I recently attended a glorious event held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds (home of the famous Del Mar racetrack) called the San Diego International Beer Festival. Held at the same time as the San Diego County Fair, this exhibition brought together some 400 beers by breweries from all over the world. It was a great atmosphere and an even better way to taste a whole lot of different beers in one place.
There were two ticket options available: General Admission, which got visitors unlimited one-ounce tastings over four hours and a plastic ‘souvenir’ tasting cup, and VIP, which allowed an extra hour of unlimited tastings (why?) and a glass souvenir tasting cup that vendors would fill as full as three ounces for each tasting. Four hours was plenty for me since, as mentioned at the top, there were over 400 beers to try. I got my fill of far too many to list and/or review here, so I’ll just hit the highlights.
The first stop I had to make was at the booth of my favorite brewery: Deschutes. As luck would have it, they had some cleanup to do from the previous tasting session and were not going to be open for another hour, so I was forced to move on. I sampled mediocre beer after mediocre beer, some even downright swill bucket material…until I happened upon the Einstock beer tent. With only three beers on tap, I did not really know what to expect from this Icelandic brewery, until I saw this:That, my friends is one serious bottle opener. No matter what the beer tasted like, I was in from this implement alone. The Icelandic White Ale was a typical example of a witbier: poured very pale light yellow with a fizziness that reminded me of Squirt soda. There was lots of fresh citrus aroma and taste that was quite refreshing. It didn’t have much of a finish, but the effervescence kept my tastebuds alive.
Next I tried the Icelandic Arctic Pale. This one poured a bit darker with still minimal head. It smelled remarkably malty for a pale ale, with only a hint of hops. My first taste was of malty sweetness up front and some fruit flavors to follow. The middle was mild and light, finishing with the same maltiness as at the top. It wasn’t a particularly dynamic beer, but enough to hold my interest for the third tasting.
The Icelandic Toasted Porter was actually the one I was looking forward to the most. It poured deep, dark brown, with only a little fizzy brown head on top. It smelled distinctly of chocolate and coffee and little else. The taste was purely of these two flavors the whole way through, though not overpoweringly so. I liked this one most.
Innumerable samples and a giant hot dog later, because I’m a responsible drinker, I finally got to my number one destination of the event: the Deschutes Woody booth. It was done up in finished wood to look just like a beer barrel. Enjoying one of the many brews they had on tap, the driver of the woody saw the Deschutes hat I was wearing and came over for a chat. I mentioned that this was was very cool booth and that it reminded me of the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile.
“Funny you should mention that,” he said. He then brought out his phone and explained that he had contacted them once to partner on a promotional event, but was rebuffed, with the folks at Oscar Mayer telling him that the Deschutes drinkers were “not their demographic.”
Pardon me, Oscar Mayer, but since when have hot dogs NOT fit the beer crowd like a glove? Never, that’s when. He was lucky enough, however to get them to pose for a picture at another event. This simply made my night.
The San Diego International Beer Festival was a fantastic event with lots of beer vendors, even more beer lovers and lots and lots of beer. I sincerely hope this even comes back next year, as I’ll absolutely be there!