Thursday, March 13, 2014

San Diego Winter Brew Fest Hits One Out of the Park

With a new brewery opening practically every day, it’s hard to keep up with all the craft beer that’s available.  That’s why events like the recent San Diego Winter Brew Fest are the perfect way to sample the products of a lot of different breweries and find some new favorites.

San Diego had its Winter Brew Fest on February 22, 2014.  The Brew Fest is put on by RightOn Productions, LLC, which first started organizing brew fests in Denver, Colorado, another craft beer mecca.  Summer and Winter Brew Fests are now held annually in Denver, and RightOn expanded to hold Winter Brew Fests in San Diego as well.  When Brad Sandler of RightOn offered to put me on the VIP list for the San Diego Winter Brew Fest, you can guess my response.

The San Diego Winter Brew Fest was held at The San Diego Hall of Champions in Balboa Park.  What better place to hold a beer festival than in a sports museum?  Forty-two breweries were featured throughout the three levels of the museum, amongst displays of jerseys, trophies, racing boats, and all sorts of other sports paraphernalia.  They even had Blazing Saddles playing in the museum’s theater for those who needed a break from beer tasting.

With so many breweries represented, I skipped the ones I had tried before and tasted the new and unusual. 

The first taste occurred with Black Market Brewing Co. based out of Temecula, California.  Black Market was serving four of their beers and I tried the Holiday Porter.  The Holiday Porter is an American style porter interestingly brewed with tangerines and with a pleasantly effervescent feel.

Brew Rebellion San Diego Winter Brew Fest
Brew Rebellion of Yucaipa, California was serving two of their beers and the Chris Martin S’more Porter immediately grabbed my attention and almost blew my mind.  The S’more Porter literally tastes like chocolatey marshmallowy s’mores and is a rich combination made with actual graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows.

Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. of Buellton, California was next, serving their Paradise Pilsner and Stagecoach Stout.  The Paradise Pilsner, while a see-through beer, was very flavorful with a slight bitterness from hops.  The Stagecoach Stout is an oatmeal stout with a refreshing coffee taste.

Oceanside Ale Works of Oceanside, California was pouring their Dude Double IPA and Orange Agave Wheat.  The Dude Double IPA had a front of the mouth taste of citrus while the hops hit in the back.  While I’m not usually a fan of wheat beers, I really enjoyed the Orange Agave Wheat and its pleasant citrus flavor.

Oceanside Ale Works San Diego Winter Brew Fest

The next stand was one of my favorite discoveries of the evening.  2 Towns Ciderhouse is located in Corvallis, Oregon and produces craft hard apple cider.  I tasted three of their hard ciders, The Bad Apple, Bright Cider, and Cherry Poppin Cider.  The Bright Cider tastes very much like biting into a juicy green apple.  The taste was crisp and it is an easy drinking cider.  The Bad Apple was more complex as it is aged in oak.  It had a mellower taste than the Bright Cider.  While The Bad Apple was probably my favorite, I became conflicted when I tasted the Cherry Poppin Cider, made in collaboration with the Cherry Poppin Daddies.  The tartness of the sour cherries added another dimension to 2 Towns Ciderhouse’s delicious cider.

2 Towns Ciderhouse San Diego Winter Brew Fest

Another surprising taste was from Refuge Brewery in Temecula, California.  Refuge Brewery was pouring their Blood Orange Wit, a Belgian Style White Ale.  Again, this is not usually one of my beers of choice, but I was thrown for a loop again by this ale with its strong blood orange aroma and sparkling fruity taste.

Refuge Brewery San Diego Winter Brew Fest

If you live in San Diego or Denver, or are planning a trip to either of these great beer cities, be sure to plan around the Summer or Winter Brew Fest.  Who knows what fun new beer you’ll discover.  The Denver Summer Brew Fest will be held July 25-26, 2014.  Visit the Brew Fest Events website for more information on upcoming events.

Katherine Belarmino has been traveling for over ten years on a quest to see as much of the world as possible, experience new cultures, and sample other cuisines and libations. She also writes the travel blog Travel the World, which journals her world travels with her husband Romeo and seeks to encourage others to take the time to travel.