Saturday started with threatening skies and nasty winds making a mess of the streets of Santa Rosa. As I drove across town leaves and branches were strewn across streets as rain drops fell sporadically. With weathermen warning of a torrential downpour unlike anything seen since the last time they predicted torrential downpour, the Face to Face Beer Fest was prepared and moved half of the booths inside the Wells Fargo Center and the rest under the large event tent many have become familiar with at this event.
Upon arriving at the festival (and setting up my own booth) I was pleasantly surprised at how easily everyone fit into the space. For a last minute change, everything seemed to fit naturally. Breweries lined the halls of the Wells Fargo Center corridor and if you were brave enough to make the short walk, the tent provided and equally dry and inviting space.
The beer selection available at Beerfest was exceptional as usual. Many breweries brought seasonals and one-offs not readily available to all. My favorite of the day was a bit of a surprise, as I hadn’t heard of its release and the brewery continues to impress me over the last two years: Widmer’s Citra Blonde Summer Brew. Light and refreshing, Widmer followed their impressive X-114 IPA (the codename for Citra hops before being commercially released) with another hoppy, yet not strikingly bitter beer.
Saying the Widmer Summer Brew was my favorite is not to say it was the “best” beer available at the festival. Russian River’s selection of Pliny, Damnation and Supplication was impressive as was North Coast’s full lineup of beer. Speakeasy showed off their newest double red Betrayal Ale and Drake’s was pouring their summer release Expedition Ale. To start listing off beer would be unfair though, as so many breweries poured delicious beer and the selection proved to be more than any one person could fully attempt to try.
What’s great about Beerfest isn’t just the beer, but the commitment to quality food to be served alongside the beer. Standouts in my mind were Hopmonk’s sausage plate, Andouille Corn Dogs from Rocker Oysterfellers and my guilty pleasure, Rubio’s Fish Tacos. I heard a lot of talk about Sebastopol’s Smokehouse BBQ and last year’ Best Food winner Mullsberry Market.
In the end, the rain only affected the first hour of the event, never turning into a downpour and finally allowing the sun to break through at 3 pm, 2 hours into the festival.
Enjoy the photos from the event and, please, share your experiences at the festival. What was your favorite beer or food? Be sure to “Like” the Face to Face Beerfest on Facebook for a chance to win tickets to next year’s festival and provide input on what changes you would hope to see.