May 4 2011 03:39 PM

How Stone Brewing's Oakquinox is like Willy Wonka's chocolate factory

beer

I often shy away from reviewing beer events because I'm unsure of the utility it provides. If I pimp an event in advance that disappoints, my already sparse credibility vaporizes. If I share an exceptional experience at a recent festival, you now have all the encouragement you need to remember to attend it two weeks ago. However, with an annual event like Stone Brewing's Oakquinox, it's only responsible journalism to implant its name into your consciousness for the next time it pops up.

Stepping into the Oakquinox festival is like a child's first glimpse into Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. Simply substitute the frothy chocolate river for 120 delicious, barrel-aged beers and the Oompa-Loompas with friendly, unindentured beertenders. Regrettably few of the surfaces in the Bistro Gardens tasted of snozzberries, but no one fettered my exploration.

“Dr.” Bill Sysak, the Wonka to our collective Charlie Bucket, is the man behind the beer list and coordinating the festival. To his credit, the lines were generally fluid, there were plenty of escapes from the unforgiving Escondido sun and the variety of styles accommodated preferences of all stripes. “I can bring in the rarest beers in the world and that's what makes it a great event,” Sysak said.

Though I was disappointed at the hard ceiling of 15 samples per person, it's probably prudent given the high-octane nature of the beers. The limit forced everyone to be more strategic about his or her choices and likely cherish each selection a bit more. The companion policy of collecting all hacksaws at the door did its part to ensure no one took extreme measures to drunkenly harvest ticket bracelets from other patrons.

Sysak was quick to mention Stone would “definitely” be adding Oakquinox to the schedule for 2012, along with announcing a new festival for this year: The final Sunday of San Diego Beer Week 2011 will now include “Stone Paints it Black,” which will feature 120 imperial stouts, imperial porters and black IPAs.

Details on the hacksaw policy for that event are still pending.    

Write to ianc@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com.

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