photo credit: David Mulvihill

SoCal Fairs/Professional Craft Beer Competitions 

Southern California now has at least three major international commercial beer competitions that give brewers a chance to put their best beers up against those of fellow brewers from across the globe and vie for category and competition top honors. 


For 14 years the San Diego International Beer Competition has taken place in conjunction with the Del Mar Fairgrounds International Beer Festival. Local breweries and breweries from across the world compete in approximately 60 style categories. SDIBC has grown significantly from its humble beginning in 2006 when entries submitted for judging approached 200. In the years that followed, tracking in line with the dramatic growth in the number of breweries and entries also increased. In 2019 there were 1,511 beers from 263 breweries from 26 US States and five Countries. 

Tom Nickel (O’Brien’s Pub and Nickel Beer Co) was the competition’s original organizer. He and Tyson Blake have shared these duties for many years. 

Entry deadline for this year is March 15, with beer samples needing to be received by March 27. Judging will take place April 24th and 25th. Results are typically announced by the end of April.

For is $50 fee per entry and breweries can enter up to 10 beers. In addition to two Festival T-shirts, entering breweries will also receive up to 8 fair admissions and tasting session wristbands (based on their number of entries). 

This year’s San Diego International Beer Festival happens Friday through Sunday, June 19-21.

L.A. International Beer Competition

2020 marks the 20th year for the Los Angeles International Commercial Beer Competition. Since the year 2000, the Los Angeles County Fair Association has worked with local brewers to sponsor the competition, which is held each year at Fairplex in Pomona. Also open to breweries worldwide, March 27 is the deadline for entries this year. Beers to be judged must be received between April 7th and 10th. Judging will take place April 18-19 and winners announced in late April.

LAIBC fees for entries prior to March 13 are $55 per entry. After that date the fee rises to $65. 

A selection of award-winning breweries will be contacted well in advance of the fair in order to purchase their award-winning beer for tasting during the L.A. County Fair in the Marketplace. Public Tasting of winning beers will take place in conjunction with the L.A. County Fair, which runs from September 4-27. Watch for the results and be sure to get your fair tickets in order to sample and enjoy the winning beers.

OC’s Inaugural Year

The 2020 OC Fair Commercial Beer Competition marks the first time the OC Fair & Event Center has embarked on holding a professional brewing competition. Its well-seasoned Homebrew Competition will continue this year. Entries and judging for the homebrew contest historically happens in early May.

In part, due to its newness and a short window from the time the commercial competition was announced to the time entries were due, the number of entries didn’t quite break the 200 mark. This has allowed organizers time to get acquainted and comfortable with this new competition and its demands in preparing for this year and those that will follow. The OCFCBC is open to licensed breweries and brewpubs internationally. 

Entry deadline was February 10 with beer required to be received by February 21. Judging took place Feb 29 and March 1. This reporter participated in judging beers both days, and was honored to be part of the panel that decided Best-of-Show. All beers that received first place awards in their respective categories were advanced to compete for Best of Show. Given the high quality of the beers advanced to the final round, it was indeed a difficult decision. Winners are expected to be announced by the end of March. The awards ceremony will take place on July 27, during the OC Fair, which runs July 17-August 16.  

Similar to San Diego’s contest, OC’s fees are $50/entry. 20 entries per brewery were allowed in this initial year. Breweries will receive 2020 OC Fair admission tickets based on their entry numbers.