Spring is in full bloom—and so is beer-festival season!
Beer weeks and festivals celebrate the culture and community of craft beer and give fans options to enjoy new and special brews—and there are a lot of these special events coming up in places that are fairly close by.
The Brewers Association celebrates American Craft Beer Week May 11-17. You can enjoy this craft-beer celebration just about anywhere: Many craft-beer establishments are celebrating with rare beers, dinner menus or specials.
During ACBW, celebrate with Angelinos at the sixth annual Los Angeles Vegan Beer and Food Festival (www.veganbeerfest.com). It takes place Saturday, May 16, at Rose Bowl and will feature a vegan smorgasbord, the best of the region’s craft beer and live music. It’s put on by Tony Yanow and Nic Adler—the same guys who brought craft culinary selections to Coachella. Tickets cost $50 to $80 and include unlimited pours of more than 100 beers from 65 breweries, as well as access to food that can be purchased from 40 vendors.
The first Paws for Rhythm and Brews will be held Saturday, June 6, a little closer to home—at the Idyllwild Nature Center (www.arfbeerfest.com). Proceeds go to the Animal Rescue Friends of Idyllwild (ARF), a grassroots rescue group on the mountain; tickets are $25 in advance. Paws for Rhythm and Brews is also holding what’s believed to be the first homebrew competition in our neighboring mountain community; registration closes on May 24, and winners will be announced at the festival. Not only can you escape the desert heat for a weekend; you can help a great cause. ARF’s mission is to rescue animals that have been abandoned or lost, or whose owners are no longer able to care for them. Janice Murasko put together the fest with her husband, Robert Hewitt.
“All of our dogs are kept with foster families, so we don’t have a kennel. All of them go with different fosters until they’re adopted,” she said. “We do have a small cattery; we can have up to 10 cats at a time. … We survive on very small grants, donations and fundraisers. … We have a veterinarian who comes up once a month, because there are no vets on this mountain.”
So it’s a great cause, and a great time as well: There will be awesome barbecue, live blues, a stein-holding contest, and wine for those who don’t drink beer. There will even be free shuttles from town to the event!
A bit bigger and farther away: LA Beer Week is returning June 20-28. Festivities begin on Saturday, June 20, with the LA Brewers Beer Week Kickoff at a new location: Exposition Park’s south lawn. Tickets are $45 and selling fast. If you miss out on the kickoff event, there will be more than 200 events spread around various bars, restaurants, retailers and breweries during the week.
I recently spoke with acclaimed brewer Victor Novak, now with Golden Road Brewing, about LA Beer Week. The Los Angeles brewery recently announced plans to open a second location, in Anaheim.
“I love doing outside events,” he said about LA Beer Week. “… We have great sales people, but it’s not the same as having a brewer on site at a festival for someone to talk shop and give people more detail on how the beer is produced.
Golden Road will be brewing its seasonal IPA, Heal the Bay. Proceeds go to various environmental projects in Southern California. Novak will also be brewing a special brew for a Star Wars-themed “May the 4th Be With You” event: The Hudson Porter, an imperial porter with rye, will be transformed to Java the Hudson after Novak and his team add vanilla beans and cocoa nibs, and later coffee, to the brew. Novak is hoping they will have some available for L.A. Beer Week.
“To have the brewer presence there, I think, is huge,” he said. “(Events) are not only fun for us; it is nice to interact. We’re a great community. Now we see the other brewers, and get people’s feedback on what we’re doing right then—good and bad. If they have an issue, I’d rather they tell me, than read about it on Beer Advocate or something.”
Also: A bucket-list beer festival would have to be the Firestone Walker Invitational, held in Paso Robles on Saturday, May 30. Even brewers like Novak love it. Unfortunately, it’s already sold out, so mark your calendars for next year.
“If someone were able to get hold of one (ticket), that is the must-attend,” Novak said. “It’s so huge and so hard to get into, as a brewer and an attendee. It’s beautiful up there, and you can go wine-tasting. It’s classic California.”
If you’d rather head farther south, don’t miss Escondido’s Stone Sour Fest, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sunday, June 28 (www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1171599). A $49 ticket includes a commemorative glass, 15 3-ounce tasters and more than 100 amazing beers from which to choose. I’ll be there with a bus full of Coachella Valley locals. Pucker up!
In August (keep your eyes open for the exact date), keep a look out for the Blue Palms Brewhouse Seventh Anniversary in Hollywood (www.everfest.com/e/blue-palms-anniversary-los-angeles-ca). It’s one of the coolest beer parties in So Cal.
Lucky for us, there are plenty of events at which we can enjoy a variety of Southern California beers. Of course, every day is a good day for beer!