I had an amazing time at the 8th annual Long Beach Taste of Brews Fest held at Shoreline Park near Rainbow Lighthouse and the Aquarium of the Pacific. It was my first time at this yearly event but after the fun my posse and I had, I will be back in 2019!
The whole day was an adventure and planning had started weeks before. Heather and Paul found a deal online where we would arrive at the TofB Fest on the Big Red Bus, spend 3 hours (which doesn’t seem like a long time, right?) filling and emptying our little 4 ounce commemorative tasting cups, and then get shuttled back to the meeting point afterwards. No drunk driving necessary!
We took an Uber from Huntington Beach up PCH to Legends on 2nd Street in Long Beach. And there it was: The Big Red Bus!
The tour operator had tacos for the hungry revelers but nothing vegetarian. No problem! There was a Pizza Press next door so we got a cheese pizza.
But we thought we had more time than we did because when I was just taking my third bite, I started to notice people from Legends walking past us to the BRB. Not wanting to be left behind, we got a box to go and scuttled on outta there. Maybe we scuttled a little too fast because not everyone was ready to go and we ended up waiting for a few people who, like us, never got the memo that we were getting seated on the bus.
But our expeditious butts got lucky in that we were able to get seating on the upper level of the bus before it filled up. Heather and Paul didn’t score seats upstairs for the trip there but I’m sure they had a great time. It literally took me forever to get up those stairs with my damn oxygen tank trailing behind. However, I’m glad I sat up top. It was breath taking to see the city from that level.
Austin commented on how strange it was to be drinking on a moving vehicle and we all agreed that it was a trip, indeed.
Oh, did I forget to mention the beer that The Big Red Bus served to us on the way there and home? Silly me. There were coolers on top and on bottom with ice cold cans of beer ready for us to drink. Yay! Loving this day already!
I don’t remember this guy’s name but he was so cool. He gave a little intro speech about how we shouldn’t stand up and stick our body parts outside of the bus and all those warnings they are legally required to tell you. He also served us cold beers when we ran out of the first round. And he didn’t judge when the Old Man requested a third beer. My only complaint about that was the type of beer. I had to drink Coors. And Bud Light. ‘Nuff said, ok? But free beer is free beer so my complaint is totally invalid.
There was a mess that was supposedly several lines waiting to enter the beer fest when we got off the Big Red Bus. That’s when the burning started. My skin started slowly toasting and roasting in the hot sun. The Old Man let me borrow his hat to keep some shade over me and that was my saving grace for the day.
The VIP’s had gotten in at noon and us losers had to wait until 1:00 before we could start poisoning our livers. So by the time we got through the outside line, the fest inside was crowded AF. There was not one brewery set up that didn’t have at least 5 to 15 people in line and random groups just milled around filling in the gaps between lines. It was pure insanity!
The first brewery we hit was the Anderson Valley Brewing Company from Boonville, CA. They seem to be a regular on the fest circuit and I’ve always enjoyed their offerings. They are always with Fat Tire Brewery. The taste we sampled was sweet and malty and tasted like it would go good with a nice smokey barbeque. I can’t recall what the name of it was (as is the case with more breweries as the day goes on) but it was all right.
We visited Belmont Brewing Company next. They are a local brewery from the Belmont Shores section of Long Beach. They had a pale ale that was so light in color but also very thick with yeast. It wasn’t too cloudy though so it got a thumbs up from me and the Old Man.
If I thought Anderson Valley wasn’t a local, then the Common Sense Brewing people are from way out of town. All the way from Bordentown, NJ they had two beers to showcase. There was a pale ale but I always go with something like that so I decided to try the Jasmine Rice Saison. It had a mild and smooth orange flavor that was really delicious. Perfect for a hot day at the shore. And they had stickers!
Refuge Brewery is from Temecula, CA. They were offering a Blood Orange Wit, which is their flagship brew, and a Sand Surfer Unfiltered IPA. I was going to go with the Wit but the guy behind the taps noticed the Old Man’s sunglasses. They were a promo from a local brewery called Pizza Port in San Clemente, CA that we got at another brew fest we attended. He pointed out that the Sand Surfer was a collaboration with Pizza Port so we tried that one. It was so fresh tasting and pretty cloudy. “Unfiltered” is just another way of saying “Lazy Brewer” or the brighter “New England IPA.” Haha.
We hit up the Beachwood Brewery next because it had the shortest line of all the tents surrounding us. Another Long Beach brewery on the scene that was pouring the LBC IPA. It was a West Coast style with plenty of hoppyness. I loved it and I think it was my favorite brew of the whole day. Who remembers this? “Beachwood 45789, you can call me up and have a date any old time.” Thanks to this brewery, I got that song stuck in my head the rest of the day.
By now I had to break the golden seal. But I was at the halfway point in the park where the port-a-potties were down the hill and more brewery tents were up the hill. Damn that weak bladder of mine! But I made it down and then halfway back up to catch my breath, and then the rest of the way uphill for more beer!
I saw Bootleggers Brewery. They come from Fullerton, CA and their line was long but I had to try something from them anyway. There was a 5.3% pale ale and a 7% Thai Tea IPA. Guess which one I chose? The 7%er, of course! It was sweet and hoppy at the same time, really satisfying! Bootleggers gave out coasters. I grabbed 3 or 4 of them, not like I don’t already have a billion coasters in my storage and house already. If it’s free it’s free. You can’t leave something sitting there that’s free, right?
My old favorite, hailing from Chico, CA, was Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. I had seen them, and scored some stickers, from Sierra Nevada at the last beer fest I went to and a familiar Pale Ale just hit the spot. It’s only 5%, average for a beer but kind of on the light side for my tastes. But I credit Sierra Nevada with giving me my love of hops. The Old Man and I had several occasions to visit the brewery and restaurant up in Chico and during those periods, I went from a lager-drinking lightweight to a Pale Ale pounder. I used to not be able to handle the taste of Sierra Nevada and now I drink it for breakfast.
There were no short lines up at the top. The Old Man and I hit up one brewery and waited in line for 10 skin-sizzling moments only to find out that they were out just as we were going to be served next. Hrmph. It was only 2:11 in the afternoon and they were tapped out.
2:11 pm….interesting. By this point I was 3 sheets to the wind and still getting in line for more beer. I suspected I couldn’t handle much more and I dreaded that there was still almost 2 hours left to go. I couldn’t comprehend how I had got so messed up in only an hour and eleven minutes. Jeez.
Sean and I were sitting it out in the shade and the rest of our group walked by. We agreed that it was medicating time and took up residence away from the throngs on the rocks right at the land’s end. Picture perfect! I needed that break and I started feeling better.
There’s a group shot with the elegant Queen Mary in the background and an equally elegant Carnival cruise ship. Welcome to Long Beach!
The rest of the breweries we hit up in the last hour became a blur in my mind. I know we went to Rock Bottom Brewery out of Long Beach, CA and I tried a Citra Swell IPL (an India Pale Lager). It was just as citrusy as the name implies. They were also serving a Dreams of Gold Pale Ale.
I got beer and stickers from 10 Mile Brewing Company. They had 2 taps but by the time I got up to the front of the line they were serving out of pitchers. They are from the Signal Hill neighborhood of Long Beach.
Hop Saint Brewing Company out of Torrance, CA was one of the breweries I remember, thanks to the magic of digital photography. They were pouring 2 different brews but were out of the 6.3% Simcoe Pale Ale, which is the one I would’ve wanted to drink. Sean and I both settled for the 5.3% Vienna Lager which was not bad at all. Here’s my reaction to the Vienna Lager: It’s my “O” face!
I remember going to Hog Canyon Brewing Company where, again, I scored a tasty beer and a HC/BC sticker. I had been seeing the stickers on a few people throughout the day and I was finally glad to be a part of it all. Hog Canyon doesn’t have a website so I can’t give you anymore info other than I enjoyed my little taster.
We were eventually making our way to the end of the park where the BRB was picking us up at 4:00 pm. On the way, my group stopped at a brewery I can’t remember the name of. But I remember watching from the sidelines as a tender from the one brewery hit on my married sister-in-law. He told her to finish her sample and he would get her a taste from the tent next door, which was SoCal local Golden Road Brewery. She downed that 4 ouncer and, sure enough, that guy took her cup and filled it from one of Golden Road’s taps. So little Miss Heather got an extra shot without having to wait in an extra line. Nice move and nice way to end the day!
Guinness had a booth there and everybody got their cups filled except for me. I was pretty much done for a little while. The Old Man ran off to fill up his cup one last time from the mystery brewery. It was an amber ale that he found to be malty.
Finally 4:00 came. I was never so happy to be done with a beer fest. I had definitely gotten my money’s worth of samples and I had a great day but I was beat and burned everywhere my skin was exposed.
I took a seat on the bottom level of the Big Red Bus and grabbed a Bud Light…the only beer left in the coolers unfortunately. Well, they had Tecate Light but fuck that.
Heather and Paul sat upstairs on the way back and I was glad they got their chance. There was no way I could’ve made it up the stairs in my drunk and debilitated state.
The Old Man spent some time upstairs and I was left alone to listen to this drunk asshole tell a woman he had just met all about his fucked up life. It was great drama. The hipsters across from me got sick of it though. They leaned forward and one of them said, “Tell me about yourself.” I was like, “Wha?” and the guy goes “It would be so much better than this…” and he waves his hand to indicate the drunk asshole and his victim du jour. So we ended up exchanging niceties but I didn’t feel like socializing.
I was able to finish my beer before we disembarked at Legends but I was absolutely done for the day. Everyone wanted to eat so we got a table at Legends and ordered every vegetarian appetizer/starter they had available. I myself had zucchini fries which were very good. But there was mac & cheese and tots going around the table, plus other food.
We stuffed ourselves and took an Uber back to HB. I ended up driving us home and we crashed when we got there. It was a fantastically fun day! I can’t wait until next year’s Taste of Brews Fest. Hopefully we can get another ride on The Big Red Bus. If you’re looking for a unique way to get around the city, check out The BRB and for a mind-numbing beer experience, check out any one of the brew festivals that happen all over the place. When you’re so drunk you can’t stop smiling, you will thank me!