Craft Beer Summit festival gets dank in second year

I’ve been to beer festivals in such far-flung locations as Copenhagen, Tokyo and—ahem, scenic San Pedro, Calif. The California Craft Beer Summit’s festival on Capitol Mall, which just finished its second year, ranks up there with the very best.

That’s not because of the amount of “ticker” beers—special releases that fanatics want to tick off their life list—and certainly not the food—a sad and small selection of food trucks—but because of the sheer size and the laser focus on only California beers. Roughly 160 breweries participated, from Six Rivers Brewery in McKinleyville, which hugs the coast near Arcata, all the way down to the 11 breweries that represented San Diego.

At 3 p.m., I entered to the cheerful sounds of a small brass band and was issued a tiny, Karl Strauss-branded taster cup; this fest dispenses entirely with annoying tickets and takes the risky step of letting attendees have as many beers as they want. The entire Capitol Mall was shut down for blocks.

Brewery tents were organized by region, with Sac reserving pride of place by being closest to the entrance, then on to Northern California, midstate and Southern California tents residing closest to the Tower Bridge. Right away I saw that Mraz Brewing Co. of El Dorado Hills had the longest line; whether it was for one of its well-regarded barrel aged sours or their triple IPA of 10 percent ABV, I knew not. Instead, I headed for line-less Moonraker Brewing Co. in Auburn, which has gotten some good buzz. Though the Dank Plank forced me to say the loathed word “dank,” it was a lightly juicy, pleasant IPA, thin on the mouthfeel.

Some hoppy standouts included a vibrant and juicy Amalgamator IPA from Beachwood BBQ and Brewing in Long Beach and Orderville, a dank—there’s that word again—Mosaic hops bomb from burgeoning behemoth Modern Times.

Modern Times was also pouring its Fruitlands Gose, in this case adulterated with passion fruit and guava. The young man pouring had this take on the fruit trend: “Millenials have a different flavor profile, and fruit is the gateway. … A lot of them are wine and spirits drinkers moving into beer.” Or, people just like fruity, sweet shit.

By 6 p.m. I had sampled more than 20 beers, accidentally traipsed through a few cornhole games, quizzed a dude about his “Don’t Drink Beer, Tick The Brews” T-shirt (an obscure mash-up of a Run the Jewels reference and a cri de coeur from someone who was banned from Beer Advocate). Then, I blearily noted that the line for the french fry food truck looked to be about an hour long. Even the Raley’s food truck had a line at this point. Let that sink in.

The crowds bode well for the planning of a third annual summit and festival next year, since the somewhat sparse attendance in 2015 had me a bit worried it would be a one-off, but hopefully next year the food will be up to par with the world-class brews.