So, I witnessed my first blow job at a beer fest. Now, before you dismiss my claim, know that the first glimpse of this blatant dong slobbery was pointed out by a crowd of people nearby. “Hey, that chick is totally sucking that guys dick over there! Haha!”. I grabbed my delicious $2 fish taco (from the House of Big Fish & Ice Cold Beer) and hopped over to view the action. Sure as shit, a tiny asian gal is working the skin-pole like a hungry calf on a hot day. I watch for a few seconds as white taco sauce dribbles slowly down my arm. Lacking a proper napkin, I was unsure what to do, as licking it off is not an option. Getting the ol’ dode schlarved at a beer festival rates pretty high on any man’s top ten list. Personally it sits comfortably between “Bowling with the Dali Lama and Pope” and “Jetpacking naked over a Kardashian wedding” on my list. Don’t judge.
As this event is ‘all you can drink’, I had the freedom to do back-to-back comparisons from several breweries. I only managed two flights before getting seriously bored though. Most tents poured IPA or Wheat beers, which is fine. Starting with Belgian Wit/White, I sample Eagle Rock Brewery’s Manifesto next to Blue Moon and Shock Top.
Manifesto easily takes the cake with a refreshing dry fresh citrus followed with a nice clean zesty spice note. Miller-Coors’ Blue Moon Belgian White, while not awful by any means, gets the down-vote because it’s too sweet. I hate sticky lips after drinking a beer. Then there’s AB-InBev’s Shock Top Belgian White. This beer tastes like fermented Tang dry hopped with chewable orange baby aspirin. This tasting flight once again proves the marketing dollar per quality beer quotient is still in effect. The more a brewery advertises, the worse the beer. Protip: make better beer and you won’t have to advertise! Feel embarrassed if you bring Shock or Moon to parties.
On the IPA side, I make the ‘mistake’ of drinking Ballast Point’s IPA Sculpin first. This beer is perfection. I sample four other IPA’s that are great on their own, but Sculpin plays my palate like a fiddle. It seems to hit the perfect flavor profile, bitterness, aroma, mouthfeel that I love in an IPA. Sorry, Sierra Nevada, Cismontane, Widmer, and Old Orange. Ballast Point also easily takes the best in show at this fest with their three total offerings. BP poured Wahoo Wheat, along with Tongue Buckler, an Imperial Red Ale (poured from 22oz bottle). Sometimes Imperial reds can dip too far in either maltyness or hoppyness…this beer hits you with one, then the other, then balances itself out in a piraty tongue-buckler fashion. I went back for seconds to be sure. It’s a must-try.
It’s not a beer fest unless I check in with George Smith at Bayhawk Ales (Bayhawk won a Bronze medal at the World Beer Cup in San Diego the same day for their Chocolate Porter). As he’s been to this fest for years, he explains this fest is more for the party crowd…just as a gal nearby crop dusts us while we chat. George gives this fest props for being the first beer fest in OC, and he would know, working for OC’s oldest standalone brewery. On tap, he’s got a hoppy Red, Imperial brown and a RIS. What the hell Bayhawk?!? They were all great beers. Bayhawk has been quietly cranking it up a notch and I applaud them for it. Sad part is these beers only seem to be available at festivals.
As far as the OC Beer Festival is concerned, there are pros and cons to the ‘all you can drink’ philosophy. For a guy like me, I was able to try beers I normally would pass up because of a limit. If it didn’t care for it, I simply dumped it. I could have easily sampled every beer there if I wanted to, which is great. One caveat to that is most breweries brought their ‘entry level’ options which was par for this crowd.The con to the ‘all you can drink’ philosophy is the party bus crowd took a different approach. Guzzling beer after beer, cutting in line, bumping into people, etc. The crowd was more or less what one would expect at a KROQ Weenie Roast, which is fine. Being Cinco de Mayo, many fest-goers were dressed up for the occasion. Guys and gals alike were rocking the Sombrero and fake handlebar mustache. There was the ironic Brokeback Mountain cowboy look. My favorite was the Slutty Squaw look. I applaud them as it made it easier to avoid the annoying and inebriated.
The food options were great! The House of Big Fish & Cold Beers served up Fish Tacos for $2. I figured they would be dinky for the price so I grabbed two. At the In-N-Out truck, I felt sorry for the long-lashed London gal taking orders…I’m sure she heard various “in-n-out” innuendo and dong proposals throughout the day. Many repeat fest-goers said the food options this year were much improved from last year. Dogzilla and a few other food trucks were on hand.
The live music was also great! I missed the first band’s name but they covered Vampire Weekend and Florence and the Machine with great success. The stage area was packed with people dancing and frat boys dry humping each other. Bummed I missed the main act.
Gripes: One of the major dings with this festival is some vendors had total scabs pouring beer. Without any knowledge of what it was they were pouring, facts on the brewery, the style of beer etc (Bootleggers), people with genuine questions were frustrated. Some scabs were completely drunk a mere hour in (Anchor Steam). One vendor, Sudwerk, sat in a chair while the slut tribe took over. Annoyed, I reached over and poured my own. At a newer brewery, the actual staff was so ignorant I turned to my phone to look up info. Come on people, this is a beer festival! I would expect at a bare minimum you would have an info sheet and some cards. Props to those that actually had knowledgeable sales, marketing or brewers present. It was few and far between. A few local breweries (Cismontane, Old Orange Brewing Co. and Noble Ale Works) had superfan regulars pouring. That was great! They actually knew the product and were excited about it. One brewery couldn’t tell me what city they were located or where to find the beer. How is this even possible? Respect beer, people. Come on.
Another ding: The event map had typos. I would be livid if I was “Sam Adams”, “Noble Brews”, “Widers”, or “Sudwerks”. This is totally unprofessional. “At least they buy kegs at this festival” a few vendors said. I think the time and effort you put into building your brand deserves the proper respect.
Overall: Hopefully this gives you some inkling what this beer fest is all about. As the Craft Brewer’s Conference was going on in San Diego and the Southern California Homebrewer’s Conference was going on up north, there wasn’t one Pliny the Elder shirt to be seen, if you catch my drift. This fest is more for the party crowd. I actually had a good time mucking about, sampling beers and chatting with drunken strangers. The people watching was the best ever, especially if you like to watch someone tickle the trouser wookie with their throat pickle.