When one lives in a craft beer hot spot, there’s only one thing more exciting than a good pint – a beer fest. Last month San Diego hosted two festivals showing off the best that the city’s craft breweries and beyond have to offer. We were lucky enough to check out both, and report on our tastiest findings.
April 1: Mission Valley Craft Beer Festival
The first day of April was sunny yet mild, and brought with it the second annual Mission Valley Craft Beer Festival, in the spacious lot just outside Mission Valley’s Handlery Hotel. In one corner bands played, while in another lines formed for a game of chalk-lined foursquare put on by Tap Hunter.
The festival featured a mix of the city’s major craft breweries as well as up-and-comers. Highlights included Butcher’s Brewing, who drew a crowd for its Mucho Aloha Hawaiian-style Pale Ale (though we also recommend the soon-to-be-released Standard Black IPA), Ballast Point’s limited edition Indra Kunindra curried stout, and an IPA from San Diego Beer Company that ran its line through a canister of hops for extra kick.
Though a beer festival in name, the event focused just as heavily on food. Beer booths intertwined with representatives from restaurants, hotels, and catering services offering samples of their wares. Still, even the food honored the event, from Serrano-topped pretzel dogs braised in a blonde ale (courtesy of the Courtyard by Marriott) to Stone IPA smoked gouda mac ‘n cheese (R Gang Eatery) to Japanese-style shaved ice topped with a sweet malted barley saison syrup (Gaijin Noodle + Sake House).
April 7: San Diego CityBeat Festival of Beers
True to Southern California’s unpredictable spring weather, the afternoon of April 7 was blisteringly hot – 80°F at 2:00PM, which was when we arrived at San Diego CityBeat’s Festival of Beers. Unlike the relatively sprawling Mission Valley festival, this saw hundreds of craft beer enthusiasts packed onto El Cajon Blvd. just outside of North Park’s Lafayette Hotel.
The food offerings at this festival were few and far between – but what it lacked in snacks, it more than made up for in variations of beer. There was just no way to sample everything without losing a handle on both notes and camera, but we certainly did our best.
It was hard to top the first few stops of the day – Lost Abbey’s Judgment Day Ale, a rich, dark and raisin-y Belgian Quad poured by Live Wire, followed by a sneak peek of Samuel Adams’ New World Trippel (only available in a few select test markets, lucky us!).
But a few others did come close: Tijuana Beer’s Bufadora Bock elevated the notion of Mexican beer to another level, and while Maui’s Coconut Porter may not be new it’s always a bonus. We tried a few ciders, but the Lansdowne organic molasses stout cider from Crispin was far and away our favorite.
Two beer festivals in seven days? Even if the beer was mediocre, it would still be a pretty good week. Fortunately for us, the week was nothing short of a delicious success.