Brooks on Beer: Festival Season

Posted for our west coast readers- Prof. Goodales

Jay R. Brooks for the Bay Area News Group and


As the sunny California weather kicks into high gear, so too does festival season. Between the suds celebrations, brew fests and even a beer circus, there’s a craft beer festival nearly every weekend through the beginning of summer.

Here’s just a sampling:

The second weekend in May features a pair of beer festivals, starting with Sacramento’s fifth annual Raley Field Brewfest, which takes place at the ballpark where the A’s Triple-A team, the River Cats, plays. The May 13 festival is a benefit for the Northern California Brewers Guild, so you’re helping the very breweries whose beer you’re tasting. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door. For more information, visit and click on the event calendar.

On May 14, the Boonville Beer Festival will fill the Mendocino Fairgrounds for the 15th straight year. It’s a bit of a haul, but many people make a weekend of it and camp next door to the festival grounds. It’s a beautiful setting in a venue that boasts at least four separate tasting areas. There will also be music, food and crafts. Tickets are $40 in advance ($50 at the door). Visit for all the details.

Then on May 22, Petaluma’s Lagunitas Brewery will transform itself into a full-fledged circus for the third year in a row. Expect trapeze and classic circus acts, as well as snake charmers, contortionists, sword swallowers and, we’re told, “general mayhem.” Tickets are $40 and the fun begins at noon. Visit for details.

Need more ideas for May? The Petaluma Chili Cook-Off and Beer Tasting is May 7, Sacramento’s West Coast Brew Fest is May 21, and you can celebrate Fresno’s Sudz in the City on May 28. Beer lovers across the country will celebrate American Craft Beer Week May 16-22. Get the lowdown at

June fests

One of my favorite festivals of the year is Santa Rosa’s Beerfest because it focuses as much on the food as the suds provided by 40 breweries. Beer lovers have dubbed it “the good one,” largely because of that foodie emphasis and the opportunity to try so many food and beer pairings. Tickets for the June 4 event, which runs 1-5 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, are $40 in advance, $45 at the door. For details, visit

There are two great beer festivals to choose from June 11. Head over to San Francisco’s Fort Mason between 2 and 5 p.m. for the second Bay Area Beer Fest, which features imported as well as domestic brews, including beers not often seen at festivals. General admission is $40. Visit for more details.

Farther south, the Monterey Beer Festival reigns at the fairgrounds from 12:30 to 5 p.m. The surroundings are beautiful, and more than 80 breweries, including imports and microbreweries, will be pouring. General admission is $35, but a $55 VIP ticket gets you in at 11:30 a.m. plus a few added perks. Visit for details.

More? The Davis BeerFest is June 4, the Truckee Optimist Beer Festival June 11, Sonoma’s Bear Flag Microbrew Fest June 12, and Placerville’s Bell Tower Brewfest is June 25.

And still more

If you’re thinking you could fill your summer calendar with nothing but beer festivals, you’re probably right. But you won’t want to miss Marin Brewing Co.’s 11th annual Breastfest, a philanthropic beer festival that runs from 5-9 p.m. July 2. The brewery moved the festivities from Larkspur to bigger quarters at Fort Mason last year, turning it into a much grander affair. Over 40 breweries will fill the festival pavilion, along with live music, food and a raffle to raise money for the Charlotte Maxwell Clinic, which helps low-income women being treated for cancer. Tickets are all-inclusive: $45 in advance, $50 at the door. Details can be found at

Plus: The Santa Cruz Hop N’ Barley Festival is slated for July 2 in Scotts Valley, and Aptos’ California Beer Festival is July 16.

The Great Beer & Cheese-Off

Today is the last day to join our cheese-and-beer pairing challenge! Visit for details. I have a copy of Maureen Ogle’s book “Ambitious Brew” for each of the best pairing suggestions, and Cypress Grove, the Humboldt County cheese maker, has sweetened the pot for the best goat cheese pairing: an insulated tote filled with a selection of its cheeses, including Midnight Moon, Truffle Tremor, Purple Haze and Herbs de Humboldt.

Contact Jay R. Brooks at Read more by Brooks at

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