There’s nothing like a good beer festival! Actually, that statement may be redundant since I’m not aware of a bad beer festival, now that I think about it.
No matter what your scale to judge these things, the Brewing Network’s 4th Annual Winter Brews Festival in Concord would have to rate very high — live music, beer selections from over 30 craft brewers, a sunny afternoon and food trucks to boot. Everything worked in favor of a good time at Todos Santos Plaza this past weekend.
Wrist-banded-up with glass in hand, I was ready for an afternoon of beer, music and… beer. As any good former San Franciscan would, my first stop was at Anchor Steam to grab a familiar brew while I took in the sights and potential selections. I was there in part to find something new, but I couldn’t miss out on sampling from some of my other favorites: Sierra Nevada, Heretic, the new Drakes/Stone partnership and Lagunitas, which served up a Winter Ale-style IPA that was fantastic.
The live music drew me over to the stage area where two different bands played during the event. The highlight of which was the guitar-solo Start-Spangled Banner from Purple Haze, a Jimi Hendrix cover band.
For the food highlight, all you had to do was find the longest line within the event. It was for the new “Pastranomy & Best in Show” mobile New York-style deli and hot dogs. The owner, Jesse Gilbert-laVere, has grown his hot dog cart business into a wider range of food, with a new truck and a brilliant new tag line for the business: “Eat Or We Both Starve” is emblazoned across the top of the vehicle. Well done!
After sampling from my “go-to’s”, I came across Buellton, California’s Firestone Walker Brewing. Wookey Jack, their entry into the newly-created Black Ale division of the Great American Beer Festival netted them a Gold Medal along with a Top 25 ranking in Draft Magazine for this complex, bold creation. At 8.3% alcohol, it carries quite a kick along with its unique flavor derived from rich, dark malts, spicy rye and bold, citrus laden hops. It was clear I found what I was after: something new that I really enjoyed!
I ran into J.J. Phair from E.J. Phair Brewing who couldn’t say enough good things about Firestone Walker’s master brewer. “He’s a rock star in the industry” Phair said of Matt Brynildson.
I ended the afternoon by wobbling over to one of my local favorites, Creek Monkey Brewing of Martinez. They offered up a vanilla stout that tasted like dessert in a glass — vanilla flavor in a smooth, rich stout that capped off the day perfectly.
San Francisco Beer Week is coming up in early February and if the Winter Brews Festival was any indication, this is going to be an excellent year!
See you at Happy Hour!
Did you go to the Winter Brews Festival? How was it? What was your favorite beer? Share your experience below.