Four days, 800 miles, 150 breweries, and hours of beer education. It’s no surprise my eyes (and liver) are sagging like a junior high school kid’s jeans. Sum up the California Craft Beer Summit in Sacramento in a few words? Impossible. It’s like you’re on the red carpet of the beer Oscars, only you’re asking world-renowned brewers what’s in their glass instead of what they’re wearing—which in both cases would be California beer and a well-worn brewery shirt.
Being surrounded by industry idols for a few days has its feel-good perks. Being media, I have to keep my inner fanboy in check, but I still find it strange to interview people who inspire me so deeply. Questions that had me tossing and turning the night before spew out like Chris Farley’s old SNL bit where he interviews Paul McCartney. “Er, remember that one time you brewed Pliny the Younger? Th-that was awesome!” I dream of asking Russian River founder Vinnie Cilurzo, punching myself in the head.
Three O.C. breweries made the trek to the capital, Beachwood Brewing (which opens soon in Huntington Beach), TheBruery, and Bootlegger’s Brewery. The O.C. Brewer’s Guild also made the trip for the first time since inception, pouring some award-winning beers during the expo. Beachwood BBQ’s Greg Brown spoke on a panel about curating a great beer list, and our own Patrick Rue, owner of The Bruery, sits on the board of the California Craft Beer Association, which organizes the three-day event.
The festival, which happens on the state capitol lawn, is the where the real party happens—75 breweries on one side of the street, 75 on the other. Since most of the breweries don’t distribute outside of their areas, the festival is a great way to experience a sizeable chunk of the 700-plus breweries active in our state. Aside from limited food options, the fest is like a mini-version of the Great American Beer Festival, which happens next month in Denver.
Was it worth it? Oh, hell yes! Plan ahead and make the trip next year!
Missed it? There are two unbelievable beer festivals in September:
- Anaheim Fest of Ales, Sept. 17. $70 for unlimited beer and food samples from 35 local breweries and eateries.
- O.C. Brew HaHa, Sept. 24. $60 for unlimited beer samples from 90 breweries, live music, educational talks, and a free shuttle to the Tustin transit center.