Craft beer has grown humongous over the past decade or so, and the industry shows no signs of faltering any time soon. The industry has grown so much that the big corporations have started to fear the small microbreweries, and have started to buy them out so that the big guys do not get usurped by the start-ups. Well, in order to prevent that from happening, breweries have banded together and formed local unions or guilds to support each other. While this generally requires a hefty investment from each member brewery, a brewer’s guild tends to have benefits worth the price of membership. Some groups have existed for a long time, such as the San Diego Brewers Guild. Others have recently started, like the Orange County Brewers Guild. Usually, these groups hold their own exclusive beer festivals that consist of only group members, evident by San Diego’s annual beer fest in early November. Orange County has followed suit with their first event this past Saturday.
The 1st Annual OC Brewers Guild Festival took place at the Fullerton Arboretum this past Saturday night. This beer and food sampling event represented a collective effort of many of the industry’s top figures collaborating to generate this monumental event. This event brought out almost all of Orange County’s breweries, plus a handful of restaurants that serve a large lineup of craft beer. Craft beer fans paid $75 admission for four hours of unlimited beer and food samples while supplies lasted. While the beers flowed all night, many of the food vendors had run out of food halfway through the night. Still, this did not prevent the hundreds of attendees from the main reason why they attended: all about that brew. Although most of the attendees did not take advantage of it, admission to this event included access to the arboretum.
One could cite this event as put on “by the people, for the people” in the regard of who set things up. The feel, the flow, and the layout all resembled other Orange County beer festivals, and it all made sense from the moment you walk in. You have all of the food in one section, and all of the beer together in two sections. When the gates opened, 99% of the attendees rushed straight to the beer, leaving the food vendors alone for the first hour or so. I took this opportunity to sample all of the food available to us, but since this event sold out, getting beers took some time afterwards. While waiting for the beer lines to dissipate, I took a stroll through the arboretum that did not have anything set up for the festival. Nothing restricted anyone from walking the path, so I do not understand why very few people opted to check out the plants.
Food vendors consisted of those that generally support the local craft beer industry. Such restaurants included Slater’s 50/50, Out Of The Park Pizza, Wise Guys Pizzeria, Beachwood BBQ, Haven Gastropub, Urban Seoul, and Amazing Grapes. Additionally, BJ’s set up here to serve both food and beer. I did not understand how a corporate business found its way here, but hey I guess they belong to the guild?
Long lines or not, the people loved this festival greatly. Nobody ever really complained – they just dealt with the lines, drank the night away, and left happy.
As previously mentioned, attending this event also provided access to the arboretum. With every brewery facing long lines at the first hour or two, I took a chance to stroll through the garden to observe the Fullerton Arboretum’s international botanical collection.
One could call this festival the “E3” of Orange County beer. In other words, anybody with any significant contribution to the local craft beer industry attended this event. Make sure you support the local craft beer scene by liking them on Facebook. Also pay attention to other similar beer events and festivals coming up by checking out the OC Brewers Guild’s website (linked above), plus Brew Ha Ha Productions as they bring back the OC Brew Hee Haw next month during the opening weekend of the OC Fair.