Monterey Beer Festival

On June 19, 2010, in Brew Pubs, Craft Beer, Travel, by Mark Ranes
Brenda's Deschutes Brewing Tattoo

Brenda's Deschutes Brewing Tattoo

Brenda and I wanted to try a new beer festival this year and I’ve kind of looked at the Monterey Beer Festival for the last couple of years.  We bought tickets about six weeks before the event and they arrived just a couple days after ordering them on the web.  That was a good sign!  We booked a room at our favorite place to stay in Monterey, the Merritt House Inn, and we were good to go.  We tried to find friends to join us, who didn’t already have something going on the weekend of June 5-6, but it was a busy time for all.  That was a bad sign!

Saturday morning we jumped in the Audi TT Roadster and headed for the coast. The weather was unseasonably warm for Monterey when we arrived.  We checked into the Inn, and then drove over to the Monterey Fairgrounds.  We arrived about an hour after the festival started and were amazed to see a line to get in that was probably 2000-3000 people deep!  We followed a car into the actual fairgrounds and ended up parking in the arena – with only twenty other cars:)  We went to the end of the line, only to hear someone in front of us mention that there was another line at the main entrance that was much shorter, so we headed up to that area.

Shitty Cup

Cheap Shitty Tasting Cup!

After another fifteen minute wait, with an ID check and bag pat-down, we received out wrist bands and (incredibly cheap shitty little (no offense intended to the Solo cup folks – I use your stuff all the time.  Offense intended for the Monterey Beer Festival folks for using such an unclassy  tasting container for this event!)) plastic Solo taster cups – and were told not to lose them.  That was a bad sign!

Once we actually hit the beer fest area, the first thing we noticed was the sea of humanity, 94.3% of who were between 21 to 26 years of age.  By 1:45 pm, many were obviously well on their way to a serious hangover.  Another bad sign!  We smooshed our way through the crowd to the center corral of tables, only to discover that all of the beer in that area was being served in a frantic, non-stop manner, by MBF folks wearing “Volunteer” t-shirts – not folks from the various breweries.  There were cases of unrefrigerated beer stacked behind the poures, who were serving out of the open cases/six-pack holders that had had ice poured on top of the open cases.  Again, that was a bad sign!

MBF sea of humanity!

A couple of the breweries’ beers I specifically went to taste, most notably Goose Island, were nowhere to be found.  These best of the bunch were ales from Ninkasi Brewing and Deshutes Brewing. Additionally, I finally tasted Sierrra Nevada’s Tumbler Brown Ale, which was good, but not as great as  I had hoped. We worked our way around the booths, waited in looooooong lines, and had probably six or seven tasters of beer.  By 3:30, many of the booths were out of beer (Sierra Nevada was closing up by this time) and it just further lengthened the remaining lines as the fest goers flocked to the booths that were still pouring beer.

Peter B's IPA - Yum!

Peter B's IPA - Yum!

We left about 3:30 and headed back to Peter B’s Brewery, in the Portola Plaza for a quiet ale.  I had a couple of their awesome IPAs and we noticed that several other more vintage MBF attendees (not in the 21-26 year age bracket:) also stopped by to an ale.  After relaxing on Peter B’s patio, we headed over to the wharf for a quiet dinner, where I enjoyed a nice porter with my mussels and sand dabs.  It was a great way to cap off a somewhat disappointing day at the Monterey Beer Festival.

Sand Dabs for Dinner!

Sand Dabs for Dinner!

All in all, we probably won’t be going back to the Monterey Beer Festival.  The overly young crowd, focused on quantity, not quality, the long lines, the fact that many beer offerings were gone long before the end of the event, and the fact that the MBF folks seem to have over-sold the attendance, will probably keep us for going back in future years.  This is more of an event for those folks looking to get sloshed on mass quantities of beer, not those who are looking to taste several quality ales.  I’m sure there are thousands of people who really love this annual event, but it’s just not what I look for in a beer festival.  My BrewBuddy Stephen has mentioned the different nature of beer festivals in the past and I wasn’t really sure what he was talking about, but there is a definite difference between a Beer Festival and a Brewer’s Festival.  I’ll be attending the latter type of event in the future.

There were positives, though.  The food was excellent.  We had a couple wonderful sausage sandwiches.  There were several high quality breweries there – though I think the quality of their ales was lost on most of the attendees.  Finally, it was good to see that MoreBeer had a booth (it was good to chat very briefly with Jesse) serving some homebrew – that was well received by the attendees.  And hey, at the end of the day, I was in Monterey with my sweetie:)

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