! Holiday Ale Festival. Orange County’s festival of the season returns to the Phoenix Club in Anaheim on Saturday, December 10. Attending brewers usually bring out their best beers and showcase special holiday brews. The official 2016 Brew Ho Ho! Holiday Ale is a collaborative effort between San Clemente’s Artifex Brewing and Chapman Crafted, from Orange. Yippee Ki Yay, a hoppy imperial red brewed with red, caramel and rye malts, and finished piney hops, will clock in at around 8% alcohol by volume. It will also see limited release in additional hop spots around the county.

Over 80 beers will be available from Orange County and Southern California brewers. Dead Man’s Party, an Oingo Boingo tribute band will perform. Like most Brew Ha Ha festivals, there will also be an assortment of fine cigars as well as food provided by local restaurants and food trucks. A portion of this year’s proceeds will benefit the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County and the Inland Empire.

Beer Garden at The Lodge at Torrey Pines

Another premier food and beverage festival takes place every year as the closing event for San Diego Beer Week. The Beer Garden at The Lodge at Torrey Pines is an intimate crowd reduced affair that joins 28 talented San Diego Brewers Guild member-brewers with 14 of San Diego’s best chefs from Chef Celebration Foundation. Each chef works with two brewers to create a dish or dishes to pair with a beer from each brewery. Interested brewers enter into a lottery for the privilege of participating in this prestigious event, which takes place outside the beautiful Craftsman-style structures on the Arroyo Terrace overlooking the golf course and ocean beyond. It benefits the San Diego Brewers Guild and the Chef Celebration Foundation. Over 50 local chefs comprise Chef Celebration. These chefs dedicate their time and talents in an effort to raise money for culinary scholarships.

Anyone who attended also benefited from wonderful food paired with some remarkable craft beer. In addition to their pairing beer, many brewers bought additional beers to share during the event. And, this year’s increase of two chefs and four breweries did not result in a more crowded experience. Instead, attendance was capped to allow for a pleasant setting without long food or drink lines. Throughout the year Chef Celebration holds a number of culinary events that often include beverage pairings. Consult chefcelebration.org for event listings. A sampling of some standouts from The Beer Garden follows.

2016 GABF Award-winning breweries Second Chance Beer Co and Societe Brewing Co teamed with Amy Dibiase from Grand Restaurant Group. Chef Dibiase created a succulent citrus-cured Verlasso salmon with fennel confit, marble potato, mustard crème fraiche and pomegranate. Societe’s Lora Smith dispensed The Harlot, the brewery’s 5.6% ABV Belgian extra ale. Its lightness and accompanying floral notes enhanced and married with the essences of the ingredients in the dish. Fool Me Twice, an Imperial IPA from Second Chance, was both cleansing and complementing. The beer’s citrus and pine notes melded with the flavors of the fare while the dryness of this 8.8% IPA cleared one’s palate.

Philip Esteban, from Consortium Holdings, prepared two separate plates, one for each brewer. Abnormal Beer Company’s Derek Gallanosa brought a refreshing cherry Berliner wiesse that helped the flavors pop in Chef Esteban’s winter melon Aguachile. AleSmith’s Reforged XXI, a hearty, complex and balanced bourbon, red wine and rum barrel aged beer, was a fitting finish to chef’s Char Siu Tartine, which combined butter yogurt, sherry raisin and soy on toasted pumpernickel squares.

The Guajillo braised beef cheek with mole negro and smoked Mexican corn salad from Jeff Rossman of Terra American Bistro was delicious and paired with Bagby Beer Co’s Upside Down Brown and Benchmark Brewing Company’s Primitive Camp Pilsner. Another dish of note was the seared octopus with arugula salad, radish and roasted corn ash, from Kyle Kovar of Tom Ham’s Lighthouse. It nicely coupled with O’Sullivan’s Sailhead Murphy Pale.

Coming Attractions

San Diego’s Karl Strauss Brewing Company’s Peanut Butter Cup Porter has returned. It is San Diego’s original peanut butter beer with powering essences of peanuts and dark chocolate. Soon to release will be Karl’s annual Christmas offering. This will be the seventh year for Karl’s San Diego take on the 12 Days of Christmas. After last year’s Six Suits A-Hangin’ Imperial Belgian-style Brown Ale, we’ll have to wait and see what this year will bring.

Placentia’s The Bruery is in the 9th year of its Twelve Days of Christmas series. Now available is 9 Ladies Dancing, an 11.3% ABV beer inspired by the flavors and components in tiramisu. It imparts a malty creaminess with hints of chocolate, coffee and vanilla.

And, up the coast in Santa Barbara, Telegraph Brewing Company recently released Obscura Peche. This barrel-aged sour ale incorporated more than 25 pounds of local organic peaches in each barrel. The beer was aged in wine barrels for 18 months with Telegraph’s house sour culture.