2013 comes to a close, marking the end of old fads and the birth of new trends. News that forever shifts the face of the earth break regularly, creating history that we all live through, albeit we simply take it with a grain of salt. We must keep in mind that the next generation will view what we live through today as history, so we should care for what goes on in today’s world and economy. As time progresses, so do trends and tastes, which explains the ever-rising popularity of craft beer and micro breweries. Corporate beer manufacturers saw significantly lower sales this year – while still relatively high compared to most micro breweries, the sales did not keep up with growth. In the craft beer industry, event planners hold beer festivals to generate buzz about many different types of beers to the guests that attend. Traditional beer fests had guests pay an entry fee and enter an area where they can freely roam and drink, usually in some public area where people cannot drink on normal days. Some beer fests require drink tickets to receive beers, while others provide all-you-can-drink beer. 2013 provided some new fest structures, but in the end, the goal of exposing attendees to new, amazing beers that they have never heard of or ever imagined drinking remains the same. California caters well to the craft beer industry, and as such host many beer fests throughout the year. Read on to check out five of my favorite Southern Californian beer festivals from 2013.

5. Drink Good Beer Fest

With all these big beer fests going on around this time of year, we tend to overlook the smaller crowd. A beer fest comes with a handful of objectives: provide lots of beer for attendees to drink (quantity), or invite micro breweries that need exposure (quality). Oktoberfest provides a prime example of the former – attracting thousands of people to one location to guzzle bad overpriced beer. When you want to find good beers but have no idea where to start, a beer fest makes for a great place to start, as it exposes attendees to a variety of local beers. Some larger beer fests get dominated by larger companies like Budweiser or Corona, so in order to seek out the locals, we have to look at smaller fests. In terms of any type of food & beverage festival, size does not always mean everything, and Drink Good Beer Fest at The Factory in Long Beach proves just that. All the breweries at this fest brought so much beer, and most of them brought their strong stuff too, a rarity in small-size beer fests like this. A giant canopy provided enough shade for any attendee wanting to escape the hot sun, as well as the snacks’ table where attendees could purchase snacks, water, or food from the host restaurant. Also, how often does a small beer fest last four full hours? Most beer fests nowadays last only three hours, or four with a “VIP admission” that costs more than general admission. The Factory went in the right direction with this beer fest, as it serves multiple purposes, such as exposing people to new beer & breweries, and exposing people to The Factory, a gastropub in an otherwise family-friendly neighborhood. Stay tuned for this fest next year, and start thinking of beers to brew to enter into this competition!

4. Mission Valley Craft Beer & Gourmet Food Festival

An old expression goes “All good things must come to an end.” I would never hope this to occur to any successful event, but alas it shall sooner or later. The Mission Valley Craft Beer & Food Festival (MVCBF) returned to Handlery Hotel in San Diego for its fourth and final year. This mega fest provided more than just beer – this fest combined a beer fest with gourmet food from local chefs and restaurants. In addition to unlimited beer pours, all attendees could sample all the delicious food they could handle until the vendors ran out of food, and boy did the food fly out fast. Do not expect any corporate or chain businesses here – MVCBF only invited the best in local cuisine to the party. With so many vendors invited to the party, the venue’s area had to stretch to wrap around the building, and even then did they still lack ample seating for all the guests, although this does not indicate a flaw – only that this proves the immense popularity of this fest. It pains me that this super fest has to come to an end, but on the other hand, I cannot wait to see what future events they have in stock. Although this grand festival will not return, the organizers still hold smaller, intimate events, so check out their website for all of their upcoming events.

3. Hangar 24 AirFest & 5th Anniversary Celebration

Coincidentally coinciding with the end of American Craft Beer Week, Hangar 24 Brewery celebrated their 5th anniversary with an all-day AirFest taking place at Redlands Airport. Hangar 24 fans could enter for $5 if purchased online, or $8 at the gate. Located just across the street from the tasting room, this all-ages gathering covered almost the entire airport area, sans the runway, with tents and trucks pouring beers. Strewn throughout the area, in addition to the various tents and trucks pouring beer, the airport crew set out vintage planes that guests could inspect and gaze at, and opened some of the hangars so guests could tour the airport. Guests could climb into some of the planes for photo opportunities as well. All day long, taps poured beers, food trucks sold their food, local bands played live music, and pilots put on aerial acrobatics shows, providing more than enough entertainment for the crowd. A kids’ play zone kept the little ones busy while the adults could go and drink elsewhere. Free parking meant that guests could leave and return at their leisure, provided that they leave their wristbands on. With so much ground to cover, so much beer to drink, and so much else going on, no guest should have ever felt bored the entire day. A combination of all small details contributed to the greater success of this event. First off, guests could park for free, and could reenter the venue. This alone can sway hesitant minds towards purchasing a ticket to attend. With such a large area to cover, guests did not have to wait in long lines to receive beer tickets or beer pours. As I entered the fest, the immediate ticket booth had a long line, but as I explored further into the area, I discovered more ticket booths with no line at all. Unlike the standard beer fest with tribute bands as the only form of entertainment, AirFest brought varied forms of entertainment, especially with the air shows and local bands playing their own original music. Most importantly of all, the people made this fest a grand event. From the amicable attendees to the sociable staff, the general aura of goodwill in the air placed everyone in a good mood that bounced from person to person.

2. San Diego Brewers Guild Festival

As San Diego Beer Week entered its fifth year running, breweries have never looked stronger than ever before. The San Diego Brewers Guild quickly approaches a hundred member breweries, and they strive to show their collective strength to the public with their San Diego Brewers Guild Festival. Now in its 11th year (thus starting before San Diego Beer Week existed), this annual beer festival now coincides with San Diego Beer Week with a massive celebration at the Port Pavilion on Broadway Pier in San Diego. This year’s festival from this past Saturday afternoon featured over 50 of the county’s guild breweries all spread out along the pier, each serving at least two of their beer offerings. With over a hundred different beers to taste, and only so much time available, attendees would have to power through all their beers in order to maximize the variety of beers tasted. People do not simply call San Diego the west coast capital of beer for no reason. San Diego County alone has almost a hundred official breweries – more if you count brewpubs and homebrew clubs. Consider that the state of Washington has just over 190 breweries, and you have a county packed full of craft beer enough to fill half a state. The San Diego Brewers Guild Festival rightly holds its place as one of the nation’s top beer festivals for its sheer amount of content packed into a small space within a 24-hour span, which included a VIP reception from Friday night. As a kickoff event for the rest of the beer festivities, attendees will have a better sense of direction for finding more events and specials throughout the week all over San Diego County.

1. Orange County Brew Ha Ha

Orange County’s biggest craft beer festival returned for its fourth year running this year at the 4th Annual Orange County Brew Ha Ha Craft Beer Festival. Taking place at sunny Oak Canyon Park out in the hills of Silverado and Irvine, this lush park away from civilization marks a great getaway from the cluster of the city, especially since cell phone signals do not normally reach out here. Trumping last year’s festival in geographical size and content, this massive beer festival puts all others to shame by including a whopping 70+ breweries in attendance from all over the world, doubling its area from last year, and adding more food, games, exhibits, vendors, and live entertainment, including Reel Big Fish! Benefiting the Local 3631 Firefighters Union, general admission started at 1pm and included ten beer pours, while Early admission started at 12pm and included 15 beer pours. All beers stopped pouring at 4pm, but trust me – they allocated more than enough beer per person, since many of the breweries brought strong or filling brews, resulting in majority of attendees leaving the fest at the end of the day with extra beer pours remaining. At this rate of expansion, I foresee a 5th Annual Orange County Brew Ha Ha as so large that any normal person cannot possibly complete a circuit in given time. If this case arises, they must consider running two sessions, just like how Stone Brewing does for their anniversary. If they cannot run two sessions on the same day, then they can add another beer fest of the same magnitude. Luckily, they already have – the 2nd Annual Orange County Brew Ho Ho returned to the Phoenix Club in Anaheim on Saturday, December 7th. No other beer fest in Orange County can compete on the same level as the Brew Ha Ha – see why for yourself next year!

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