Discovery is the spice of life for beer lovers, and the creative minds behind the Surf ’n’ Suds Beer Festivals haven’t let “unprecedented times” keep the ales and lagers from flowing. Thanks to their new @Home Festivals, hopheads can still embark on a journey up and down the Golden State, as told by craft breweries.
“The number one question we get for our @Home Fests is, ‘What exactly is a virtual beer fest?’” says organizer Andres Nuño. “It’s basically a fun way to be able to still enjoy craft beer from all over California, but from the comfort of your own home.”
To provide that experience, Nuño and his team at En Fuego Events ship a “beer box” to attendees a few days before the event. Arriving on doorsteps like something out of a boozy Santa’s sack, each box contains a carefully curated 14-pack of selections from breweries across the state. A generous amount of stickers, bottle openers, and other sponsor swag are also thrown in, along with a souvenir tasting glass. The event itself is a three-hour live webcast, featuring walk-through tastings of each beer, live music, and brewer Q&As.
Since debuting this new “virtual” format in June, beer lovers have responded with enthusiasm: All five events have sold out, with the webcasts exceeding 20,000 views. “We have had ticket buyers from all over California and have a group of around 70 ticket buyers that have done every single one,” Nuño proudly explained.
I convinced a fellow brew fan to join me in my backyard for the October 24 event — it wasn’t a tough sell — and while we both lamented how much we miss the nuances of an in-person event, the virtual experience still delivered the hits. We uncovered new favorites — Humdinger in Arroyo Grande and Wolf Creek in Valencia were particularly eye-opening — and spent the afternoon bickering over hops, beer styles, and brewing at large. Draining the last can was strangely bittersweet, as although we were saddened to see the day close, we at least knew we wouldn’t have to fight any crowds for a ride-share home.
Future events include a virtual festival for the Central Coast Brewers Guild on November 21, noon-3 p.m., and then another official @Home Fest on December 19, which will be a holiday edition and feature breweries from Oregon, Arizona, and Nevada, as well.
“Craft beer is a passion of mine, and that’s why I absolutely love the job I have,” said Nuño. In a normal year, in addition to the Surf ’n’ Suds fests in Carpinteria and Ventura, he also manages a half dozen other festivals, including fundraisers such as the Buckles ’n’ Brews Invitational and Santa Barbara Beer Festival.
The virtual festival allows Nuño to keep that support flowing, even during a pandemic. “By being able to use a virtual platform to promote craft breweries in our area, and all over California,” he explained, “we are able to help out the guys who constantly donate to our beer festivals throughout the year,” said Nuño
See surfbeerfest.com for tickets.
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