The Bomb performing at the 2014 California Beer Festival (Evan Solano/Living Out Loud LA)
My love of beer was restored because of Cameron. (I’ll explain in a bit, or just skip below.)
The California Beer Festival was everything you would have imagined it to be. Nestled along Puddingstone Lake in San Dimas, the festival was a beer snob oasis under the punishing Southern California sun.
However, getting there was a nightmare.
Maybe it wasn’t the festival’s fault, but patrons (present company included) were heading to the entrance of Bonelli Park, thinking that it was the entrance only to get turned away and told that the actual entrance to the festival was about three miles back where we came from.
OK, that is the only major complaint I had of the whole day. But it was one that many other guests shared with me as we waiting in various lines.
The second my guest and I passed the gates was right about the same I regretted my fashion choice for the event. Jeans and polo shirt were definitely not the best idea for a day in 100-degree weather with minimal shade and high-alcohol percentage. Basically everyone I saw was in the traditional summer gear; shorts, tank tops, big straw hats and the occasional ironic shirts (e.g. SOTALLY TOBER, WILL TRADE WIFE FOR BEER, and of course the famous I <3 BEER) were the dress of choice.
As you can imagine, the heat was borderline unbearable. The first thing I thought as we were in line for the first round of drinks, was that this was probably the most work I have ever gone through for free beer. Between the confusing directions, the wrong choice in clothing, the heat and the horrendous line for our first drink, I was already over this whole day, and then we hit the front of the line.
If there is a beer god, he decided to grace us with our first round. Turns out the line we were in was the Ninkasi Brewing Company, and the ice cold Lux, German-style Helles Lager from their Prismatic Lager Series was all it took to give me my second, third and fourth wind.
The Lux lager was refreshing, smooth and surprisingly clean tasting for a lager with a perfect blend of hops and malty flavor. I’m not a beer expert, but the Ninkasi Brewing Company had one of coldest brews I have enjoyed in quite sometime.
Another minor thing about the beer festival was that the last call was at 4:30 p.m. (The end of the festivities was at 5 p.m., but to make sure no one got too out of hand they stopped serving at 4:30 p.m.). So as I checked my phone I realized that we had spent a solid two hours waiting in lines, and as I looked around I realized I had not even hit half of the booths at festival.
I figured all hope was lost.
I didn’t factor in Cameron.
So Cameron was my friend who decided to take up my invitation to the festival after he got out of his 2 p.m. class at Pasadena Community College. As soon as I handed him his ticket, it was game on.
As quickly as he grabbed his glass he got into the first line he found, which was the La Verne Brewing Company. I wish I could tell you what beer I tasted from them, but Cameron had our glasses filled and emptied by the time I could even grab my notepad.
Talking to the pourers, La Verne Brewery has a great selection of beers available (http://www.lavernebrewingco.com/our-beers.aspx) and are located in the heart of downtown La Verne. I think we had the Carrion California Common or the Palomares Pale Ale. Whatever it was, it was amazing. So amazing that Cameron and I immediately got back in line for a second sample.
My friend, being the speed-drinking innovator he is, somehow got us both two sampling glasses each (another feature that would have been awesome for the festival to provide) so we could sample multiple varieties from a single booth. In the 45 minutes that Cameron was there, we sampled about 10 booths, back to back to back. It was the way a beer festival should have been enjoyed.
Some of the highlights for me were Stone Brewing Co., who had their Coffee Milk Stout available, and Goose Island Beer Company with their 312 Urban Pale Ale, which had a crisp citrus flavor. Angel City Brewery was incredible as usual, and Deschutes Brewery‘s Mirror Pond Pale Ale was definitely worth noting.
One of the surprise booths for me was Crabbie’s, who had an amazing alcoholic Ginger Beer. I decided to go with the original, but they also had a Spiced Orange Ginger Beer as well. Their website also shows some other flavors, as well as recipes for some amazing looking drinks to combat the summer heat.
All in all the California Beer Festival was a complete success. Anyone interested in going next year (which everyone should), make sure to dress accordingly, bring an open mind as there are some pretty crazy brews (the Shock Top Lemon Shandy, was a bit of a stretch, but still rather enjoyable) and bring a Cameron if you can!
My only regret was not being able to sample every beer, but whatever I didn’t get to try I can always pick up at my local liquor store. Whether you are a casual beer drinker or a total beer snob, there were plenty of options for you to sample. There was no better way to say goodbye to summer than a day of great beer, good friends, amazing music and fantastic beer options.
If you missed out, there is always next year. See you there.