Going into it, I knew that the Santa Barbara Beer Festival wasn’t going to be of the same caliber as the Oregon Brewers Festival. I was ok with that, and I adjusted my expectations appropriately. That was the wise choice, and as a result, I had a lot of fun.
From the beer-tasting side, the festival gave me the chance to do two things. Most of the commercial breweries there were fairly local, so it became an opportunity to taste beers that I’ve seen on shelves before but haven’t previously tried. From this category, my two favorites were the Telegraph Brewing Company White Ale and the North Coast Brewing Company Le Merle. The other thing the festival gave me the chance to do was try beers from the handful of local homebrew clubs. This was actually more fun than tasting the commercial beers, because the homebrewers tended to take a lot more risks and produce more interesting — if potentially divisive — beers. Of these, the Santa Barbeerians’ Wet Hop Red Ale, the C.A.R.P. Brewers’ Dry-Hopped Pale Ale, and the Cal Poly Brew Crew’s 80 Schilling deserve special mention. I’m becoming more and more tempted to get involved with one of these groups; if I wasn’t going to be out of town for the Barbeerians next meeting on next Saturday, I’d be there.
Beyond the beer, what made the festival fun was spending a gorgeous day outside, hanging out with friends. Some beer-loving friends of ours from LA came up for the day, so we picked a spot in the middle of festival, dropped down some towels, and staged expeditions out the various tents to bring back beer. There was lots of sharing and discussing. Having a posse of about seven seems pretty ideal for something like this.
So, different from Oregon, but just as successful. Which is the point, I suppose.