Well it’s about to be that time of year again, and I’m not just talking about spring, its festival season in San Diego! As the weather becomes more fair, not that the weather is ever too bad here, San Diego becomes a hot bed for beer, cheese, wine and beach festivals alike and they seem to happen all time, sometimes with multiple festivals going on in one day. With so many options it becomes difficult to find the best festivals to go to. I’ve gone to and volunteered at many of them, especially beer festivals and I believe there are certain key factors that lead to having a great one. I will identify these factors and then give some examples of festivals that hit the mark.
First, and foremost having a killer brewery and beer line up is crucial. You can’t have a beer festival without breweries, so it only follows that having great breweries equals a great beer fest. When attending the Modern Times Festival of Dankness last year, they had this in spades, as they had some of the hottest breweries in the nation like Monkish and Other Half. It is a lot of fun to get a chance to try breweries that you don’t get to see every day, it gives you great insight on how people interpret beer across the a country. Collabapoloza is another really great example of an excellent brewery line up, as everyone who is there collaborated on a batch with another brewery that was there. So you would get a lot of one off beers that would not be able to get anywhere else.
Second, have awesome food options. There’s nothing worse than sipping on some of the best beers around only to find that there are only two mediocre food trucks to choose from. Its fun being able to try 2 or 3 small items from a few different places, especially when it’s something that you may not normally have. I even prefer that food options come included in with the cost of admission. That’s one of the reasons why Mission Valley Craft Beer and Food Festival at the end of March is so fun, here you can enjoy unlimited beer AND food tasters. Brilliant.
Third, have an awesome venue/location. It’s true what they say Location, Location, Location and this is especially true for beer festivals. Who wants to stare at bunch of nothing for 4 to 5 hours after a long boring week of work? A festival should be an escape from the mundane. Guild Fest comes to mind as having a great venue for their annual event in early November. They host this awesome event in San Diego’s very own Broadway Pier. Here you are in the middle of the downtown action while also having a view of the ocean and the amazing surrounding of former battle ships. You may not expect it but Hop Heads and Dreads has great location, but for a completely different reason. It’s held annually at the Harrah’s Casino in Valley Center, but what makes it a great option for a festival is because there is also a hotel so you can drink all day and not worry about finding a ride afterward.
Fourth and finally, have some good live music to keep the good vibes rolling. There is nothing better than achieving the perfect harmony of drinking amazing brews while also dancing around like no one is watching. This doesn’t always mean that you need to have the biggest acts, but getting fun local bands whose personality fits with the event can really elevate your experience to the next level. A great example of this was at last year’s Salt Dog Classic, a cool little beach festival on the grounds of the Seaside State beach in Cardiff. In addition to kayak surfing and craft beer, they also had some good local bands including a jammin’ Ska band that had everyone jumping and dancing around by the end of it all. 91X routinely throws music beer festivals, and they great but usually the bigger acts don’t come on until later, after the unlimited beer tasting session is over.
It was hard to narrow it down to only few festivals out of all the amazing ones that happen throughout the year in San Diego, but a few other exceptional festivals that are worth mentioning are Rhythm and Brews in Vista, you can never go wrong with a festival hosted by the Guild Fest and you usually get some pretty good bands. Then there’s Brewbies hosted at Bagby Beer Company (even though this one already happened this year), these guys definitely get an awesome brewery line up, including the likes of Russian River, also many places brew a beer specifically for this event. And finally the San Diego Homebrew Festival and Competition in North Park, this is a very unique and intimate event where you get try some of the best homebrews in San Diego along with some of the best professional breweries in town.
At the end of the day you can never go wrong great beer, tasty food, a sweet location, and rocking bands. So if you encounter a festival has part or all of these factors, chances are it will be a pretty damn good time and a worthwhile venture. Cheers!