San Diego Festival of Beers - 1998


The fall weather mostly cooperated for the 4th annual San Diego Festival of Beers in downtown San Diego, California on September 25th. The sun was beginning to set behind the skyscrapers as the crowd gathered around 6 p.m. at Columbia and B Street for the six hour event. Things began slowly as a single contract security guard inspected every inch of everyone photo ID at the main gate beginning at 6 p.m. No riots broke out and most people were admitted without too much anxiety. About four dozen breweries from around Southern California covered the sidewalks for two blocks along B Street. A chain-link fence created the legal perimeter with beer and adequate restrooms on the inside and empty office buildings outside. The stage set up at the intersection offered plenty of room to dance and, inspired by the high-energy sounds of the band Night Shift, that's just what happened. Given that most people were still wearing shorts as the cool evening winds continued to blow, the dancing could have been for self preservation. The $15 admission covered a very sturdy 10 ounce souvenir mug and six tickets, each good for a four ounce sample. With 120 beers available it was good that more tasting tickets could be purchased for $5. Until about 9 p.m. when the downtown crowd of cigar smokers came by the tasting was relaxed and many brewers were on hand to talk. The two dozen port-a-poties were intelligently placed down one street and proved adequate in number through most of the event. The beers were excellent and the crowd loud but friendly. Most brews were on tap with some distributors' bottled beers on hand. No beer police were present and no uniforms were to be seen. A couple of standouts included the Stuft Pizza IPA and the Belmont Pale Ale. Other items to spend your money on included wurst, quesadillas, wine, cider, t-shirts and posters.

Sponsored by the San Diego Professionals Against Cancer, SDPAC, this Friday night event is their fourth annual and proves that it is possible to put on a beer event in San Diego that pleases customers and participating brewers alike. Unlike the ill-fated California Beer Festival event held at the San Diego Sports Arena in April of 1995, everyone here seemed glad they came and are likely to return again next year. Organizers Candace Brown and Rachael Cano deserve a lot of credit for pulling this off and making it so enjoyable for everyone in attendance. The mix of quality beers, food and music is a natural draw for downtown San Diego and a perfect reason for people to come out and support fund raising efforts for cancer research by the American Cancer Society. The continued success of this event shows that it is still possible in America today to host a small-scale beer tasting event as your organization's fund raiser. Let's hope to see more of these across the country.

Photos by Tom Ciccateri

San Diego Festival of Beers
San Diego Professionals Against Cancer (SDPAC)
Candace Brown / Rachael Cano
Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - September, 1998

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