Visitors approaching the San Diego Convention Center on Friday or Saturday saw a giant banner screaming a welcome to attendees of American Neurological Association’s annual meeting.
While the convention center dedicated the bulk of their space to the science of studying and protecting the brain, thousands of people streaming into one exhibit hall did their best to keep neurologists employed. A sweet dose of irony welcomes you to San Diego Epic Beer Festival 2013.
A drinker’s paradise unfolded before those who forked over $40 for admission. Six rows of booths from dozens of craft breweries poured unlimited samples of 250 different beers. The only thing keeping the drinking in check was the size of the vessel: a comically-small 2oz beer stein that almost forced the drinker to daintily extend their pinky finger while drinking.
The crowd of drinkers was an eclectic mix. Craft beer snobs making tasting notes on their beer list stood in line with bachelor parties full of frat boys boisterously microchugging their samples. While one man donned a miter as a tribute to newly-elected Pope Francis, leprechaun was the most popular costume as many attendees were using the event to kick off their St. Patrick’s Day revelry.
A generally good natured populated the festival. Organizers spaced the rows of booths far enough apart that the sold-out festival never seemed crowded. Every so often, the low rumble of crowd noise crescendoed as one group’s toast started a domino effect of drinkers raising their glasses and yelling.
While the large variety of beer delighted the casual drinker, the hard-core beer snob might have been disappointed by the offerings. Those who have attended beer festivals in the past have likely seen the same lineup dozens of times before. Breweries often send their most popular beers to festivals, which leaves those seeking more esoteric brews unsatisfied. Thankfully, the mix of different breweries provided ample opportunities to try something new.
Vanilla Porter by Breckenridge Brewery: The nose on this beer is pure vanilla, and the flavor certainly backs it up.
Citra Extra Pale Ale by Knee Deep Brewing Company: Huge Citra hop aroma. The bitter first sip gives way to a more balanced flavor profile once your tongue acclimates to this delightful hop bomb.
GrassYass IPA and Otay Chipotlé Stout by Stumblefoot Brewing: Two excellent beers by one of San Diego’s newer breweries. The IPA is a drinkable offering with an excellent floral aroma, and just the right amount of hoppy bitterness. The stout gives just the right amount of smoky chipotle flavor without the heat of many Chipotle beers.
Chainbreaker White IPA by Deschutes Brewery: This is a very smooth IPA. It has a great hoppy flavor without blowing your tongue away with bitterness.
The Epic Beer Festival brought together a great mix of American craft breweries. An unlimited tasting policy allowed attendees to try as many different kinds of beer as their stomachs could handle. While the festival didn’t have many rare offerings, there was certainly something for every level of beer drinker. A good time was had by all, and for those who had too good of a time, an ample supply of neurologists stood nearby to study their recently deceased brain cells.