GABF 2021 OCBeer Winners

image courtesy Brewers Association

GABF snuck up on us this year, with no real festival, but a combo wombo GABF/CBC trade show, except with super metal-GABF medals to sling around your beard so that people will declare you the winner of beers. Here are the Orange County winners for the magical year that is 2021. (9,680 entries, 2,192 breweries, 9 medals)

Brewer of the Year:

Radiant Brewing, 1-250 Barrels Brewery and Brewer of the Year

Gold

  • Bearded Tang Brewing Vlad the Barista Coffee Stout (first GABF win)
  • The Bruery Mischief (3rd GABF medal for this beer)
  • Radiant Brewing Second That Emotion – Hazy Pale Ale (first GABF win)
  • Stereo Brewing Robot Imperial Red Ale (second GABF medal for this beer)

Silver

  • Unsung Brewing Co. Let it Out NZ IPA
  • riip beer co. Black the Ripper (3rd GABF medal for this beer)

Bronze

  • Karl Strauss Anaheim Golden Stout (Won as well in 2020)
  • SouthNorte Beer Co. Agavamente (first GABF win)
  • 1886 Elleigh’s ESB (first brewery GABF medal)

OOZEFEST is This Weekend!

I’ve been to a lot of boozefests. I’ve been to Ozzfest. I’ve been to a couple blues fests. I’ve even shot an Uzi at a dude’s chest, but I have never been to an OOZEFEST.

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Treatery – Sweet and savory s’mores, toasted marshmallows with a variety of cheeses and herb/spiced grahams.

What is OOZEFEST? It’s a celebration of all things CHEESE. The kind of cheese that pulls into long strands, long enough to play the banjo on if you were in a cheese-inspired jug band. *CODE: ocbeerblog – Tickets can be purchased at: oozefestival.com

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Sgt Pepperoni’s – ‘Balls Deep’ mozzarella-stuffed meatball wrapped in dough and deep fried

OOZEFEST is like breaking into a creamery, where you can milk all the goats, sheep, and cows, steal all the squeaky curds, then laugh your cheese breath at a box of hungry kittens.

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Messhall Canteen Truck – ‘War Pig Grilled Cheese’ BBQ pulled pork, bacon, fried mac and cheese patty stuffed with queso oaxaca, topped with napalm sauce, ranch, and bleu cheese on texas toast

Special OOZEFEST beer will be on hand from local breweries such as The Good Beer Company, Modern Times, Unsung Brewing, Four Sons, and more. You can buy an “all you can consume” VIP ticket, or buy as you go. Saturday has a slew of incredible eats, as does Sunday…seriously the hardest part about OOZEFEST is choosing which day to go, although Saturday has a smaller font, so I would choose that day. And use code OCBEERBLOG to knock $5 off.

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The Cut – ‘Gaucho Slider’ Smoked Mozzarella, Cilantro Chimichurri and Roasted Banana.

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Kebab – open-faced style gyro with cilantro ‘ooze’ (green cilantro with jalapeno house sauce)

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Shuck Oyster Bar – Shrimp and beef Yakitori-style Meatballs stuffed with sharp cheddar and dressed in spicy cheese sauce

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Good Beer Company! Although I’m sure they’ll bring “La Cheese”

OOZEFEST – DOWNTOWN SANTA ANA

SATURDAY OCT. 15TH & SUNDAY OCT. 16TH
MARKETPLACE NOON-10PM
VIP 5PM-9PM

Ten Reasons to Attend the CA Craft Beer Summit ’16 in Sacto

Last year, I hopped in my silly Scion and drove eight hours north to sweaty Sacramento. After three big gulps, ten rest stops, and two cups of spicy Frito-Lay bean dip, I checked into my $139 Residence Inn by Marriott, not expecting much.  My room was spacious and few steps away from the event in the heart of downtown. Surrounded by nightlife and eateries, reason #1 to go is easily the inexpensive beer travel. 

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#1: Inexpensive beer travel is the best beer travel. Residence Inn Marriott for $139/night!

If you come in early for the educational sessions, the next thing you can expect is a Friday morning filled with fresh faces of the industry.

#2: David Walker and Natalie Cilurzo address the media with concerns about CA’s drought in the state of beer. These guys were everywhere during the event for questions, selfies, and hugs. 

Educational sessions where you actually learn things. Here’s a bunch:

Don Barkley

#3: This is Don Barkley. His Q&A taught me about CA Beer history. He made beer at New Albion, America’s first craft brewery since prohibition in the 70’s. He is now the brewmaster of Napa Smith and has a big bellowing voice, and told great stories.

Vinnie Cilurzo and Ken Grossman

#4: Vinnie Cilurzo and Ken Grossman. They spoke about inspiration from Don Barkley (above) and Jack McAuliffe of New Albion. 

Tony Magee

#5: Speaking of tap talks, Tony Magee of Lagunitas gave a great one just days after announcing the sale of 50% of his brand to Heineken.

Julian Shrago and Tony Magee

#6: If one wanted to get pointers on buying/selling breweries, one could simply go up and ask. Julian Shrago of Beachwood BBQ & Brewing was probably doing just that, as they recently took over Beach City Brewing in HB this summer.

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#7: Hop sniffing at the expo. People walked away with hops on their noses like deranged hop heads. 

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#8: The guilds pouring beer at the expo. LA, SD, SF…pretty much the best of the best! The expo was also like a mini-CBC with vendors of all sorts. 

#9: The Fest to close things out. 150 CA breweries pour on the State Capitol mall.75 on this side, 75 on that side. No huge lines!

#9: The Fest to close things out. 150 CA breweries pour on the State Capitol mall.75 on this side, 75 on that side. No huge lines!

Actual brewers and brewery owners poured their beer, which was rad to ask questions and snap photos!

#10: Actual brewers and brewery owners poured their beer, which was rad to ask questions and snap photos!

Sold? I hope so. I will be there with the Four Brewer’s show from Thursday-Sunday! Come support California beer and have a hell of a road trip!

Check out the site for full schedule, tickets, speakers, and travel info!

 

Sabroso: It’s all Pork & Stout, Baby!

by Errica Lane 5/4/2016, photos John Holzer @fourbrewers

This was my first time at Sabroso and I can sum up my experience in two words: Pork & Stout.  

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It seemed like big beers and pork tacos were on everyone’s agenda at Lakeview Park in Silverado last Saturday.  Fortunately the weather was mild, which paired well with the big booziness that wrestled our palates throughout the day. 

26761717005_ffcbba5b48_kMy two favorite stouts of the day were Leche Borracho from Bottle Logic and Luchador en Fuego from Clown Shoes.  Both had the mole spicy feels, with Clown Shoes aging their beer in bourbon barrels and Bottle logic giving it a little twist by aging in bourbon AND tequila barrels.  That Leche Borracho is dangerously delicious.

One other beer that really stood out to was the Cru’sin Corozon  from TAPS.  They described it as “West-Coast Grand Cru infused with prickly pear, passion fruit, blood orange, and pomegranate,” which was fantastic!  The fruits played so well with the Belgian yeast that I could have drank it all day.  But I didn’t.  I had tacos (and street corn) to eat.

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26668311712_e87453d7dd_kAlmost every food vendor had at least one sizzling pork taco on the menu.  One fave was the pork belly bahn mi taco from Devilicious.  For tres dolores I got a soft corn tortilla with a generous amount of crispy, juicy pork belly cubes and a sesame slaw. After that, my crew went in search of more tasty morsels.

Sadly, but the time we made it over to Haven, they had already run out of tacos.  I guess that’s what we get for getting distracted by beer at a taco festival.  I heard the soy marinated steak tacos were killer.  We quickly turned around and tried to get tacos from Kroft, but they had run out of buns.  They did offer up a double-meat deal for $3; instead of choosing between a pork belly taco or a fried spam, we got a paper boat with a slab of each meat.  The fried spam was the winner for me; breaded and deep fried, then drizzled with a sweet sauce and seaweed.  Totally odd combo that was pretty great.

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The highlight of the day, food wise, wasn’t a taco.  It was the Mexican street corn from The Lime truck.  Cobs of sweet corn were flash fried then smothered in sriracha mayo and cheese.  Thankfully that’s a regular offering from them, because there needs to be more of that in all our lives.

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In between each brewery booth of food truck we spent some time enjoying the bands on stage and roaming mariachis.  The only bummer is that by spending most of my time in the front area of the festival, I missed the wrestling.  But I saw that there were plenty of lounge chairs spread out for folks to sit and enjoy the show.  Overall it was a great day and a well run festival.

Viva Sabroso!

follow Errica on Instagram!

 

South County IPA + OC Brew Ha Ha!

Artifex Brewing Co, Pizza Port and Left Coast Brewing Co. set to release South County IPA for the Brew Ha Ha! It’ll be on at the fest lakeside and will hit store shelves soon. Tickets and event info for Brew Ha Ha are here! 

150 California Breweries Line Up for the CA Craft Beer Summit + discount code

sacThe state of craft beer is something to behold. So is the state of California. When I heard 150 California craft breweries will be pouring at the California Craft Beer Summit, my personal state went from a foggy daze to “how can this be real?”

Not only is the festival a huge draw, the two-day event includes a CBC-type expo and educational sessions, put together by the California Craft Brewers Association.

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Pioneer Chris Cramer details the beginning of craft beer in SD.

Tap Talks: Featuring industry industry legends like Ken Grossman, David Walker, Natalie and Vinnie Cilurzo, Steve Wagner and a bunch more.

    • Masters Demos: Interactive demonstrations featuring California’s top 
brewers and chefs pairing California’s finest beers and fresh ingredients in new and innovative styles.
    • Experience the Craft Sessions: Craft beer professionals will provide phenomenal opportunities to learn more about craft beer and the business of brewing it.
    • Beer Releases: Tasting stations will feature an array of beers in a variety of styles to experience the difference and enjoy new taste sensations.
    • Job and Education Center: Have you ever dreamed of working at a brewery? Meet our experts in industry education and talk to the hiring professionals that make those dreams come true. Learn what it will take to meet your goals.
    • Hoppy Hour: IPA’s and Appetizers make for a great networking hour to discuss new and hilarious hop puns!

ocbeerMy personal itinerary on Friday:

  • 9: Food & Beer Pairings with Dr. Bill (simply to heckle).
  • 10:30: Draft systems technical workshop.
  • 1pm: Fritz Maytag speaks about 50 years of Anchor Brewing(!)
  • 2:30-3: Vinnie Cilurzo moderates a talk with Ken Grossman.
  • 5:30: Brewers reception.

temptationSaturday: Getting my learn on from Gary Glass, Mitch Steele, The Pope of Foam, Tony Magee, Chris Cramer, Patrick Rue, Vinnie, Matt Brynildson and Greg Koch. Then…

Saturday night on the capitol lawn: 150 breweries will stretch as far as the eye can see. Orange County will be represented by The Bruery, Beach City, Beachwood BBQ, and Bottle Logic. The best part of the fest will be sampling beer from all over the state from breweries that only support their local areas.

Tickets available via http://www.californiacraftbeer.com/2015-craft-beer-summit/tickets/purchase-tickets/

fact: California produced over 3.5 million barrels of beer in 2014, more than any other state.

 

fact: Craft Beer is a 6.5 Billion dollar industry in the state of California, 18% more in 2014 than the previous year.

 

fact: California has 554 breweries, more than any other state.

 

Fact: the discount code is CAcraftbeer10

The Fest Inside the Fest | GABF’s Farm to Table Pavilion (Now “PAIRED”)

With SAVOR behind us, let’s rewind to an unexpected pairing at the Farm to Table Pavilion inside the Great American Beer Festival – or – I can’t believe I typed 1700 words about what?

Photo credit Davis Tilly Photography http://www.davistilly.com/

The Kitchen Denver – Photo credit Davis Tilly Photography http://www.davistilly.com/

Within three hours of flying into Denver for the Great American Beer Festival, I witnessed someone nearly choke to death. “Don’t fucking give him the heimlich! He’s taking in air!” yells travel buddy/media compadre John Holzer at the bar. The hostess speed dials 9-1-1 as the poor bastard horks air, bent over like a jackknife. His buddy, jaw agape, starts lumberjack-pounding him on the back. “He’s choking worse than John Elway in the 1990 Super Bowl,” I say while looking around…wondering if I’d effectively trolled any locals.

Holding his curly hair under the bar, ‘Choke-man’ makes one last gasp as his buddy jabs at his back. He must have found the secret eject button, as a distinct splatter-noise on the ground preceded the sound of his lungs filling with air all at once.

The restaurant, now completely standing while watching, sighs and sits like they witnessed a healing at church.

“I’m okay…water just went down the wrong pipe,” Choke-man says, stroking moisture down his beard, purple-faced, dripping with sweat and embarrassment. His buddy plops down a fifty at the bar and they both leave in a hurry. “Thankfully I didn’t have to see a dude die right before GABF,” I say to the bartender. “Indeed,” she says, polishing a glass, nonchalantly, “who the hell chokes that bad on water?”


 

As with all great travel-stop traditions, I always stop in The Kitchen Denver for a lamb burger before the Great American Beer Festival. This practice started the year I sat next to Dave Chichura, the “HBIC” of Oskar Blues Brewery (now at Eddyline) at the time and split some littleneck clams over canned beers and fishing stories. The burger, dolloped with roasted red pepper relish and bitter greens, is a call to Denver, and more importantly, a great base to lay before drinking fifty-or-so 1oz beer samples in an afternoon.

The Kitchen Denver is sort of an odd duck with the beer crowd during GABF week. Nearby places like Freshcraft or Euclid Hall are packed to the gills with ninety-minute waits. At The Kitchen, there’s always an open spot at the bar and the food/beer situation always warms my post-flight gullet. Their beer selection and proper glassware is always on point.

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The Colorado Convention Center – Reverse trashbear juxtaposition

Back to the splatter at hand, my appetite has completely vanished. Good thing too. I scored a Farm to Table Pavilion ticket inside the GABF for tonight. Think for a second about the odds of getting a ticket to GABF that sells out in minutes, then nabbing an elusive Farm to Table ticket. It’s a fest inside the fest, except filled with award winning beers paired with James Beard nominated chef-driven food. It’s akin to finding the winning lottery numbers on Wonka’s Golden Ticket, then winning free beer for life, naked.

I leave half of my lamb burger uneaten, carefully chug the rest of my Blind Pig and walk straight to the Colorado Convention Center a few minutes walk away for press credentials. Denver’s gusty winds sweep me down the busy 16th street mall towards the giant blue bear on 14th and Stout.

This year, GABF’s Farm to Table is going to be farm…to table…to hand….to mouth…to….uh…hotel bed, to early morning jog. Badge around neck, I speed walk past the sick kilted ducks blowing bagpipes to get my appetite back. The fest starts in fifteen minutes.


P1060722The Great American Beer Festival is exactly how it sounds. Four sessions of the event sold in a measly thirty-two minutes (in 2014); 48,000 tickets in all. 3,500 beers are poured from over 700 breweries. The Farm to Table event inside is host to 450 and costs an additional $140  per person – 14 tables in all.

Denver itself buzzes during GABF. With beer events from 8AM til 2AM daily, the festival can almost seem like a side-show. Some show up to the city and get crazy at the many walkable breweries, taprooms and brewpubs.


P1080585Just like a kid running to the lunch line in junior high, I’m the first guy at the Farm to Table Pavilion. A brief memory of raspberry coconut zingers and fruit punch-stained lips flashes through my head. I was totally that dork years ago. Crazy to see thirty years later I’m still that kid, now entrenched in the beer world doing the same shit, except now it’s a tart Raspberry Berliner Weisse, or an earthy CoCoNut Porter.

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I do have to admit, I’m a cynic when it comes to big food pairing taste events like this. Out of the fourteen tables set out today, I bet seven will be some kind mediocre slider with way too much bun. Four will be some kind of poké/wagyu/whatever on a partially stale chip. The rest? A plastic salsa cup with pork belly, short rib or some other wild game some hip new chef shot in the wild, cleaned and rubbed with grannies famous ten-spice blend. Bonus points if there’s some duck confit, terrine, or foie. At basically $10 a table, anything is possible and I hope for the best.

P1080613In before the beer-soaked horde, it’s fun to watch chefs putting the final touches on food prep. Beer bottles at each station are poking their necks out of buckets looking like refreshed kids at a public pool…perhaps saying, “hey guys, what’s going on inside this GABF?”. The hall smells vaguely like bacon amid the voluminous high ceilings. I circle the hall quickly and see where to drop anchor first, then chuckle as my statement quickly turns into a stupid pun.

P1080588Two guys, possibly twin brothers in their forties unload a mesh bag of oysters on a bed of dark, moist seaweed right in front of me. I pause as they slice it open. The twin with the sideburns grabs an oyster from the pile, shucks it and slides it over to me on a cocktail napkin, grinning. Without saying a word, I sip the liquor off the top, tilt the shell back and chew it up…naked. My GOD. Do I whip out my phone to take a photo? Do I ask for another? What’s the fucking protocol here, man? Who knew my first sip of liquor inside the GABF would be a dash of briny oyster juice.

P1080589The table sign reads, “Terrapin Rye Cubed Triple Rye IPA 10.7% ABV paired with Marin Miyagi Oysters on the Half Shell.” I grin and nod, thinking the pairing is a joke. “Pairing contains shellfish,” hahaha!

“A 10.7% Triple Rye IPA paired with oy-oysters?” I stu-stutter like my car is being towed. Terrapin’s beer rep bats her lashes and grins, “I know, right?”

Is she implying that the pairing might possibly be terrible? Does she know it’s crazy good? As I witnessed the bag opening, I assume she doesn’t actually know…right?

I’ve had oysters with fresh Murphy’s off the coast of County Cork, Ireland. I’ve had oysters with an old fashioned cocktail in Los Angeles. In Georgia where Terrapin Beer Company makes beer, do they prefer 125 IBU palate-wreckers to wash down delicate bivalves?

P1080587Tom Montgomery, one of the guys behind Monterrey Fish Market in San Francisco, turns the key and unlocks my second Miyagi shell, scooting it my way for another spin. I’ve always found that eating oysters is like kissing someone for the first time. With beer? It’s like kissing someone for the first time while drinking beer, which makes it exponentially more titillating.

P1080611The first oyster a mere peck, my goal for number two is to get to second base. I lick my lips and bite the corner of my lower lip while lifting up the green marbled-patina shell, making eyes with it. Edging closer, I admire its plump-pearlescent body shining back at me, eyes now crossed as I sip the liquor off the top and swish it around my mouth. My salivary glands burst as I take the slightest sip of beer to chase: rye spice, sweet malts, juicy hops and salty oyster brine coat my mouth as I swallow…eyes rolling as I lick my teeth clean.

Making eye contact with the beer rep, I pour a little bit of her beer into the deep oyster shell and nod, replacing the brine now in my belly.

Flicking the raw beast around my mouth, I bite down, noting its firm body. The slick texture exudes a subtle melon-cucumber note with a slight metallic twang; similar to tasting a Moscow mule in a copper mug. Sea salt washes over my memory banks and causes a good three-second daydream of me duck-diving a wave while body surfing back home in Newport Beach. Before gulping it down, I add a sip of the triple rye IPA to the cement-mixer that is my mouth and pause with Denver’s sunset suddenly blinding me outside the thirty foot tall glass windows. Wow, I can see the Rockies from here.

The silky spa like flavors implode into a super salty umami bomb. Chewing slowly, I swallow every last drop. My phone vibrates in my pocket. I don’t bother.

“Spitters are quitters” I think to myself, tossing the shell in a trashcan and downing the rest of the beer. I exchange cards with Terrapin’s beer rep. “I had my doubts, but goddamn that was memorable.”

“I know, right?”

“What are the odds that two things fly from California to Denver, meet in a huge beer fest and one eats the other?” I ask, innocently trying to keep the conversation going.

“I’m not from California,” she says.

I choke-cough and move on to the other thirteen tables, then step out into the main festival, joining 11,999 of my closest friends. Damn. GABF is awesome. Farm to Table? Not to be missed.

The Bruery Turns Seven | Copperversary Ensues

01ecf2acede3a19993b9e36219646093ef5e65137cWith petrichor still looming from the tall eucalyptus trees surrounding the Phoenix Club, a snotty rooster crows from the other side of the fence. “Is this the hoarders line?” asks a girl in a rainbow-banged unicorn wig. I nod, contemplating my sweater situation as dark clouds swirl around this chilly May morning. A horse whinnies nearby as the line snakes three-feet closer to check-in. Next thing you know, a German-style SheGoat will jump out of a bush and get into some Mischief with an Atomic Kangarue.

I’m not even in The Bruery’s 7th Copperversary and the day is already surreal.

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Hoarders be like

0173d0c107b5ba234228800109511e791090d1a747Der Phoenix Club is beer festival ground zero these days and it’s easy to see why. 37 breweries plus ample stockpiles of The Bruery’s beers are free flowing around the perimeter; and it doesn’t seem crowded, despite 1,700 guests. There’s ample shade, nice bathrooms and even a playground for the Black Tuesday drinkers.

The Bruery and I must have similar taste in local beer, as most of the 37 breweries representing are personal favorites. The first beer to wet my glass is MacLeod’s 3.5% English Bitter, Session Gap; gravity poured from cask and has miraculously dropped bright. They should teach classes on fest-cask to the rest of the breweries here, although I’m pretty sure the secret is simply wearing overalls, like every day, to everything.

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Smog City Prom Pose!

Walking the perimeter, seeing friends, getting hugs, snapping pics, eating. Tripping out on some of the guest breweries without lines. Tripping out on some of the guest breweries with big lines. Monkish, with batch two Selah and Rare Beer Club exclusive Rara Avis? No line. Noble Ale Works with a brewery walking distance from the Phoenix Club? Medium line. Rare Barrel creating a huge line by not pouring until 2pm? Genius. The Bruery truck’s line that extended into the festhalle tent instead of having multiple pouring stations as in years past? Baffling. Terreux with almost no line? Concerning. Colored balloons to note where things are? Festive.

017d14138c6a15854235094754068d9e94f40329b8Three favorites of the day: Smog City Steamfunk Brett IPA, Monkish Selah 2.0, Sour in the Rye w/Peach, and holy hell…way too many good beers. This fest could have gone on for days.

Overall, The Bruery knows how to party. A very fun beer festival and put together well! Beachwood BBQ’s food is always on point. The Reserve/Hoarders Society guests are always well behaved and courteous. The venue is made for drinking beer. Coffee and tea inside? Holy hell yes.I heard estimates that they raised over 40K for the Boys and Girls Club.

Thinking out loud: Now that The Bruery is 7, I look forward to seeing what Terreux will bring. Increased production and quality? I’m curious what Terreux’s Jeremy will bring to the “beer’s gone wild” game. As a beer-flavored beer enthusiast, I’m also curious if the beer development will start to cross from innovative to gimmick (cola, plastic margarita and old fashioned beers, anyone?). I’m interested to see how the lack of Tyler King will impact things. One thing is for sure: The Bruery seems to evolve at the same rate as beer geeks willingness to reach for something new…and with that, I can’t wait to see their next seven years.

 

All the Barrels Roll Out for Firestone Walker’s Micro-Fest

Event in San Luis Obispo County Has only barrel aged beer, wine and booze at historic ranch. – By Greg Nagel

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The Historic Santa Margarita Ranch Barn – courtesy their website

IMG_9215With an event like From the Barrel‘ by Firestone Walker, irony sets in quickly as I realize we’re all just a bunch of booze sitting inside wood. At the historic wooden-planked Santa Margarita barn (in San Luis Obisbo County), every beer, spirit and cocktail has spent time in a wooden barrel. The guests? Dressed to the nines in prohibition-era fashion and, well, also surrounded by staves of lumber.

Session beer drinking since noon, my suspender-hooked suit pants and bow tie are providing some gentle, yet pleasant asphyxiation, I feel like this thing could all burn down with one careless flick of a cigarette.

Twinkly lights strewn across the dusty floor guide my way to the first beers of the night. Societe and Russian River are sharing a table like nephew and uncle at a roadside farm stand. Societe’s The Highbinder (American wild ale) next to Russian River’s Beatifiation? As a man of constant sorrow, I take a sip and whistle dixie. It’s hard to see the color in the low lights, but it does appear to have blushed from touching my lips. What a tart! The Highbinder gives me subtle wood; French oak wine barrel I presume. I pucker. It’s wet and unscrupulous. I get to the bottom and go for thy neighbor. Temptation sets in as our eyes meet. Does The Highbinder stand up next to Russian River’s bottled seductions? Absolutely. Beatification nearly blows my wad, so grab a smoke outside to relax.

Credit - CA Brewmasters Book

Credit Nick Gingold – California Brewmasters Book

The walkways are tight as I politely move about the barn. Rock steps tunnel the side entrances and juxtapose the gams propped up by throwback stems. The gentle plucking of a stand-up bass rhythmically blum-blum-blums throughout the night causing a few bleary-eyed people to dance. Outside, a bonfire flickers light across the way, highlighting cloche hats, pearls, fur and sparkled gowns. I flick my smoke safely and head back in.

“There’s no better way to feel like you’re back in the 1920’s than when your phone has zero bars.” – Overheard near the bonfire

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Guy on the right did the ‘reelin’ you in’ move at least three times to random ladies before Billy Idoling it.

 

The little devil on my right shoulder whispers something about rye whiskey and I tell him, “just one.” Three Highspires and a Templeton Rye later, the angel on the left whispers something about “food.”  Thankfully, there’s an abundance. I’m not much of a fan of sliders, so I sure as hell heist four or five ahi-poki chips and some sort of seafood bruschetta near the back window (completely surrounded by cats, by the way).

P1080906Wanting desperately to avoid a hangover before a long weekend, bourbon barrel aged beers are being avoided at all costs. Why drink a beer that had sloppy seconds with a bourbon barrel? As I get older, my craving for bourbon instead of bourbon tea-bagged beers continues to grow. It’s all about the blend and this event has the best…but I’m still not biting.

As the night fiddles away, the crowd grows thin. Ladies get loose enough to smoke some robusto-sized cigars. Suspenders are snapped, violently. 10 P.M. comes, and so does my bus to Paso Robles. Where did the night go? Angel’s share, I suppose.

———————

From the Barrel is now in its fifth year. It’s a great event with some heady drinks – only way to conquer it is to divide, sip and dump what you’re not thrilled with. Firestone Walker puts on some seriously great events and this ads to their line up. I’ve long been a fan of niche-type events (hello, firkfest!) but this sets the bar pretty high. I’d guess 95% of the people here are dressed up! It was classy, tasty and unique! I will be back! Thanks Firestone Walker and LA Beer Bloggers!

Disclosure: This was part of the LA Beer Bloggers Trip, FW paid for a bus full of press to attend a weekend of educational experiences. From the Barrel kicked off the weekend.

The Little Things | Firkfest 15 Recap/Braindump

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photo John Holzer, @fourbrewersshow

 

Theres a million people to thank after hosting a sold out beer festival. The obvious ones: Brewers who slave over mash tuns; using artistry to concoct flavors for a cask that may or may not work out. Restaurants, who took the time to do something different, wake up early on a Saturday and make some really tasty chili. All of that stuff…is donated, which is crazy if you think about it.

Then there’s the little things.

Bloggers, who typically cover the event with photos and brief recap, also chipped in by volunteering to help pour for the first two hours. BeerPaperLA (Guillermo & gal), Beers in Paradise (Japeth), Stick a Fork in It OCWeekly, Beer Guy LA, Worst Beer Blog, JanteZiarra, Brew Beer Blog, BeerQwest, LABeerBlog. I hope being on the other side of the table was a fun experience! I love pouring.

Some bloggers, brewery reps and volunteers loaned their homebrew stands for the restaurants to use during the event. Japeth from Beers in Paradise, Dallas from Ballast Point, Kevin Margulieux and John Ryti. Thanks Iron Fire Brewing for loaning us the canopy John Ryti brought. We’ll invite you next year!

Brewers showed up as early as 8 AM to let their beer settle while we set up the park for the event. Brandon Fender from the Good Beer Company helped put the arrows on the signage.

One of Orange County’s Gayot food critics was on water duty all day. With my idea of using a homebrew filter to refill the water instead of using a billion water bottles, he was critical at keeping everything full. Thanks Rich Manning!

Speaking of water, brewers donated kegs of water as well! Barley Forge brought their rad military looking water jugs, Noble Ale Works, Bottle Logic with a half-barrel…and others I may have missed. The H2OPS guy donated water bottles as well. I was skeptical about having him as a vendor before trying his product, but damn…it was delicious.

David Walker of Firestone Walker hand-delivered some 2015 Parabola which was released that day. I gave him the most awkward bro-hug ever! He then drove to LAX to catch a flight to the UK, because he’s cool like that. How funny to go from a cask beer fest in sunny California to the UK. I take great inspiration from his team’s beer festival, Firestone Walker Invitational which happens in May and sells out instantly because it’s the best fest in the west.

Brewers brought extra canopies for the restaurants to use. I realize this caused confusion for the guests, as many people were trying to vote for Ballast Point, which I believe was Pie Dog (we had them drop tokens correctly). Matt Olesh of the Bruery was kind enough to drive back to work to grab two more, which turned out to be just enough.

Dave Lieberman, from OCWeekly, bought me a sandwich because my nervous gut couldn’t handle chili. He also did the same at Noble’s 4th anniversary party while my wife and I poured the cask beers inside.

The volunteers themselves were comprised of friends, family, neighbors, ex-girlfriends I’m still friends with, my best man, high school friends, some of which drove down from Sacramento and flew in from Chicago to pour. I get a little misty-eyed thinking about how rad that support is. We did have quite a bit of no-shows on the volunteers, and those that showed really stepped it up to hold their pee until it hurt, skipped eating until they almost dropped and stood in wet beer to get the job done. Next year I think I’ll make random people on the internet pay a deposit if they want to volunteer because they’re flaky as fuck. Why would someone take the time to offer to volunteer and not show? That’s just silly. The volunteers worked extra hard to cover pouring and they don’t get to drink. Thanks volunteers! You guys are rad. Truly unsung.

My neighbor helped bring a load of stuff with his truck and stayed to help set up the fence with Brad Daniels, Jon Mabe and Ron Nelson. Ron picked up extra zip ties at 8am to finish the job. Who knew 100 zip ties would not be enough?

The signs were all donated by Victor LaFontaine. You probably know him as an epic beer trader that shows up with random bottles of awesomeness wherever he goes.

My wife Erin handled all the vendor check-in and volunteers simultaneously. She is insanely such a huge support in my life and a battle axe at this event. She also took time to go to Main Place Mall to get the Chili Cook Off glasses etched.

Bobby Navarro took over the non-profit side of things last year after the group I went with first pulled out. His knowledge and expertise of running events is unmatched. He’s more than a pleasure to deal with and it’s fun to see people in the culinary/brewing world get inspired artistically by travel and education. Noble’s English Pale Ale they brought is a result of the the non profit, Inspire Artistic Minds. Check out their page, donate, attend events volunteer or even apply for a grant!

Thanks to the guests who believe that groupon beer fests are the worst. You all paid full price, which was more than fair considering unlimited tastes of chili and beer. I was going to do taster tickets, but figured that is antiquated and just one more thing to deal with. I figured if anyone could get through a dozen 2oz tastes of chili, they should get an award.

The vendors don’t necessarily need to be thanked because they got paid, but I will say I got excellent service from those that I ordered from. Empire Ice forgot to include the cold box, so they threw in an extra 20 bags to our order for free. They were cheaper than everyone by 20% as well. Eagle Portables restrooms were ON POINT. Dead-on delivery, super clean set up and take down and on time (also 20% cheaper than other bids). James Event Services which is ran by Cameron Collins (OC Brew HaHa) father in-law gave an unbeatable bid on table rentals. Their delivery and pick up was timely, fast and had great tables. The Packing House site reps were rock solid from set up to take down. The security team was also insanely professional.

The press, thanks for helping sell the event out. John Verive of BeerPaperLA and LA Times was the driving force behind my marketing. There was a LOT of LA people that did in fact drive (or train) down for the event. Erika Bolden of LA Weekly, Vivian from OCRegister and of course Cleo from OC Weekly. Hell, even YelpOC promoted the event, which was hella rad. I spent $300 on marketing, that’s insane!

The Four Brewers Show went into new territory again; doing a show from the event with Tomm Carroll of Celebrator Beer News.

I’m looking for a nice outdoor spot for next year that can hold 1000. If you have a location that you think would be rad, let me know! See you next year!