Beer fans flock to Battle of the Brews at Sonoma County Fairgrounds
Beer enthusiasts converged Saturday to sample the wares of some 40 breweries, taste the food made by eight different teams of ardent barbecue experts, hear two live bands and pick up freebies at Santa Rosa’s Battle of the Brews.
Where else can a person collect a Lagunitas beer can cover, a button from the Del Cielo Brewing Co. of Martinez and a full-color booklet titled “The Recess Guide to Re-Entering Society,” published by Recess, an outfit in upstate New York that produces nonalcoholic, hemp-infused sparkling water?
Back after a two-year hiatus prompted by the pandemic, Battle of the Brews returned to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds with an event that was smaller by design than in past years. When it was last held in 2019, the festival drew 2,500 beer lovers. This year was deliberately limited to 1,000.
“We were planning this event in January when we were still dealing with COVID rules,” said Jared Goble, president of the Active 20-30 #50 of Santa Rosa, which founded the annual beer festival in 1996.
The event would have celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2020, before it was postponed twice, so Saturday’s festival marked the milestone as organizers brought out scores of 2-ounce taster glasses that featured a bold, black 25.
This festival always has been democratic about its beers, covering everything from Coors Light to local favorites. This year, beer producers included 3 Disciples, Crooked Goat and Fogbelt, among others.
“This is the first beer event I’ve been to,” said brewmaster Hendrik Verspecht from the relatively new Cuver Brewery and Tasting Cafe in Windsor. “We sold our first keg last July, had our beer on tap in October and put out our first bottle in January.”
There were first-timers among the fans, too. Trang, 29, of Santa Rosa, who didn’t care to share her last name, showed up with her friend Jordan Carney, 27, of Windsor.
“I forced her to come,” Trang said. “She almost didn’t.” Carney, tasting a beer from Fogbelt, said she was glad she came along after all.
Don Carlson, 48, of Santa Rosa, has been showing up at Battle of the Brews for close to 20 years.
“It’s good beer and a good atmosphere,” he said. “I live close by so I can walk here, which makes it even better. It changes every year. I like the fact that it’s partly outside this year.”
Not everyone at the event had amateur status. Ryan Lindecker, 51, has been a popular bartender in Sonoma County for 27 years, and attended Saturday on behalf of his newest home base, Wolf House Brewing in Cloverdale.
“I’m out here promoting the product,” he said, “and it’s just great to see people’s faces again.” The crowd was mask-free Saturday.
There was even a local celebrity in the crowd, morning radio personality Brent Farris of KZST-FM, whose son Daniel served as co-chairman, with Ben Kerkstetter, of this year’s festival.
“I’m just glad that this event funds so many charities,” the elder Farris said.
Past beneficiaries of the fundraiser include the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County, Windsor Educational Foundation, Challenger Little League, Chop’s Teen Club, North Bay Science Challenge and Social Advocates for Youth.
You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at email@example.com or 707-521-5243. On Twitter @danarts.
Arts & Entertainment, The Press Democrat
Do you take fun seriously? I know I do. Tell me what you want to know about arts and entertainment in the North Bay to make the best use of your leisure time and money. As a longtime local arts journalist, I have learned where to look and who to ask.
UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy: