Heading into our appearance Saturday, we’ve put together a list of the top 10 breweries to get Hyped about at the 26th annual event at the famous Madonna Inn – where over 70 breweries will be pouring all weekend long:
1. Anchor Steam: I lived in San Francisco for a year during my college days before escaping the city to get back to the SLO Life (much like the California Festival of Beers, now that I think about it), but one thing I miss from those city days is good ol' Anchor Steam. Their pale is an all-time favorite of mine, Hall of Fame material. But what many folks don’t realize about one of the founders of the craft beer movement here on the West Coast, is that Anchor Steam produces a number of other fine specialty brews such as their Steam Porter, which we just Hyped last night, not to mention their Liberty Ale and Christmas Ale.
2. Deschutes Brewing: Of course we’re Hyped on Deschutes. The brewery is named after one of our favorite fishing holes, not to mention they brew darn good beer. Don’t believe us, we’re drinking one tonight and just hyped their new pale ale, Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale. Can’t wait to see what they’re pouring on Saturday. Other brews we like include: Black Butte Porter and Hop in the Dark CDA.
3. Dogfish Head: Next to our hometown favorite, Firestone-Walker Brewing Company, Dogfish Head is our favorite craft brewery thanks to its never-ending list of unique brews ... 90 Minute IPA (an all-time favorite), 60 Minute Indian Pale Ale, Aprilhop IPA, Midas Touch, Palo Santo Marron, etc.
4. Firestone-Walker Brewing: As noted above, our favorite Cali. brewery. We’re also biased, living just a (Fire)stone’s throw away from their Paso Robles brewery. Nothing needs to be said about all-time greats like their Double Barrel Ale and Pale Ale, but don’t sleep on harder-to-find brews like the Parabola, 805, UDBA, Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA and Merlin Oatmeal Stout. If these brews are pouring, be sure to get one, because many of them are tough to find outside of the Central Coast (the 805 especially). Out of towners should be super Hyped on that.
5. Lagunitas: Like Deschutes, Lagunitas is a beer we have in our fridge as we speak. A 22 oz. of the Wilco Tango Foxtrot to be exact. I love Lagunitas because of their fine beers, but also because of their marketing approach. They have fun with their label, which all craft breweries should. The Wilco Tango Foxtrot, for example, which they refer to as the “WTF!” From their website, describing the Foxtrot: “This Beer was Supposed to Follow Up the 2009 Correction Ale with the Name ‘2010 Recovery Ale’ but it doesn't Look Like We'll be There Anytime Soon. Makes You Wonder.... WTF?” And I know our official photographer, A.Lambo, is a big fan of the Big L as well, so that’ll probably be our first stop on Saturday. Being a fledgling, start-up beer community and blog, we can’t afford to pay our photographers anything other than some fine beer. And if you ask me, that’s the best job in the world. Lagunitas batches we’re Hyped on include Hop Stoopid Ale, Lagunitas (Sucks) Holiday Ale Brown Shugga’ Substitute (again, classic copywriting) and their fine IPA.
6. Left Coast Brewing: If there’s one thing we love as much as fishing (now you know why we’re Hyped on beers with fish on the label and breweries named after rivers, see: Deschutes), it’s surfing. Surfing and beer? Is there anything better? Besides fishing and beer? Probably not. One more reason to love Left Coast Brewing, and their awesome line of craft beers brewed in a surf mecca like San Clemente, Calif. And it’s more about brewing beer and soaking up the San Clemente sun down at Left Coast. The brewery actually stands for something, like protecting the environment and the coastal destinations us fisherman and surfers love more than anything. Which is why their Trestles IPA is one of our cherished 22s. Stoked on the Left Coast representin’ at Beer Fest.
7. New Belgium: Right up there with Dogfish Head, New Belgium is one of our favorite, fun breweries located outside of the Golden State. Maybe it’s because they brew with that West Coast state of mind: Eco-friendly. Socially conscious. Not afraid to push the envelope. Their popularity has made them more mainstream than a lot of the breweries on this list, but they haven’t sold out and remain true to core beliefs even as they find their way onto more and more shelves across the country. Some of our favorites – aside from the obvious Fat Tire Amber Ale – include the 1554 Black Ale, Snow Day Winter Ale and Belgo Belgian Style IPA.
8. Port Brewing: Again, surfing and beer, gotta love it. The next best thing to the Central Coast, is San Diego and its surf and turf, and craft beer scene. Right down the road from Left Coast and San Clemente is San Marcos’ Port Brewing. And, well, you guessed it, their Wipeout IPA is one of our favorites.
9. Sierra Nevada Brewing: Bow down to the king of the craft beer movement. Sierra Nevada is the Don because it’s been doing this a long as anyone. And, Sierra Nevada is one of our favorite destinations in all of the land, so the fact that those mountains are on their labels is enough to make us have a brew crush on the boys from Chico. Glad they’re making the trip down to SLO Town. You already know what they brew: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, the first craft beer all of us should try. But, for those of you who are well familiar with THE pale, we present to you great sidekicks such as their Autumn Brown Ale, Ruthless Rye IPA, Torpedo Extra IPA, Hefeweizen, Summerfest and Porter.
10. Stone Brewing: We’ll stop glowing about San Diego surf culture and its second-to-none craft brewery scene … OK, we won’t. Stone Brewing is bad ass. Their Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale is in our fridge, ready to be popped as I write this. Then there’s their barley wine style ale, Stone Old Guardian, Levitation Ale and Arrogant Bastard Ale. That’s an epic craft beer grand slam, and we’re just getting started.
Can’t wait to see what Stone Brewing and the rest of the folks above have in store on the pour this weekend.
OK, we know we left off a lot of awesome breweries here, particularly some local brews that we take for granted. For more information on those great beers, visit californiafestivalofbeers.com. And be sure to share your favorites in the comments below, and we’ll hype their brews this weekend.
Other beers you'd like:
- California Festival of Beers Returns to San Luis Obispo
- Bay Area Craft Beer Festival on Tap
- CRAFT BEER WEEK: Eureka Burger’s Sour Beer Fest
- 80 Acre Hoppy Wheat Beer: Boulevard Brewing Company to Launch Wheat Beer this Summer
- Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week on Tap