Editor’s note: After this original post aired the organizers of Best Coast Beer Fest reached out to get our feedback, let us know they felt it was a fair reflection of the event, and that they will be working hard to make it even better for next year. We appreciate that they saw the same issues we did and are willing to address it.
The Best Coast Beer Festival happened. It was amazing and terrible and confusing and beautiful. It was all things a beer fest could be. Let’s start with the amazing.
AMAZING: Best Coast Beer Fest (BCBF) was held at the Embarcadero Marina Park South in downtown San Diego. There was beer there, and beer is amazing. There were also outdoor games like bocce and bags and Connect 4. There was music, sometimes, and a Anchorman was projected onto a big oversize screen after dark. There were a lot of cool people, and a bunch of money got raised for a good charity, Cancer for College. Did I mention there was beer there? And a Gorilla. Definitely a Gorilla.
TERRIBLE & CONFUSING: There were two sessions of beer-festing. 12-4 or 5-9 PM. If you went to the evening session, but got there early you were given a front row seat to the chaos & carnage that is the end of a beer festival. It is not a sight you often see. We’re not going to delve deep into that shitshow here. It is more of a festival go-er issue, but you can read all about it in our open letter to craft beer drinkers. It was crazy enough it made us consider just leaving (that was the confusing part). At the event there were some seriously unhappy VIP ticket holders and frustrated brewers which was more of a festival planning issue..
BEAUTIFUL: You know that old saying, “Location, location, location”? Well, this one had location in spades. The park would be a lovely enough place to sit and watch the sunset over Coronado Island even without beer. But on a hot afternoon, the trees provided just the right amount of shade before we were treated to an exquisite sunset dropping behind passing sailboats. And there was delicious beer through it all. Sometimes Southern California is ridiculous.
We decided to go to the evening session because of the movie. There are beer festivals all the time in SoCal, but not many have movies. And a classic like Anchorman is worth waiting for. We knew we might miss out on some beer by waiting and definitely stickers, swag and coozies the breweries always give out.
Our wait in line was eye-opening to say the least. Lots of drunken buffoonery. The signage was poor or non-existent so it took some effort to figure out where to go. There didn’t seem to be any plan in place to facilitate the exit of the early session, while preparing to let the 2nd session in. In addition, some people had all day passes which made it confusing as to who was allowed where. The people taking tickets, checking ID’s and giving out wristbands were all working hard but no one seemed to be working together. We almost didn’t get in because the 1st checkpoint checked our ID’s and took our tickets. The 2nd checkpoint person said that we couldn’t get in without a ticket. So…yeah. Confusion reigned.
We had heard through the grapevine that BCBF had sold more than double the expected number of tickets. That meant they would need double the anticipated amount of beer. The breweries got an e-mail requesting such on the Monday beforehand. You might not realize but breweries donate all the beer to these events so that was a big request for some of the breweries. Not just in beer but in logistics. Especially, for some of the out-of-town breweries. A few breweries were able to bring the extra but still ran out due to high demand. Some breweries like Hess were out of beer before the 2nd session even started. Ninkasi Brewery ran out soon after, and several others only had some of their offerings available.
A few of the breweries we spoke to were concerned that fest goers wouldn’t realize the changes or effort that had been made to accommodate and just assume the breweries were “assholes.” As a fest goer it was frustrating to not be able to try everything under the sun but as a person it was no big deal. Despite several booths being shut down there was still plenty of great beer to be drunk.
We started just inside the door with 21st Amendment out of San Francisco. The guys behind the counter said they’ll be all over San Diego soon. Our first local brews were a Mexican chili infused stout and agave saison from Border X Brewery in Barrio Logan. Joaquin & Marcel were rocking their booth, and were cool dudes. We talked for a while about beer, how well Border X has been doing and the rise of Barrio Logan.
I told my husband you had a nice beard, and he said, “Don’t be looking at other beards!” – Overheard
Despite selling a ton of tickets the night session was super chill. We wondered if they capped the sessions or if most people attended the early one. We never had to wait more than a moment for beer, or felt crowded. It was one of the most relaxed beer fest we’ve attended. Despite the fact that there were a ton of breweries there was no rush to get to anything. Taking time out to play lawn games or watch Anchorman didn’t seem like a big deal because you wouldn’t have to wait to get your next beer. It was like drinking in someone’s really large backyard. There wasn’t much oversight either. We ran into a young couple that brought their own glasses from other beer fests, that they were using to get twice as many samples at one time so they could sit longer in front of the movie. Brilliant!
The vibe was great too. We can’t speak to the early session but the quality of people at the evening session was top-notch. Lots of smiles, good vibes and even a unicorn. We ran into Chris the Unicorn. Chris lives in San Diego, loves beer and has never been to a beer festival. What the fuck Chris?! When we met his fav beer of the night had been the Urbn Triple Brown with Coffee.
I’m pretty excited about it (being here). I’m not a completely overcrowded people person but this isn’t terrible at all.”
– Chris the Unicorn.
Watching Anchorman out under the stars was lovely as well. All beer festivals should have to play it. From now on every fest is Anchorman-themed…except maybe Tour De Fat.
Most beer festivals these days seem to have a charitable aspect. BCBF was no exception. On hand for the event were the reps from Cancer for College. They received a donation from BCBF, were accepting donations and selling Will Ferrell tanning lotion. Yes, you read that correctly. You could also take your photo with a life-sized Ron Burgundy.
CFC started as a small charity by Craig Pollard, a cancer survivor and former fraternity brother to Will Ferrell. Craig knew what a drain cancer could be on a person and on a families finances. He saw a way to help. CFC began with an annual golf tournament. The first year they awarded $500 to a cancer survivor to help offset their college tuition. At first Ferrell would support CFC with donations, then as his fame grew he was able to leverage that to help raise money by attending events and bring attention to the cause. Since 1994 Cancer for College has awarded more than $2 million in scholarships to cancer & amputee survivors. It is always good to drink good beer. It is better to drink it when you can support a good cause. At BCBF we did that.
Best Coast Beer Fest also had a VIP section. The tickets were pricey, but promised specialty beers with food pairings and seating area. The VIP’s we talked to were pretty unhappy. The beers they got to try were great but there was only enough food for about a quarter of the people in the VIP area so they were mostly just hungry the whole time having anticipated more food options. Once they exhausted the beer options they spent the rest of the time out in the open area with the rest of us watching Anchorman and buying burgers or pizza from anyone of a dozen food trucks outside the gate.
Because of our experience watching the end of the 1st session we decided to leave just a bit early to beat the crowd to nearby Uber’s. And avoid any semblance of Crazydrunktown. By doing so we left floating on a cloud of good vibes and spewing Anchorman quotes.
The BCBF was pretty huge as far as beer fests go. Lots of breweries and lots of people. They had made big promises but it seemed as if the logistics weren’t quite in place to make good on them all. Hopefully, they will work that all out & there is another Anchorman themed beer festival in our future. We’d avoid the VIP, get there just in time for the gates to open, and be ready for great beer, great people and hopefully, lots of dirty, pirate hooker jokes.
**If you used our promo code to buy your tickets and didn’t get what you were promised please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org**