On January 29, the area’s first big craft beer festival will descend on downtown Berkeley. The Brewing Network’s Winter Brews Festival is a chance for beer experts and beginners alike to gather in a central East Bay location to sample California beers made with love. The festival is sponsored by local beer radio company The Brewing Network and will raise funds for two local non-profits, the Coral Reef Alliance and BAD RAP (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls).
Tickets are now available at Eventbrite for $35, and if tickets remain on the day of the festival, they’ll be $40 at the gate. Attendees can have as many beer samples as they’d like — no tasting tickets will be issued — but still won’t try everything due to the sheer number of unique brews that will be available. The most recent list of confirmed participants boasts 31 breweries, all hand-chosen by people who know more about beer than most.
Participating breweries as of January 18:
21st Amendment Brewery, Ale Industries, Anchor Brewing, Bear Republic Brewery, Bison Brewing, Black Diamond Brewing, Blue Frog Grog & Grill, The Bruery, Drake’s Brewing, Dying Vines Brewing, E.J. Phair Brewing Company, Gordon Biersch, Firehouse Grill & Brewery, Firestone Walker Brewery, Iron Springs Pub & Brewery, Jack’s Brewing Co., Lagunitas Brewing Company, Lost Coast Brewery, Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery, Marin Brewing Co., Moonlight Brewing, Moylan’s Brewery, Rogue Ales, Russian River Brewing Company, Schooner’s Grille and Brewery, Shmaltz Brewing Company, Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, Stone Brewing Co., Sudwerk, Triple Rock Brewery, Uncommon Brewers.
Plenty of participating breweries will have brewers or staff available to answer questions and talk shop. Festival volunteers are being drawn largely from local homebrew clubs, so chances are a knowledgeable person is working each booth even if it’s not a professional brewer. If all goes well there may also be free homebrew samples for attendees.
Seasoned beer festival attendees know food is an important part of surviving and enjoying fest day. Sean Paxton The Homebrew Chef will be offering sausages during the fest, and the Berkeley Farmer’s Market will have its usual Saturday vendors adjacent to the park on Center Street from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There are many options in downtown Berkeley for a meal after the festival as well.
Parking and traffic in downtown Berkeley are problematic, but public transit is plentiful. The park is located less than two blocks from the downtown Berkeley BART station and the area is also served by many AC Transit bus lines.
Even if you’re not driving, use caution at this or any festival offering unlimited sampling. Ask for short pours, don’t focus exclusively on high-alcohol beers, and “when in doubt, pour it out.” This is a chance to show our Berkeley neighbors that beer lovers are fun-loving connoisseurs, not badly-behaved drunks.
Details: The Brewing Network’s Winter Brews Festival, Saturday, January 29, noon to 4pm. Martin Luther King Civic Center Park, 2152 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley. Downtown Berkeley BART. $35 in advance, $40 at the door.
[Disclosure: The author of this article is volunteering for the festival.]