Surf ‘n’ Suds Beer Festival debuted as Carpinteria’s first craft beer festival of its kind to a euphoric, sweaty crowd. Sponsored by DEEP Surf Magazine, the sold-out event pulled craft beer lovers from Santa Barbara to San Diego. For many festival goers it was an opportunity to talk to brewers and sales reps, putting a face to the beer they are so accustomed to ordering. For industry attendees, it was a homecoming.
Amtrak was the transportation mode of choice, with the train spitting you out a few short blocks from the festival and selling Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale for all those aboard looking to pre-game. Train, taxis, and designated drivers delivered their passengers to a sunny Saturday in August. The festival on Linden Field at Carpinteria State Beach beheld sweeping views of the Santa Ynez Mountains to the north while the Pacific Ocean enveloped sites to the south, reminding attendees of the festival’s union of great beer and great surfing access.
Carpinteria is a small coastal community in the southeast corner of Santa Barbara County. Predictably, many of its inhabitants are beach folk who enjoy top surf spots dotting the county coastline, a short drive away. As San Diego residents are well aware, the craft beer industry has found a reliable bedfellow in the surf industry and the two are becoming more codependent in Southern California. This festival masterfully united the Michael Jacksons of the world with the Johnny Utahs (or the Bodhis, if you prefer).
When I questioned those behind the jockey boxes as to why they would make the long drive for many to a relatively small and unestablished festival, the answer, more often than not, was that is was simply about “coming home.” Such was the case for Josh Landan, President of Saint Archer Brewing Co. in San Diego, who grew up in neighboring Ventura. Likewise Evan Weinberg, owner and brewer of Cismontane in Rancho Santa Margarita, saw it as a social occasion to visit and stay with friends from UCSB.
There were plenty of quality flagship beers poured — Anderson Valley’s Boont Amber, Figueroa Mountain’s Hoppy Poppy IPA, Firestone Walker’s DBA, and Green Flash’s West Coast IPA. But heads turned toward the unusual — French Sip from Angel City (beef bouillon just doesn’t belong in beer), Anderson Valley’s beautifully drinkable Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout, and Cismontane’s La Crema. Island Brewing brought their game with double the usual selection of taps — granted, the brewery was visible from the festival grounds so they only had to tote kegs downhill 100 yards or so.
Festivals of this size — with nearly 1,500 attendees — serve a unique purpose offering generally underserved beer communities the chance to commingle, network, and learn more about the beer they’re drinking. In Carpinteria, according to one resident, “Island Brewing Company is pretty much the only place to find craft beer.” You could feel enough momentum and interest from the crowd to pressure local retailers into seizing the opportunity to carry the best beer accessible to them.