By: Heather Wolf
If you’re looking for a good time and a very full bladder, San Diego Brew Fest is the place for you. San Diego is home to a plethora of excellent microbreweries. In fact, it is the craft beer capital of the United States, which may explain why during the summer, I have come to find, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a beer tasting event. No complaints here. My friends K, A and I had had a GREAT time (complete with attractive men and real bathrooms) at Epic Beer Festival at the San Diego Convention Center earlier this year and K didn’t hesitate to sign up when she saw the promotion for San Diego Brew Fest, benefiting Noah's Bark Pet Rescue. Who can say no to beer for a good cause?! Who wants to say no to beer, period?
After months of eagerly awaiting our next opportunity for beer-tasting shenanigans, the event was finally nigh! Unfortunately, K decided to move a few states East, so It was going to be A and I for brew times, round two until A had to pull her hat our of the ring as well. As any woman in her thirties knows, it takes a smartphone calendar convention to schedule the simplest outing and this was a holiday weekend. I refused to allow those dedicated few still available and willing to brave flaring ulcers or possible alcohol poisoning to accompany me, so it passed to me, myself and I to carry the good times forward. I have never been one to let flying solo hold me back, so to Liberty Station I went!
First, let me say, "holy free parking, Batman!". In any major city, free and plentiful parking for an event is a definite win. Once I made the decision to purse or not to purse (I chose pockets), I opened the car door and stepped out into the sunshine and audible live music . . . from a block away. Clearly, a great start. Turning the corner to see the entrance line wrapped around the fence of the event field wasn't so great, but the line moved quickly and the weather was perfect. Once through the gate and armed with my event tasting mug, I got in line and down to business, determined to down as many obscure craft brews as my body could absorb.
Here are my little beer tasting event tips gleaned from my experience so far:
Beer-tasting minutes are like dog years- make them count. Once your mini-mug is filled from one booth, get in line at the next. The lines move briskly and you'll probably finish off one tasting just in time for a refill, or more likely a mini-chug. I noticed a few debatably smarter attendees pouring remaining beer out in the grass on the sidelines, but in my world that's called sacrilege. I will admit, somewhere after my fifth booth, splitting a beer with the grass was starting to look a bit tempting, but my “no beer gets left behind” training is just too ingrained. Make note, that plastic tasting mug may look cute and innocent at first, but it starts to look huge when you have 57 brewers, each with at least two varieties and pourers who are not afraid to make your cup runneth over. I tend to get full quickly, but regardless of stomach capacity microbrews are substantial, so expediency is key and there's no room for big name breweries. If it's available in your favorite bar or super market, skip it at the events. Give the room to new, different and up and coming breweries, they don’t disappoint.
You'll see the experienced beer-festers sporting this edible accessory; wearable food is flat out genius, as far as I'm concerned. I had plum forgotten this trick from Epic Beer Festival, but I will certainly remember in the future. Both events I have attended thus far did offer some type of overpriced snack. Epic Beer Festival had convention hall concessions and Brew Fest employed the very au courant food trucks to service their event. I'm certain the organizers of any beer festival would not miss the golden opportunity to have overpriced snacks available for its increasingly inebriated attendees, but if you want to avoid emptying your wallet, while keeping your stomach fulland beer-absorbent, a pretzel necklace is the way to go.
While on the food topic, I will add a quick side note of praise for Drink Eat Play, the San Diego Brew Fest 2013 event crew. Their trendy solution to equipping a grass field with its own mobile restaurants was impressive, but more importantly, I thought it was a great idea to expand their scope to hosting food vendors as well as brewers. Offering free food samples to the sloshed and famished makes for some impressive lines, but let us not bite the hand that feeds us . . . for free. Slater's 50/50 Burgers by Design had the longest line of any booth (and certainly the longest name), but I figured it must be worth it. It was. I enjoyed my juicy, delicious and sizable free sample while listening to the surprisingly talented cover band, Black Crystal Wolf Kids and watching the entertainingly tipsy attempt to play Corn Hole (yes, that is an actual game involving tossing a bean bag through a hole). My last stop was Cow Bites Jerky, run by two (and only two) very hard working women in their thirties who make their own beef jerky in such microbrew enhanced flavors as Beer Garlic and Cow Bites Reserve. I walked away with their Blazin’ Horns, ‘cause this girl likes it hot.
And my final tip: Handy Hand Sanitizer
When your bursting bladder can no longer hold out against the desire to maintain a healthy distance from porta-potties, be prepared for the water to have long since run out at the hand-washing stations. I was hoping to make my personal goal of surviving the event sans porta-potty use, but it takes a stronger (or larger) bladder than mine. Luckily, it was about 10 minutes to the end of the event (still impressive, if I do say so myself) when I found myself without hand washing recourse, so I went, then I went- straight to my car and my mini hand sanitizer. That’s what I call success or just some fortuitous timing and a well-stocked car. Either way, I’ll take credit.
In summation, if you want good times under the San Diego sun with green grass, good music and great beer, just say yes to your next brew fest!
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