Back in 1994, the entire United States had only 600 breweries. Today? California alone has more than 850. As such, the need to travel out of state for authentic, well-produced beer has significantly decreased. When our local breweries can make beer that rivals their historical origins, a hop in the car or a pedal jumper flight can put you in arms reach of the world’s best IPA, British, German, and even Belgian-style beers.
With all of this growth, my yearly anticipation of attending the Great American Beer Festival in Denver has greatly diminished—mostly due to the California Craft Beer Summit in Sacramento, now in its third year. At the summit, I can now get a more personal, less crowded, informative, and digestible experience at a fraction of the cost, not to mention the potential for face time with some of the best brewers in the world.
Aside from the 150 all-California brewery beer festival that includes line-worthy stars such as Sante Adarius, The Rare Barrel, Russian River, Monkish, and others, educational seminars take place on Thursday and Friday. Learning sessions are broken out into different categories for each type of beer geek: producer, consumer, and even informed publican. Topping it off, tap talks take place on the trade-show floor from craft beer luminaries, plus there’s chef and brewer demos, as well as a modest trade show, complete with regional brewer guilds pouring their local beers. Orange County, L.A., and Inland Empire each share a four-square booth, with San Diego and Northern California guilds also having booths on the trade-show floor.
Having gone the first two years, The CA Craft Beer Summit is now on my short list of can’t-miss events worth the travel, where the drive up and back on the 99 is also a large part of the adventure. Stops at Lengthwise Brewing in Bakersfield, Tioga Sequioa in Fresno, and the unexpectedly huge brewpub Dust Bowl Brewing in Turlock.
Orange County brewers making the trip (many for the first time): Green Cheek Beer’s Brian Rauso (panelist on building breweries), Beachwood Brewing, BJ’s, Bottle Logic, Chapman Crafted, Noble Ale Works, and The Bruery.
The event is hosted by the California Craft Brewer’s Guild, a non-profit group that empowers the craft brewers of California through advocacy, education, and communication.