Nothing says summer in Southern California like unlimited beer outside on a sunny day. If you’re new to craft beer, attending a festival is the perfect way to access many different breweries and styles in one place. Plus food to keep you grounded and music to keep you occupied.
Every festival we’ve featured offers something different — the San Diego Beer Fest and the Craft Beer Heaven bookend the summer and provide a great fest for beginners. Bluesapalooza and Sea of Suds will satisfy destination-seekers. And Blue Palms and the Stone Brewing anniversary festivals offer the best selection for serious beer drinkers. See the best of California this summer, through its beer.
San Diego Beer Fest (San Diego)
Saturday, July 12
If you’ve never been to a beer festival, the San Diego Beer Fest at Liberty Station is the perfect first step. The ticket price is affordable and the beer is unlimited. Because it is in San Diego, the selection of pours is excellent and the event serves as a great one-stop approach to getting to know our neighboring beer destination. Food trucks and live music will keep you busy between sips.
Tickets: $40 general admission 3-6 p.m.; $50 early admission 2-6 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 3
Bluesapalooza is definitely not a Southern California beer festival. However, it’s so well-attended by local breweries (and their owners and brewers) that an irresistible number of L.A. beer is represented. Look for Eagle Rock, El Segundo, Kinetic, The LAB, Ladyface, Monkish and Three Weavers breweries from L.A. County. Saturday-only tickets are sold-out, but it’s not like you were going to make the drive and only go for one day.
Tickets: $100 2-day pass includes Friday night Rock ‘n’ Brews Kickoff Concert and Saturday concerts and unlimited beer tasting; $100 2-day pass includes Saturday concerts and unlimited beer tasting, plus a Sunday hangover concert.
Surf ‘n’ Suds (Carpinteria)
Saturday, Aug. 9
Sample unlimited tasters from 55+ breweries just steps from the ocean at Surf ‘n’ Suds on Carpinteria State Beach. Amtrak’s convenient adjacent station makes this one of the most accessible fests in Southern California, dropping you off and safely escorting your happy, sunburnt, drunk ass home. Last year was surprisingly well-attended by brewers and the laidback, surf’s-up atmosphere was a pleasant escape from L.A.
Tickets: $50 general admission, 12:30-5 p.m.; $65 VIP, 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
L.A. Craft Beer Crawl (Downtown)
Saturday, Aug. 9
There’s no better way to tour downtown L.A. then from bar to bar, with a tasting glass in hand. Presented by 213 Nightlife and The Beer Chicks, the 5th annual L.A. Craft Beer Crawl will feature over 100 beers at eight different bars. Compacted to one day (so you can still hit Blue Palms on Sunday), this local favorite offers general and early admission tickets. See last year’s crawl here.
Tickets: $49 general admission presale (3-7 p.m.); $69 early admission presale (1-7 p.m.).
Blue Palms 6th Anniversary (Hollywood)
Sunday, Aug. 10
The selection at the Blue Palms Anniversary party only gets better with age. This year look forward to Russian River Brewing’s 2012 Supplication and 2013 vintages of Consecration and Temptation, along with barrel-aged goodies from Allagash, Firestone Walker and Lost Abbey. This is a day for true L.A. beer geeks. Check-in starts at 11 a.m.
Tickets: $65 includes twenty 3-oz. tasters, plus unlimited “core beer” pours, 12-5 p.m.
Stone 18th Anniversary Celebration and International Beer Festival (San Marcos)
Friday and Saturday, Aug. 15 and 16
Stone Brewing’s epic annual festival expands every year and All Access passes have already sold out. It’s not too late to snag a ticket to the first or second Saturday session. Even better, rub elbows, throw back tasters and smoke cigars with your beer-makers at the Friday Night Brewers Reception.
Tickets: $80 Friday Night Reception includes unlimited tastings, cigar lounge and gourmet fare 6-9 p.m.; $45 Saturday Session A (11 a.m.-2 p.m.) or Session B (3-6 p.m.) includes fifteen 3-oz. samples on over 100 beers (we could never choose so few).
Sea of Suds: A Beer Tasting Experience (Santa Barbara)
Saturday, Aug. 16
Explore the relationship between beer, water and the ocean at Sea of Suds, hosted by the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. Water conservation and sustainability are on the minds of every California brewer after a relentlessly dry year, so this boutique festival’s focus is particularly relevant. Ticket includes unlimited tasting pours of nautically-inspired beers, commemorative glass, food pairings and museum access.
Tickets: $50 Maritime Museum members; $65 non-members; 5-8 p.m.
Craft Beer Heaven, California Beer Festival (Ventura)
Saturday, Sept. 20
Closing out Ventura Craft Beer Week, Craft Beer Heaven is the final summer beer festival. Featuring 130+ beers, food trucks and live music, it’s the perfect excuse to head north and spend the day in downtown Ventura.
Tickets: $50 includes 3-oz. tasting glass and unlimited samples, 12:30-4:30 p.m.