Southern California Homebrewers Festival: Recap

So this years Southern California Homebrewers Festival at Vail Lake in Temecula was one not to miss! I can’t even start explain how many great homebrewed beers we all enjoyed at the fest a couple Saturdays ago. There was about 40 Clubs pouring (counting More Beer’s booth) with an estimated average of 500-600 beers on tap! Pacific Gravity ourselves where serving a full tap system of 21 beers on tap, with a couple kegs in reserve.

It all started off with us showing up that friday and setting up camp. Carl and Tom got the “Wave of Beer’ and the kegs to the our festival tapping site, Ian and Tim got the campgrounds chef’s kitchen in order and set up. The rest of us pitched our tents and some kegs from brewer combo Ian and Tim where tapped and put in cardboard box cooler! As well Jeff B. tapped a couple kegs, one being a 6 day brew to keg turn around.

Ian started us off on the right path with surveying up some Hawaiian flare appetizers, before the commercial night tasting, of Spam musubi, Fresh Ahi Poke, and Arare crackers. As he started cooking dinner most of us headed down to the festival site around 7-7:30pm to check in, get our glass wear, and enjoy some more beers. We where then greeted with the fact everyone got a complementary large bottle of Belgian Dark Strong from Ventura’s Surf Brewing and the CHA. As well, a good handful of Homebrewer’s booths where already set up and pouring some amazing beers. Like homebrew club “Vibe” from Ventura was pouring a sour Cuvee that was to die for. Also very notable was our friends “The Yeastsiders” who not only where pouring some amazing beers, but had 19 of them ready to go already. One being a 22% beer!

We slowly made our way to the commercial tasting night, gated off in the back. Due to rules they had to be separated and no beer went in or out between Homebrewers and Commercial beer areas. From the commercial tents there where: Mission Brewery, Ventura Surf Brewing, Ritual Brewing, and Rockbottom Brewery. Out of all the commercial tasting Mission had a great Stout that went quick and they had a wheel to spin for prizes. Surf Brewing had some great beers on tap and in bottle, Terry wins the special prize of finding out they had a special secret Kriek beer behind the bar! Ritual had a lot of good beers on tap, especially in the IPA’s. Although I did note that I felt I was getting some more off flavors in the Commercial beers then Homebrewed beers!

Some of us closed out the commercial tasting night and walked back to camp. Vail Lake was jumping, one club had a full band on a trailer rocking out, others had great light displays and where serving beers to who ever walked up. I heard More Beer had there campsite set up to pour beers to all that came. Some of us stopped off for a beer or two! Back at camp though was the real treat, Ian’s dinner for Friday night was one of the best meals I have ever had! More on the Hawaiian theme we where treated to full BBQ’ed Teriyaki Tri-Tip’s, wing and leg Teriyaki Chicken, Sticky rice W/furikake, and of course Hawaiian style Macaroni Salad! We all could not stop taking about it or eating it. We all could of ate tell we popped! While after dinner we sat around the fire, we opened bottle after bottle of great craft beers to share and slowly started knocking off to bed, with anticipation for the following day.

We all woke up to Ian making coffee, and starting breakfast consisting of delicious Fried rice w/eggs over top, once again we ate tell we where stuffed! Most of us contemplated taking cold campsite showers and getting ready for the main event, but there was some work to do first. A handful of us went to the fest site prior to help set up the booth and get all the beers labeled and on tap. Then later between 11am-12pm most of us started heading down to the fest. The Fest was buzzing, all the clubs where in a semicircle with the main stage opposite to the booths, playing music and special talks all day. Maltose Falcons booth was first with two tent and tap set ups, pouring about 35 beers. One notable one was a stout being poured through a coffee Randall! All of us took our own path that day to some degree, a bunch of us had slotted times to work our own Pacific Gravity Booth too. Every stop we took the beer got better and better! Society of Barely Engineers was there with there “Societe du Lambic” European Sour/Lambic Booth. Where they take the same base beer and different club member do there own twist on it, by adding fruits, spices, aging it, and you name it. Vibe was on a role that day too, they busted out a gong and rang it every time they where opening a new sour beer bottle. By the time I got there they had a table full of samples to try! Long Beach Homebrews our freind to the south had a double booth set-up with one pouring great beers and the other as a Hydrations station with all sorts of infused waters. Another notable club was Crown of the Valley Brewing Society with a great list of interesting and delicious beers on tap! The list goes on and on of great clubs like Strand, Yeastsiders, Crude Brew Crew, BrewCommune, Thousand Oaked, Foam on the Brain, and so many more with great home-brewed beers on tap. A lot of clubs also had food and snacks out and one you could even make your own pretzel neckless. Lunch we all got food from the food court area consisting of those amazing Brats that apparently will not become back I heard. They have been going to this festival for years. Also another place had great BBQ, and another one had some good looking Tacos! A bunch of us and fest goers also bought Raffle tickets that go to supporting the CHA. Some people where buying tons of them. The grand prize was a full brewing sculpture. Unfortunately none of us won the main prizes.

As the day got longer, the sun starting to set, we all pushed though. I was on a personal goal to try at least one beer form every club that day. It took most of the day to do it too. In the end most of us gathered around the PG booth with club friends Strand Brewers Club’s booth right next to us at the festival. We drank with Strand, toasted the memory of their loved and lost member this past year Jeff Sanders. We might of been getting a bit rowdy, but we here having fun. We closed down the festival as they where asking people to leave, headed back to the camp site, grubbed on more of Ian’s awesome food of Ribeye Steaks, Cedar Plank Salmon, Roasted garlic rosemary roast potato’s, Strawberry/Gorgonzola green salad with ambrosia dressing, and Lodge country loaf bread. More bottle and kegs where opened and tapped, some of us where having the times of our lives, maybe a little to much? Some of us where already in bed, and some don’t recall!!

The next morning was somber, a bit hung over, some more then others. Ian treated us with our final breakfast of Bagels with cream cheese, smoked salmon, and all the fixings, Scrambled eggs, Berry fruit salad, coffee, and Mimosa’s!  Thanks to Paul for the champagne! A group of us eventually went back to the festival site to break down the tap system. We took down our tents, cleaned up the site areas, and where serenaded with the sounds of acoustic guitars by Michael M. and Brett W. while reminiscing about the day before. One by one we all started to leave, packed our car and kegs to hit the road. A couple of us went to check out the actual Vail lake, which was unfortunately down 30 feet, thanks to El Nino predictions and the County’s presumptions that they’ll get it back in rain water as they took it.

Im pretty sure everyone that went this year will be back again next year, especially if Ians cooking and it’s at Vail Lake again. CHA is trying to get a 5 year contract so hopefully everything works out and we will be able to enjoy this amazing festival in such a great location again.

Thank you to everyone that came and helped out during the weekend. Tell next year!