There Were 100 Microbrews From 50 Breweries, But Also A Few Organizational Hicccups
Who can not like a beer festival? You get to try a bunch of different beers without having to go all over the place – it’s always nice when beer comes to you – the atmosphere is fun because it’s full of fun like-minded people – and they are generally held outdoors at cool venues.
The Taste of Brews in Long Beach, CA – a Long Beach Sea Festival event behind held on Saturday, Aug. 25 – has all those qualities.
Certainly, no one can complain about the venue, Lighthouse Point. It’s a grassy park with a lighthouse located by happening Pine Ave. In the distance – ideal for photo backdrops – is the Queen Mary.
And the beers are sensational. In 2011, there were 100 microbrews from 50 breweries, mostly (but certainly not exclusively) from California. By the standards of some beer festivals, this was not huge but it was certainly more than adequate. I found myself most often in the short refill lines for Kona Longboard from Hawaii and Leffe from Belgium (a potent lager with powerful flavor).
This was mixed in with occasional trips to my buddies at the Anderson Valley Brewing Company for the IPA (I had met them when I covered the Boonville Beer Festival) and of course various other sampling spots.
One of the most popular places for many at the festival was for Shock Top, a Belgian wheat ale that is selling like crazy wherever it is offered. Next to the tent was the Shock Top car, a VW Beetle with a mohawk; this was a favorite spot for photos throughout the day.
A real treat was chatting with George Reisch, Brewmaster of Anheuser-Busch. One would think a brewmaster for a major brewery would be some sort of mad scientist guy, but he’s actually just a kicked-back soul who knows a heck of a lot about brewing beer.
He’s so laid-back because he said that hops relax people, and that beer is always good for settling the mind. I would have to agree with that statement!
He also said that of all the beers he’s involved in brewing at A-B, Budweiser is his favorite. “That’s because it’s the hardest beer to brew,” he explained. “It’s a very precise process and it’s a big challenge. Which, of course, a brewmaster enjoys.”
Other brews at the Taste of Brews included Stella, Hoegaaden and Sierra Nevada, plus selections from the Belmont Brewing Company just a couple of miles from the site of the festival in Belmont Shore, and neighboring San Pedro Brewing Company.
All that being said, in 2011, the festival did get a few hiccups, like someone who has a bit of beer go down the windpipe the wrong way. First, the organizers would not allow media to sample the beers; they would only provide a designated driver wristband. How can one cover a beer festival without reviewing the beers!? This is going to be fixed for the media members in 2012!
Secondly, there was supposed to be a one-hour cool-down period afterward with food, water and a band. Well, there were actually two bands during the day – playing lightly so it enhanced rather than overwhelmed the event – so that was not the problem. But when the festival stopped pouring (at precisely 4 p.m.), tents came down and people were ushered outside. There was no food and most certainly no water.
Finally – and this was not a fault of the officials – for some reason the Long Beach Police went around during the one-hour VIP period (noon-1 p.m.) and started getting on the the beer pouring people for filling up the 4-ounce mugs past the half-way point! Surely, the police have better things to concern themselves with in Long Beach. It must be pointed out, however, that they did not harass attendees, even if there was slightly more beer (foam included) exceeding two ounces.
The cost for the Taste of Brews is $38 $50 for the VIP. I ran into a couple of friends who got in for $20 through Groupon. The organizers have another event on Sept. 29 in Dana Point, CA.
This beer festival is part of the Long Beach Sea Festival, the city’s summer-long series of events on, by and near the water and beaches of Long Beach.