San Diego Beer Week begins November 6, kicking off what is actually a ten-day celebration of craft beer. While the county-wide festival is organized by the San Diego Brewer's Guild, most of the events associated it are operated independently, produced by local bars, breweries, and restaurants. These include beer pairing dinners, tasting parties, special beer releases, and tap takeover.
And there are a lot of them, too many to accurately count. Brewer's Guild president Kevin Hopkins estimates there are more than 500 and speculates the actual number may be more than 600. "We provide the framework, we establish the dates," he says, "but really this is driven by the retailers and the breweries."
According to a study by the San Diego Tourism Marketing District, the first Beer Week featured about 300 events. That 2009 event was originally slated for August, but the Marketing District requested it be moved to November, "in order to encourage a greater economic impact at a time when travel and tourism tend to be nominal in San Diego."
Judging by the economic impact, that move has paid off. In 2009, one thousand hotel room nights were booked around the event, netting $115,500. "We had a few dozen breweries then," Hopkins points out, "there are 115 licensed breweries operating now." Last year, Beer Week was credited with bringing enough out of town visitors to book 6,900 nights.
Three official Guild events bookend the long week, beginning with Guild Fest VIP Brewer Takeover on November 6, and Brewer's Guild Festival on November 7. Both take place at Port Pavilion at Broadway Pier and feature beer and food tastings from 84 participating breweries. A Beer Garden event conclude the festival on Sunday, November 15. That outdoor event one takes place at the The Lodge at Torrey Pines, overlooking the Torrey Pines golf course and the Pacific Ocean.
The Brewers Guild also participates in a Battle of the Guilds event held at Toronado beer bar in North Park on Friday, November 13. The friendly competition pits the San Diego Brewer's Guild with corresponding guilds from Los Angeles and San Francisco. Each guild selects 15 representative beers from their respective city's breweries, and beer fans in attendance vote for their favorites. At the end of the night, a golden keg trophy is awarded to the winning guild.
This is the second year the competition has taken place, though it happens three times per year — the first being San Francisco Beer Week in February, the second being Los Angeles Beer Week in June. So far, the home team has always won
A schedule of daily Beer Week events may be found at the Brewers Guild web site, though it's far from complete. Beer fans should consult the web sties and social media accounts of their favorite breweries, taprooms and beer-centric restaurants to find special tastings in their areas. Many events feature special release beers, collaborations, elected food pairings, and even meet-the-brewer opportunities.