How to Throw a Beer Festival – OC Fest of Ales, Anaheim

“Great Success!” Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait taps the 1st keg at Anaheim Brewery

Sometime last year, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait asked, “How do we get Anaheim on the beer map?”, “THROW A BEER FEST, MR. MAYOR!” I said while spraying beer accidentally on his forehead. Little did I know, I would be on the planning committee for the event, going so far as to naming it, picking the glassware, signing up breweries and restaurants and picking the beers for the VIP food pairings.

I had grandiose visions of places like BRÜ, Stone Catering, The Side Door, Beachwood BBQ, Newport Beach BrewCo, The Playground, Haven Gastropub and Taco Asylum serving up bite size morsels with perfectly paired local craft beer. I imagined Dr. Bill Sysak sauntering from tent to tent proclaiming “PERFECTION” with each taste. I had a naughtier fantasy featuring Laurie Delk from 100 Beers 30 Days frolicking in a nearby fountain, pouring a Cantillon Gueuze down her chest moaning “y’all want a sip” in her delightful southern drawl. (Only true craft beer geeks fantasize about Laurie Delk, ya’ know.)

I thought simply emailing breweries would get answers like “Shit yeah! What time and what do we bring?”. Oh how wrong I was. “Not another goddamn festival!”, and “Not this year, dude” were typical replies. Some breweries were 100% behind it! Hangar 24 was like, “Hell yeah, even though that’s our annual Oktoberfest that day”. Bravery Brewing in Lancaster thought this would be the perfect fest to pop their festival cherry, driving 3 hours and bringing four great beers. Golden Road even helped out despite it being their 1st anniversary the same day!

Here’s some notes from our brainstorm session back in July, followed by notes from the event:

Step 1: Be Different. There’s tons of beer festivals and the focus should always be about the beer. How do you make it fun and different? Offering a 5K Beer Run is critical.

Here bright and early for the 5K Beer Run, joints crack as runners fix their leotards, neon wigs,  and Super Mario Bros costumes. My favorite team of the day is the Presidential podium being pushed by federal agents! Driving up to the parking garage, I was surprised to see actual runners doing sprints before the run. Beer Runs are SERIOUS BUSINESS, apparently. I didn’t run, but heard it had some issues that will be corrected next year. The beer-batter pancakes at the end were super fluffy and delicious, just like some of the runners. The beer song was awful, though.

Step 2: Have a real VIP experience. 

These are Very Important People next to the Oggi’s VIP tent.

I’ve been to numerous beer festivals where being VIP means getting in early and getting more tasters. The OC Fest of Ales VIP ticket included food pairings from local chef’s and restaurants! It had seating, an actual bathroom, entrance to the Muzeo‘s current show, a gift bag with upgraded glassware and other chochkies, and more taste tickets!

The VIP area smells like Bacon, and not because the cops are are here! Slaters 50/50 is cooking up 1/4 burger wedges oozing their 50% bacon, 50% beef grind paired with Lagunitas IPA. It’s an intense flavor combo! Their station is a virtual mini-meth lab!


New BBQ caterers Brew Hawg BBQ and Brewing Co, and renouned local chef Katie Averill-Martin of Eat Street Culinary win my heart with some perfectly paired dishes. Eat Street’s Asian Chicken Spring Roll paired with Julius Echter Hefe-Weissbier is my favorite of the day! It’s light, delicate and full of flavor, just like the beer paired with it.


Brewhawg is serving a mini-meal with their smoked beef rib, baked beans and tater salad. They’re also serving homebrewed Root Beer floats! So incredible! From Brew Hawg: “We blew through 40 racks of ribs in 2 hours flat! Each vendor brought 500 portions to serve and Brew Hawg was the 1st one to run out. We spent the rest of the time serving our homemade root beer floats and plopping ice cream into glasses of chocolate stout that people were bringing over from one of the other booths.”

Dan from Out of the Park Pizza really knocks it out of the park with bacon wrapped maple wings. The wings paired with Corsendonk Abbey Dubbel is a total home run!

Nine total pairings are available in the VIP section: Brewcakes, Tandoori Garden, Roy’s, Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen, and Oggi’s all have some solid morsels. I overheard several guests say the VIP area rivalls Taste of Anaheim on a small scale! Next year the focus will be on Locally brewed beer.

Bill from Hopparazi Brewing Co, Dave from Haven Brewing and Evan from Noble Ale Works chat about yeast cake.

Step 3. Have Good Beer! This should be Step 1, really.

Brewer participation is a solid mix of OC, LA and Inland Empire, dusted with a couple from SD. From OC: Anaheim Brewery, Noble Ale Works, The Bruery, Bootleggers Brewery, Old Orange Brewing and Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Co. From IE, Hangar 24 Brewery, Craft Brewing, Packing House Brewery, Bravery Brewing and of course Inland Empire Brewing Co. From LA: Eagle Rock, Haven Brewing, and Golden Road. Karl Strauss and Stone Brewing Co were the only SD brewers on hand. Filling in the mix were beers from Firestone Walker, Lost Coast, Beer Valley and others from local distributors to bring the count up to 100 beers – EVEN. Well, there was one no-show so it was like 98. A few faux craft snuck in as well, something I hope to avoid next year.

My favorites of the day: Bravery Brewing’s Sweet Stout, Packinghouse IPA, Anaheim Brewery Oktoberfest, Noble Ale Works ESB and Haven Brewing’s UpRYEsing. Craft Brewing Co’s blend of Stout and Raspberry Wheat is one of the best things ever! Congrats to Hangar 24 for taking home the people’s choice award! Not seen by the crowd, it’s a super rad mini-conical fermenter trophy!

 Step 4. Entice the Food Trucks to cook with beer. To make it interesting, we came up with a Food Truck Challenge, offering a level of competition for the trucks to prepare items with beer and sell them to the crowd.

I fly over to Seabirds for my favorite beer battered Avocado tacos and an Oatmeal Stout cupcake. Jessica Rice from Beer and Baking shares her Viking Truck corndog with me. That truck always finds a way to pillage my pretty little mouth! It was nice to see them win the Food Truck Challenge as everything on the truck is beer infused, boiled or flambéed in some way in beer. The voting system for this event is flawed as people had to give up taster tickets to vote. Needless to say we will be address this next year. Chomp Chomp, Rolling Sushi Van, Garlicscapes, and the Lime Truck also have some mouthwatering beer infused gourmet food happening as well. It was hard to pick!

Proper corn dog technique: Never hold the stick!

Step 5. Have a Home Brew Contest. Goal? 50 entries. Achieved? 150.

I submitted my Organic IPA, OPA! and my Rye Saison, Yellow Submarine. I was having such a good time I missed the results being called out, but damn...the Saison placed! I also missed the Home Brewer Bottle Share event, dammit! I really wanted to meet the winner Jon Silvertooth who happened to win the OC Fair with the same Dopplebock! Good news for beer geeks, his beer will be brewed by Anaheim Brewery and will be available at Downtown Anaheim events! I’ll tweet/FB when I hear something.

Next year: Battle of the Beards! Brian of Bravery and Jonas of the Bruery show off their facial hair

Step 6: Try not to suck. 

For a first year festival, with 99% volunteers planning and working the thing, I am completely blown away by the event. I personally had a blast! I did hear from multiple random people how shocked they were at the value of the VIP. Next year we hope to expand it and streamline the event as a whole. Many of the volunteers knew about the beers being poured. I played dumb with several and they all nailed it! The Bruery’s volunteer told me everything about Loakal Red…I was shocked!

Gripes: There were some serious oversights in set up and break down which wasn’t seen by guests. An Emcee would have been great to announce the run and side events. My arm looked like Madonna in Lucky Star with six wristbands! Two tickets per taste was dumb. I also heard the 5K challenges were crap. They should be more “mud-runnish”. Water became scarse near the end/dump buckets were full.

The Goal: Put Anaheim on the Beer Map. Achieved? Over 1,000 runners clocked in and over 3,000 total people bought tickets. As I live down the street, this is the most people I’ve ever seen at a Downtown Anaheim event! I consider it a success, but there’s tons to work on to make it better for next year. Here’s the results of all the contests!

Huge Shout Outs! @epicbeergirl@bottomofthemug and Helen Myers for help on my committee! Dan from Out of the Park Pizza for saving our asses with weird taps for Belgium and German kegs! Bradley and Daira Daniels for setting up the kegs! Neighbor friend Helen Myers for doing a stellar job getting volunteers! They were awesome! Peter, the man who made it happen! Downtown Anaheim Association divas Shelly and Devon Reeves! Jamie Wood from the Packinghouse! Shaheen for being awesome! Spence Coleman for helping the Homebrew contest! Oh, Tom Tait, Mr. Mayor, Thanks!

Other Pics: (panoramics ©ocbeerblog 2012 / Shot with Russian Horizon 202)

Bootleggers: Slow like real turtles!


View from the People’s Choice Hangar24 Truck

anaheim’s own: Noble Ale Works

Viking truck pillages another mouth.

Hoparazzi Brewing Co!

The check-in

Brian from Bravery serves it up!

Derek Bougie from Newport Beach Brewing Co.

Super Bootlegger Bros.

Keith and Kevin hold down the Anaheim Brewery tent.

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11 years ago

Dude! Congrats on the event! Sounds like a great festival, I hope it turns into an annual event so I can make it up next year. Damn wedding plans have been Harding my mellow as of late. Well done sir!

Daniel Fernandez
11 years ago
Reply to  gregory

A good time indeed. I was on a committee, judged in the homebrew competition, and volunteered as a pourer. I noticed you didn’t quiz me. For the first annual, some birthing pains – but it was a good time. I’m ordained too – you can call me Brother Daniel.

11 years ago

Thanks for all the efforts to put on this event! While there were a couple of glitches, it was by far the best “first time” event we’ve attended. Friendly staff, and those pairings were divine.

One little correction though. 🙂 My brewing hubs didn’t win this year’s OC Fair for his Doppelbock — that was John Davis. This was the first competition for the beer. (Well, submitted for the Pacific Brewer’s Cup at the same time.) The bottle share was a great time, hopefully next year more of the entrants will make it.

Jessica Rice
11 years ago

Thanks for the mention buddy! I am uploading all the awesome photos as we speak. I love how you look with a corndog in your mouth, BTW.

Shawn Burch
Shawn Burch
11 years ago

I participated in the 5k, homebrewing comp, and I had a VIP pass. I can say it was a lot of fun, and I can’t wait for the 2nd Annual event!

Cindy G
Cindy G
11 years ago

This was LOTS OF FUN!! We all learn when it’s our first time right? =) I was a volunteer and met some fun people. I would definitely volunteer nx year!! And I would also be a taster again!!!!