T-Birds The Fabulous Thunderbirds.   Photo by mwvisual.com

If you pour it, they will come

The rise of the California Beer Fest

By Chris Jay 09/13/2012

You could make a good case that two things have come to define Ventura: outdoor events and beer.


With this summer’s crowded calendar of events — including Warped Tour, Aloha Beach Fest, Indie West Fest, Spencer Makenzie’s Block Party, the Ventura County Fair, the Local Rock Picnic, Roadshow Revival, the Ventura Hillsides Concert, Bombay Bar and Grill’s Beach Party, the Pride Festival and about a dozen others — Ventura’s ideal weather and location are no longer a best-kept secret, and next year should see even more action.


With rumors of the Surf Rodeo returning and the Botanical Garden concert series above City Hall looking good for 2013, it’s not inconceivable that on every single weekend next summer in Ventura there will be some type of outdoor event that features music.


As for beer’s popularity (and we’re not talking Budweiser and Miller here) all it takes is a visit to happy hour at the Anacapa Brewery, the Surf Brewery or downtown’s super-popular new watering hole, Barrelhouse 101, to realize Ventura takes its beer very seriously.


Of course, outdoor music and good beer go hand in hand, and as the California Beer Festival — which is back this weekend for its fourth year — has proved, if you pour it, they will come.


Event founder Vincenzo Giammanco, who moved to Ventura from Monterey to attend Brooks Institute almost 10 years ago, is an aspiring filmmaker who was laughed out of more than one meeting when he tried to score financing for his vision of a craft beer festival in downtown Ventura.


The tenacious Giammanco, whose inspiration for the event was simply “my love of good beer,” finally took matters into his own hands by taking out a loan to get the event off the ground. To everyone’s surprise, most of all Giammanco’s, the event sold out; and despite a crisis in the form of a Porta Potty shortage, it garnered an instant following, selling out the second year in advance and solving the potty issue as well.


Expanding the brand, last year Giammanco took the beer festival to additional cities; and in Ventura, which he considers the festival’s “home and mothership event,” he took another risk by adding a second day featuring a full-fledged blues festival.


While the California Beer Festival has clearly established itself, and is once again expected to sell out, it’s the second day blues festival, with a lineup that would rival any city’s blues festival, that should really have people buzzing.


The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Walter Trout, Chris Cain, Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers, Michael John and the Bottom Line and a top-shelf Stevie Ray Vaughn tribute will all be performing alongside barbecue and, of course, craft beer booths.


Giammanco, who considers himself more of a producer of events than a promoter, is as excited about the prospects of the blues festival as he was four years ago for the first beer festival.


“Although they’re obviously connected, it’s really a different event,” he explains.“The Blues Festival caters to families, and we’re encouraging them to come and enjoy the food and music as much as the beer. We really strived to put together a top-notch lineup of blues artists. Everyone we went after to perform, we landed. I think this could turn into one of the premier blues festivals in the state.”


While it remains to be seen if good blues will ultimately be as popular as good booze, one thing is for sure, the California Beer Festival is a perfect pour for Ventura.

The California Beer Festival takes place Saturday, Sept. 15, and Sunday, Sept.16, at Mission Park in downtown Ventura. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit  www.californiabeerfestival.com.

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