There is beer, food, sweet jams and plenty of room. I never feel crowded. It feels like a leisurely afternoon in a friends backyard.
Last year I went to MVCBF as a beer pourer. This year we’re sending our SoCal Sessions contributor, Kyle, just to go because it was one of our favorite beerfests of the year. Mostly, because it was run & the people attending were the kind of beer people you want to be around. Read on for our recap of our experience last year.
You can buy tickets or learn more about his years fest here. We went VIP last year. The extra hour was nice.
Mission Valley Craft Beer & Food Festival
Saturday, March 26th, 12:00PM @ Qualcomm-Practice Field
Last weekend I went to the return of the Mission Valley Craft Beer Festival (MVCBF), but not as a drinker. I went as a volunteer beer pourer for 32 North Brewing. After some of our recent crazy beer festival experiences I wanted to see what it is like on the other side of the keg.
Even thought the VIP didn’t open till Noon, I arrive at 10:30 AM to help get set up. Unlike attending as a drinker I don’t have to wait in line. I get checked off the list, and head to the brewery’s booth. The 32 North guys were already there getting the kegs ready. The whole setup is two kegs, cooler, a table, table cloth, a box that covers the cooler and the tap handles that connect to it. Then some coasters, stickers and glasses of various hops for decor. The tent is coming later. It’s pretty simple and we’re all done by about 11 AM.
Which leaves an hour to walk around checking out other tents and helping everyone do pre-event taste tests. As we leave our tent Def Leopard is blaring and in my head everything is going slow motion like a montage scene in a comedy movie about high school kids. The cool brewers are over there, the beer nerds are over there, the weird brewers who are into heavy metal are over there. Except in this case we’re all just beer nerds and none of that is really happening. I just have an overactive imagination.
In addition to the breweries, there are spirits and food vendors here. I’ve heard that the MVCBF has been a brewery favorite in the past because the event provides good volunteer pourers to man the pouring stations and there is usually great food. We walk around sampling beers, saying hellos and snacking until our tent arrives just before noon. We get it set up, put up the banner and we’re ready to pour when the gates open to the slowly growing line of fest-goers at the entrance.
So far it’s been a pretty chill morning, but I’m a little nervous to handle the crowd. I’ve seen some pretty rowdy beer festivals lately, and I can’t say I’m terribly excited to deal with a bunch of drunken idiots. I almost begged off my responsibility as a pourer this morning because I feared it might make me start to hate beer festivals.
Joining me for the first wave of pouring is a festival volunteer named Max, and 32 North’s taproom manager Elizabeth, who gives us a few beer and brewery details. Picking up on these details was my key to survival, and the answers to the most asked questions:
“What are you pouring? What is the ABV? Where are you located? Are the stickers free?”
According to Elizabeth, we are pouring Apricot Landfall Berlinerweisse (4.3% ABV) and Pennant Pale Ale (5.5%). The Brewery is on Production Road in Miramar and the stickers are free. Even before the event started other breweries employees were coming up asking for tastes of the sour Apricot. It will pucker you up, and everyone seems to love it.
Once the gates open for the noon V.I.P. ticket holders, the crazy rush of drunken idiots never comes. Instead it’s a leisurely wave of happy, lovely folks who all want to try the sour beer. And there really isn’t a ton of them either. The V.I.P’s definitely have the run of the festival with little to no waiting in lines from my vantage point. There is time to pour a beer, have a chat about the Padres or talk about beer. Most of our customers in that first 90 minutes smile, say “please” and “thank you,” and walk away smiling. I feel like an aging rock star. I’m giving the people what they want, beer, and feel great soaking in their appreciation. I assume that will all change when the general admission crowd gets let in.
At some point Elizabeth leaves on company business, Max is replaced by Chris and then Chris disappears. I’m all alone when the regular festival starts. I can see the entrance from where I stand. Nothing to separate me from what I imagine will be teeming throngs of sour beer loving maniacs except a fold up table and a few barrels of beer. My fears go unjustified. Yes, it gets more crowded but it never turns into the shitshow I imagined. People are still polite, still smiling, but there is just a little less time to talk about the beer. Even by myself I can pour beers, smile, and spew the few specifics I know about the beers People leave our tent seemingly happy, and quickly replaced by another group of smiling faces.
The word about our Apricot Landfall spreads fast. Other brewers are even sending people over to try it. Our line is getting longer and longer. I can feel myself getting a little anxious, not because it is overwhelming but because I don’t want anyone to have to wait! Luckily, a festival coordinator sees my predicament, and sends volunteer superstar, Stephanie over to help. Then as if summoned by some silent call to arms, Elizabeth, Walter the Brewery Rep and John the Brewer start appearing near the tent to help pour or talk to the beer drinkers. Which is good because the line for the sour is getting longer and longer. I’m recommending a 70/30 mix of the Apricot and Pennant Pale partially because it is delicious and partially because it will help us hang onto the sour longer.
My fears come to fruition just before three pm. With two hours left we run out of the Apricot Landfall. It was a huge hit. Drinkers are disappointed but quickly satiated by the pale ale. Most were coming back for their third or second taste anyways! My shift at the pour station is done and as a reward I get to wander the festival and have a few beers. There is beer, food, sweet jams and plenty of room. I never feel crowded. It feels like a leisurely afternoon in a friends backyard. The location next to Qualcomm is practical, but lacks in character. A minor detail. Next year I’ll be back, but only to drink the beer. 32 North Brewing will have to survive without me. I’m sure they’ll be just fine.
Thank you to 32 North Brewing for letting me tag along, and thank you to all the people who restored some of the faith I had in beer festivals.