Beyond Budweiser - Claremont's California Beer Festival

As if I didn’t defame myself enough among Google-happy potential employers with my first article about beer, I decided to attend Claremont’s 2nd annual California Beer Festival in order to enlighten the Claremont McKenna College community about the wonders of communal drinking. I know, choosing among 60 craft brews was quite the journalistic sacrifice, but I like to think that I’m a pretty selfless person.

This year, the California Beer Festival took place in Santa Cruz, Ventura, and our very own Claremont Village. I was told by a "Heroes and Legends" beer-pourer that last year, more than 1,200 people attended the event, and that they suspected that an even greater number partook in the festivities this year. Indeed, almost every corner of the Packing House streets were filled with beer-loving adults of all ages, races, and genders. Throughout the day, cover bands supplied the greatest in sing-along hits, from Guns ‘n Roses to Sublime. Though the festival was lined with a few local food vendors selling taquitos, hot dogs, and BBQ sandwiches, it goes without saying that beer was the main attraction. Upon entrance, every visitor is provided a small sampling cup. After that point, your festival experience is up to you.

Personally, I was excited to dive right in and sample. A beer festival is a unique environment for aspiring craft brew connoisseurs because it allows you to try interesting styles that you normally wouldn’t buy on your own. Some forward-thinking festival-goers donned strings of pretzels around their necks to nibble on as a palette cleanser between drinks. Beer festivals are also a great place to learn more about different breweries by chatting up brewery representatives: they’re just as excited as you are, talking about beer and giving out samples with enthusiasm and generosity (in the pouring department). Of course, there comes a point in the day where most beers you drink will start to taste the same, so don’t expect to leave the festival having tried every beer in sight.

Although there are a lot of taps available, the lines are comparable to the 6 o’clock cookie queue at Scripps dinner. But don’t let that discourage you- half the fun of this festival is meeting locals. Free-flowing beer means that everyone is socially lubricated enough to be your friend. Strike up a conversation with the nearest person in line, and you may just be surprised by whom you meet. For instance, I met a man who biked from DC to Key West in the ‘80s, and later found myself discussing national beer festivals with the writers of the Official Beer Blog. At the California Beer Festival, there’s no shortage of interesting, fun, and friendly people to meet.

So are you dying to go to the California Beer Festival next year, but unable to pony up the $40 entrance fee? As a broke college student, I can sympathize. However, there were a good number of 5C students taking part in the festivities. For a limited time, discounted tickets were available for $30, but those sold out quickly. Some were fortunate enough to get their tickets subsidized by their press organization, while other students volunteered at the beer serving booths and got in for free. I can conclusively say that it is worth the money. Though you aren’t necessarily paying for $40 worth of beer, the pricing follows the same logic as attending a $40 concert- part of the cost comes from the priceless experience of having fun and meeting new people. Luckily, LA Beer Week takes place October 10-23, so if you couldn’t make it out to the Village this Saturday or are just hankering for more beer, those events are certainly worth a visit.