Beer lovers flock to Battle of the Brews at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds

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Beer lovers converged on Saturday to sample products from some 40 breweries, taste dishes prepared by eight different teams of ardent barbecue experts, hear two live bands and pick up goodies at Santa Rosa’s Battle of the Brews.

Where else can a person pick up a can of Lagunitas beer, a button from Martinez’s Del Cielo Brewing Co., and a color booklet titled “The Recess Guide to Re-Entering Society,” published by Recess, an outfit in upstate New York that produces hemp-infused non-alcoholic sparkling water?

Returning after a two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic, Battle of the Brews returned to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds with an event that was smaller by design than previous years. When last held in 2019, the festival attracted 2,500 beer lovers. This year was deliberately limited to 1,000.

“We were planning this event in January while we were still struggling with COVID rules,” said Jared Goble, president of Santa Rosa’s Active 20-30 #50, which founded the annual beer festival in 1996. .

The event would have celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2020, before being postponed twice, so Saturday’s festival marked the turning point as organizers released dozens of 2-ounce tasting glasses that featured a bold black 25.

This festival has always been democratic about its beers, covering everything from Coors Light to local favorites. This year, beer producers included 3 Disciples, Crooked Goat and Fogbelt, among others.

“It’s the first beer event I’ve been to,” said master brewer Hendrik Verspecht of the relatively new Tuver Brewery and Tasting Cafe in Windsor. “We sold our first keg last July, had our draft beer in October and released our first bottle in January.”

There were also newbies among the fans. Trang, 29, from Santa Rosa, who wouldn’t share her last name, showed up with her friend Jordan Carney, 27, from Windsor.

“I forced her to come,” Trang said. “She almost didn’t.” Carney, enjoying a beer from Fogbelt, said she was glad she came after all.

Don Carlson, 48, of Santa Rosa, has been showing up at Battle of the Brews for nearly 20 years.

“It’s good beer and a good atmosphere,” he says. “I live nearby so I can walk here which makes it even better. It changes every year. I like that it’s partly outdoors this year.

Not everyone at the event had amateur status. Ryan Lindecker, 51, has been a popular bartender in Sonoma County for 27 years and attended Saturday on behalf of his new base, Wolf House Brewing in Cloverdale.

“I’m here to promote the product,” he said, “and it’s just great to see people’s faces again.” The crowd was maskless on Saturday.

There was even a local celebrity in the crowd, morning radio personality Brent Farris of KZST-FM, whose son Daniel served as co-chair, along with Ben Kerkstetter, of this year’s festival.

“I’m just glad this event is funding so many charities,” the elder Farris said.

Past fundraising recipients include the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County, Windsor Educational Foundation, Challenger Little League, Chop’s Teen Club, North Bay Science Challenge and Social Advocates for Youth.

You can reach editor Dan Taylor at [email protected] or 707-521-5243. On Twitter @danarts.

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