Summer is over. Pool parties have ended, five-day workweeks are back in full swing, and kids across the nation begrudgingly sulk back to their classes. Sure the dog days have passed, but, for many, this is the most wonderful time of the year. It is the dawn of Oktoberfest, the rise of the finest craft brews, and peak-season for all those of age to enjoy the camaraderie involved with the many local beer festivals scattered from town to town (sorry kiddos).
During this hyperbolic Candy Land of beer festivals and celebrations, we were asked to stop off at the OC Fest of Ales in Anaheim that boasted 35 craft breweries and numerous opportunities to indulge on unlimited samples from Orange County eateries. If you are going to sample the season’s finest offerings—you might as well get it all at once right?
After taking a year’s hiatus, the third OC Fest of Ales has come back stronger, bolder, and maltier than ever. This year’s event took place on Saturday, September 19th from noon-4pm during the prime California sun hours at the Center Street Promenade in Downtown Anaheim—apparently the weather didn’t catch the memo on the autumn season yet. Despite the heat, the closed-off street that is mere steps away from the Anaheim Duck’s practice rink was packed with many beer enthusiasts fully convinced that 5 o’clock is overrated.
When we arrive, we are instantly greeted by happy festival-goers, checked-in, handed our glasses, and we are off! The flavor of the season is within our grasp—nothing is standing between us and our unlimited beer and food tastes now! With so many craft favorites such as Valliant, Golden Road, Bottle Logic, Karl Strauss, Absolution, and Hanger 24 offering some of their finest brews, we stand frozen, as we are unable to decide where to start our overwhelming journey. Ultimately, we decide that strategically moving tent-to-tent is likely the most optimum choice.
As we pay homage to many craft beer titans and fill our glasses with as many of the 80+ beer samples we are willingly offered, we noticed there are flavorful treats being offered along the way. In between sips, we veer off to sample Umami Burger’s spicy sweet potato fries, Crepe Coop’s decadent crepes, Gypsy Den’s fresh Watermelon Gazpacho, a juicy brat from Tony’s Original Deli, and a creative taste of Thai Coconut Curry Hummus from Root Hummus. All of which are culinary titans in their own right, and worth a try if you are looking to expand your palate with some fresh, local flavors.
While taking samples from a plethora of pilsners, Oktoberfests, IPAs, stouts, and saisons among many others—some incredibly noteworthy brews were the Maple Ale from The Bruery, Saint Archer’s Red Ale, Coronado Brewing Company’s Jalapeno Saison, Cismontane’s Black Nocturne (imperial stout), the Oktoberfest Märzen by City of Angels, the Rye Coconut Stout from the compound (literally) at Barley Forge, and Even Keel (session IPA) from the great guys over at Ballast Point.
It’s also worth mentioning, if there is one thing about the crew at Ballast Point that you will experience time and time again, it is their friendliness. This is a group that knows how to make you feel welcome, and truly loves what they do. Not to mention that they have mastered the art of hops—they are an all-around delight. In all honesty, we could have kicked back and geeked out on beer-speak all afternoon with them if we didn’t have a full block’s worth of tents to visit.
In all reality, every brewery has their own unique offering—their own finger print if you will. Barley Forge has a military diesel vehicle they serve their craft out of, City of Angels has an original tap created for every beer they serve, and 2 Towns Cider House names all of their ciders in the form of a hilarious pun to name a few. The point is, you can feel the passion and love every brewery puts into their craft, and every representative is not only glowing about the product they are representing but also are excited about the industry all around.
While we walk through the seemingly endless avenue of heavenly elixir, we hear the vintage rockabilly sounds from The Rayford Brothers filling every nook and cranny of the festival. People are dancing, singing, clinging glasses, and playing extra large games of Jenga. They approach us to strike up conversation, to discuss the beverage at hand, and even to simply bond over our affinity of craft brews. It’s a happy place. It just goes to show you that quality beer does in fact bring people together.
Although the competition was fun loving, it was also fierce. We could not imagine what the judges must have gone through to reach the decision they did because there were so many awesome options to choose from, but here are the results:
–The Mayors Trophy for best craft brewery went to Anaheim Brewery.
–The Yelp OC People’s Choice Award went to Barley Forge Brewing Co. for their Coconut Rye Stout.
–The overall trophy for the Home Brew Challenge went to James Bray and Brittany Kester for their Belgian Strong Ale/Belgian Tripel.
Some may know Anaheim as a place filled with magic, amusement, and family fun thanks to the legacy Mr. Disney has left us. But on this day of September 19, 2015, we can safely say that Anaheim has transformed itself to be the hoppiest place on earth. We know that we are excited for Downtown Anaheim to bring this enchantment back next year—because we know we’ll be there!
Jessie Dax-Setkus has 5 post(s) on Fullerton Foundry