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Local brew festival embraces quality over quantity

We live in fast times and everybody knows it; from the fast food that’s slowly killing us and speed dating, to the instant gratification the younger generations seek and even the older ones in their pursuit of eternal youth and instant “beauty,” via nips and tucks. If all this, “fast,” has you worn down, maybe it’s time to slow your roll and head over to the 14th Annual West Coast Brew Festival.

Temperatures approached 100 in 2010 forcing many men to shed their shirts whether they liked it or not.

The West Coast Brew Festival may be the largest such festival in Northern California outside of San Francisco, but its humble roots, born and grew from 350 attendees some 14 years ago, have slowly evolved into a must-attend experience event for any serious beer lover in Northern California. On May 18th , the 14th annual West Coast Brew Festival is expected to sell out, again, drawing some 3,000 beer drinkers to Miller Park on the breez, slow banks of the Sacramento River.

The West Coast Brew Festival is part of a larger, national movement to embrace and support microbreweries that produce craft brews as opposed to low-quality, rushed and low-variety beer. As the name implies, the festival features craft brews from Washington, Oregon and California, hence, West Coast, which also possesses the connotation of being laid-back, especially when compared to our Eastern seaboard brothers and sisters.

Local cider manufacturer, Two Rivers, has become the most popular outfit with the ladies.

Prior to the festival, event organizers host a sanctioned, double-blind, commercial craft completion. Certified beer judges evaluate the brews and when the tally is counted, the top micros receive kudos and ribbons covering 18 categories from Light Lagers to Strong Ales and Ciders. Awards are given out to the top three in each category. Festival goers should keep their eyes open for booths sporting a big red, white or blue ribbon.

A few local breweries fared very well, including two first place ribbons for New Helvetia’s, Rough and Ready (Amber Ale), as well as their stout, Homeland, and a second place ribbon for the English Pale Ale. Other regional breweries taking ribbons include Tahoe City’s, American Pale Ale, River City’s India Pale Ale, American River’s American Brown Ale, San Francisco’s 21st Amendment for Black IPA, Loomis Basin’s Robust Porter and Old Hangtown, (Placerville), placed its Mineshaft in the American Stout division.

Sac Brew is always a crowd favorite and this nabbed several ribbons in the double blind taste test.

This event is so well attended that two years ago in 2011, Raley Field cancelled and rescheduled their brew fest after finding out, by yours truly, that the West Coast was scheduled on the same day as theirs. This year, Raley Field hosts their brew fest June 7. You will not sprawl out with your friends and sit on grass, by the river, with great food and live rock ‘n; roll or find free bike security. You’ll be under the upper deck on a cement slab, but I digress.

Miller Park is home to the Sacramento Marina and is well shaded by giant trees and as Sacramento heads into summer, locals know 100 degree May days are common making the Delta Breeze one of this towns best friends.
Attendees of the 14th Annual West Coast Brew Festival are encouraged to purchase their tickets online today before 10pm PDT to guarantee admittance as well as save $5 off the door price of $40. Designated drivers’ tickets are $5 and come with two soda vouchers. The event is permitted for 3,000 attendees and is expected to sell out as it has for the past 7 years in a row; early arrival is highly recommended. Ice chests are not allowed but there will be ample on-site food vendors serving Mexican, BBQ and hot dogs. Local fourth generation cigar company, Casillas Cigar, will have their signature Cuban-seed, hand rolled cigars.

The line starts forming before noon and by 1pm, it’s a good 300 feet long and 3 wide.

The festival officially starts at high noon with a VIP tasting for those forking out about one hundred bucks. For the rest of the brew lovers, gates open at 1pm and the event officially shuts down at 5pm; much of the great beer will be gone by 4pm and the blue ribbon winners will most likely be empty by 3:30.

Well behaved dogs are welcome but must be leashed. The Sacramento Police Department will have uniformed officers on-site. There is no parking nearby but people as far out as East Sacrament and South Land Park commonly cruise bicycles in groups. Last year the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates came out to help secure bicycles with their mobile locker room, however this year, it appears that that they are scheduled to work at the Davis Double Century. But you just never know; beer and bicycle folk are some of the most persevering people, but regardless, if you ride your bike, bring your lock otherwise, car-people will have a good mile to walk – just follow the traffic control police and countless thousands of others as they meander up the levee to the 14th Annual West Coast Brew Festival.
Miller Park is located about one mile south of Old Sacramento and rests West of Front Street off the Western dead end of Broadway. Once you get there, you’ll be forced to slow down and you’ll probably like it.

7 YEARS OF PHOTOS and information about how a tokenless brewfest works..

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