While escorting my daughter during trick-or-treating this year, I was struck by the unrelenting joy spilling out of her. Part of that mania was certainly driven by the imminent access to hundreds of high-fructose-corn-syrup-delivery vehicles, but there was something more to it. Maybe it was anticipation of the many absurd and macabre spectacles she was due to behold. Perhaps it was just the hysterical laughter she was sharing with her troupe of costumed spazzes. Whatever it was, one thing was clear: The night was for her, and she knew it.
I'm long past the age of feeling attached to re-appropriated pagan rituals, but every year around this time, San Diego Beer Week (SDBW) offers me a taste of that once-familiar holiday giddiness. The best part is, the more of Beer Week I indulge in, the less I'm capable of committing its events to long-term memory. Every year is as fresh and shiny as the first.
As wondrous as SDBW is, it was not magically bestowed upon us by a benevolent beer god on high. It's the lovechild of the San Diego Brewers Guild, a nonprofit mutual-benefit corporation seeking to promote San Diego as a beer destination with few rivals. Since 1997, the guild's been working to consolidate the humblebrags from our innumerable brew-slingers and amplify them for the world to hear.
Given the festival's run from Nov. 7 through 16, you might be reading this in the belly of the beast, within one of the many venues that SDBW has been celebrating since its inception. For the last five years, SDBW has snowballed in size and popularity, growing from 300 events in its inaugural year to an anticipated 600 this year. Similarly, the event's Twitter following has more than doubled to 12,000-plus just in the last three years. It's hard to tell if supply or demand is winning the battle, but they're both trying.
This year's SDBW is unique not only in the volume of events, but also in a slight shift in its philosophy. While plenty of non-San Diego beer has historically found its way into various SDBW Keep the Pint nights, 2014 marks the first invitation for neighboring guilds (Los Angeles and San Francisco) to participate and share their wares in the Meeting of the Guilds event. It either signals the emergence of a greater confederation of California brewing or a diabolical plot to silence our rivals in a Red Wedding-esque explosion of violence. Let's hope it's the former.
SDBW 2014 has not only scaled with our ever-surging brewery count; it's likewise broadened the variety of events it offers. This includes a stab at a world-record-size bottle-share, beer trolley tours and an almost disturbing volume of beer-brunch events. I'm not sure when the outlook on drinking before noon shifted from "degenerate" to "mandatory," but I'll take it.
If you've yet to visit sdbw.org and explore some events, capitalize while you can. SDBW may sound like an assembly of brew festivals, but it's so much more. As Tom Nickel, brewer, brewpub proprietor and O.G. guild member, shared, "There are so many good events that you can't go to everything. And that's part of the charm."