Blogger’s Review Of The Grand Tasting, Vault Reserve, Belgian Beer Luncheon & Stella Artois 10th Anniversary Celebration
You just don’t go to one event at the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival.
You treat it like a feast. The event is really a series of events, lasting from a Monday thru Sunday and the fact that it annually occurs the week before Thanksgiving means you can also stuff yourself!
And I did, in fact.
In 2013, I was only scheduled to go to the two main events, Friday night’s The Vault Reserve & New Release Tasting and Saturday afternoon’s main Grand Tasting, but I wound up being invited by Stella Artois to two additional events. One was a Friday luncheon pairing Stella and its sister Belgian beers – Hoegaarden and Leffe, along with Stella Artois Cidre – at an excellent San Diego restaurant, and an almost-too-swanky-for-me post party on Saturday night.
The luncheon, held at Banker’s Hill Bar + Restaurant about a 15-minute walk from the Gaslamp, was fantastic. The food stopped conversations and of course the beers made it even better! Click here for a full review.
A few hours later, I was at a ballroom at the Marriott Marquis (this is the two glittering towers overlooking San Diego Bay) for The Vault tasting, having more Belgian beers.
I know, it’s a wine festival right, but I’m primarily a beer drinker. Especially when the beer is this good; Stella Artois is one of my favorites. Plus, they were giving full pours in specially-designed glasses and despite being surrounded by about around a hundred samples of wine, I kept returning as if by instinct to the beer station.
And let me just say I was hardly the only one with this mentality. There were consistently between a half dozen and a dozen people lined up there, and this took patience because these beers take time to be poured perfectly into their beer-specific glasses. It was always well worth the short wait, of course.
But, of course, I sampled some wines as well – duh! – and tried a few tequila shots and also a couple of shots of whiskey. When you’re at an event like this, my philosophy is to sample what is offered. Wines were not just from California, but Mexico, as well. And Mexico is becoming a good wine-producing country, so the SD Festival is the perfect place to showcase the selections.
That is a classy event – primarily a slacks and cocktail dress affair – so it was a bit surprising when the guitarist broke into an acoustic version of the poplar club dance song “Blurred Lines.” I had to smile, especially considering it was the theme song of sorts of the Miss V8 Supercars girls in Surfer’s Paradise, Australia, from where I had just returned.
You have to be a bit careful at this event, being sure to pair the proper combination of enjoying the party without overindulging because the Grand Tasting starts at noon the next day. Or, for VIPs, 11 a.m.
And trust me, you want to be on your “A” game for that event.
For single people such as myself, the Grand Tasting is at least a two-person operation, so my PubClub.com associate and I fanned out upon arrival to see what was offered for food and drink. Research!
What we found was great food from local restaurants, enough fine wines to satisfy any palate from connoisseur to casual drinker and, much to our liking, several craft beer stations so we added variety to the Belgian offerings with the likes of Goose Island’s Honker’s Ale, Shock Top and Widmer Brothers. Click the links at the end of this post full reviews.
But mostly what we found was a sensational atmosphere, full of friendly people having a superb time. Even the servers were enjoying the event.
Our “home base” was the Belgian beer tent, which was pouring those full Stella Artois, Hoegaarden and Leffe Blonde beers, as well as the Cidre cider in a lively environment.
One of my favorite things to do at the Grand Tasting is to savor not just the wines, beers and food, but the gorgeous girls serving the samples. And this event is exceptional when it comes to sexy servers.
Back at the Stella Artois station, while getting my glass of the tasty lager refilled, Master Beer Sommelier Marc Stroobandt who was pouring the beer invited me to that evening’s event. I jumped on the offer immediately.
The Grand Tasting post party proved to be the perfect topper to the day, like just the right amount of foam in your Stella beer glass.
It was not for those who really party it up at the Grand Tasting, but rather for those who like to use it as a sleek way to end a delicous day. It also appeared to me that some people skipped the Grand Tasting altogether, preferring to use this event as their Saturday festival. event.
This was actually like luncheon on Friday in that the food was prepared specifically with the Belgian beers being poured: Hoegaarden with tacos, Stella Artois with Asian-spiced fried duck (like friend chicken) and Leffe Blonde with dessert and the Stella Artois Cidre with some type of soup-ish dish that had so many flavors dancing around in the mouth it’s impossible to describe the flavor.
I will say this, and it was at the suggestion of the pretty Stella Artois server, that having a sip of Cidre afterward altered the taste in a very positive manner.
By the way, I was really impressed at all the girls at the Stella Artois and Belgian beer stations at all the events. Not only are they great looking, but they really know the products they are promoting. And that is almost as refreshing as the beers.
Yest, it was another great weekend at the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival.