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Untappd is bringing beer festivals back to San Diego

What to expect when drinking events return from an 18-month hiatus

At Petco Park in October, beer rating app Untappd plans to stage a beer festival — San Diego's first in well over a year.
At Petco Park in October, beer rating app Untappd plans to stage a beer festival — San Diego's first in well over a year.

Tickets are now on sale for a new downtown San Diego beer festival.

Untappd Beer Festival

This wouldn't have raised an eyebrow two years ago. It would have been unthinkable this time last year. But this year, as the first festival on the 2021 calendar? The news that smartphone beer rating app Untappd has chosen San Diego to stage its Untappd Beer Festival suggests beer fans could be in for a return to normal.

Well, in some ways normal. Based on current guidance, we aren't planning for masks to be a requirement, says Talia Spera, vice president of festivals and live events for Untappd's parent company, Next Glass. If any attendees feel safer wearing one, though, they of course welcome to do so.

Spera says the fest will follow whatever local mask guidance is in place by October and will take steps to minimize transmission risks in the meantime. Spera notes that brewery tasting booths will be spaced farther apart than we're used to, and the festival will be spread out into four different sessions, taking place over three days: October 1-3, at Petco Park. (While the Padres finish their regular season in San Francisco).

She points to the expertise of the team coordinating covid-safe events at Padres home stadium as one of the reasons Untapped selected San Diego as the location for what may be the brand's only festival this year. But it's more fun to talk about the other reasons.

It's the Craft Beer Capital of the U.S., to begin with, Spera says with a laugh, then adds that San Diego is a very Untappd town. It's one of the top cities for engagement within the Untapped app.

The app lets users check in whenever they try a new beer. They may add a star rating, enter flavor notes, and upload photos of the beer in the glass. Over the course of 2020, Untappd says nearly 650,000 beers were rated within San Diego.

Though Untappd has mastered user engagement, its event experience is shallow. Its only previous attempt, a 2019 festival in Charlotte, North Carolina, experienced issues with faulty drinking vessels and inclement weather. However, since then Untappd invested in adding a dedicated events staff, including Spera.

Next Glass acquired online beer magazine Hop Culture, and another online beer rating platform, Beer Advocate, which have produced more than 90 beer festivals between them. All of the events staff that was with BeerAdvocate came over, Spera says. The majority of the 70 breweries scheduled to pour beer at the festival will represent San Diego and the state of California, but with the help of data gathered from the app, an emphasis will be placed on bringing highly rated out of state breweries local beer fans don't have access to every day.

Early announced breweries include Drekker Brewing Co. out of Fargo, North Dakota, and the Houston, Texas brewpub Ingenious Brewing Company. Local breweries to sign on include Alesmith Brewing and Mikellar Brewing.

Which brings us to the other aspect of the new normal for beer festivals: the craft beer reckoning with sexual harassment. Several of the anonymous stories recounting beer industry harassment shared over Instagram this month took place at beer festivals. Spera says she's read through a large number of them, and that the team producing the festival is making the safety of female workers a point of emphasis in the event's safety and security action plan.

General admission for three-hour, unlimited tastings cost $65; 4.5 hour VIP session tickets go for $150.

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At Petco Park in October, beer rating app Untappd plans to stage a beer festival — San Diego's first in well over a year.
At Petco Park in October, beer rating app Untappd plans to stage a beer festival — San Diego's first in well over a year.

Tickets are now on sale for a new downtown San Diego beer festival.

Untappd Beer Festival

This wouldn't have raised an eyebrow two years ago. It would have been unthinkable this time last year. But this year, as the first festival on the 2021 calendar? The news that smartphone beer rating app Untappd has chosen San Diego to stage its Untappd Beer Festival suggests beer fans could be in for a return to normal.

Well, in some ways normal. Based on current guidance, we aren't planning for masks to be a requirement, says Talia Spera, vice president of festivals and live events for Untappd's parent company, Next Glass. If any attendees feel safer wearing one, though, they of course welcome to do so.

Spera says the fest will follow whatever local mask guidance is in place by October and will take steps to minimize transmission risks in the meantime. Spera notes that brewery tasting booths will be spaced farther apart than we're used to, and the festival will be spread out into four different sessions, taking place over three days: October 1-3, at Petco Park. (While the Padres finish their regular season in San Francisco).

She points to the expertise of the team coordinating covid-safe events at Padres home stadium as one of the reasons Untapped selected San Diego as the location for what may be the brand's only festival this year. But it's more fun to talk about the other reasons.

It's the Craft Beer Capital of the U.S., to begin with, Spera says with a laugh, then adds that San Diego is a very Untappd town. It's one of the top cities for engagement within the Untapped app.

The app lets users check in whenever they try a new beer. They may add a star rating, enter flavor notes, and upload photos of the beer in the glass. Over the course of 2020, Untappd says nearly 650,000 beers were rated within San Diego.

Though Untappd has mastered user engagement, its event experience is shallow. Its only previous attempt, a 2019 festival in Charlotte, North Carolina, experienced issues with faulty drinking vessels and inclement weather. However, since then Untappd invested in adding a dedicated events staff, including Spera.

Next Glass acquired online beer magazine Hop Culture, and another online beer rating platform, Beer Advocate, which have produced more than 90 beer festivals between them. All of the events staff that was with BeerAdvocate came over, Spera says. The majority of the 70 breweries scheduled to pour beer at the festival will represent San Diego and the state of California, but with the help of data gathered from the app, an emphasis will be placed on bringing highly rated out of state breweries local beer fans don't have access to every day.

Early announced breweries include Drekker Brewing Co. out of Fargo, North Dakota, and the Houston, Texas brewpub Ingenious Brewing Company. Local breweries to sign on include Alesmith Brewing and Mikellar Brewing.

Which brings us to the other aspect of the new normal for beer festivals: the craft beer reckoning with sexual harassment. Several of the anonymous stories recounting beer industry harassment shared over Instagram this month took place at beer festivals. Spera says she's read through a large number of them, and that the team producing the festival is making the safety of female workers a point of emphasis in the event's safety and security action plan.

General admission for three-hour, unlimited tastings cost $65; 4.5 hour VIP session tickets go for $150.

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