The Ventura County Fair is somewhat of a drought for those of us looking for a high-quality beer, as I went over in last year’s column, wherein the best beer I could find was from the Firestone Walker booth. Nothing has changed this year beerwise (except for the unfortunate withdrawal of Goose Island from the Bud Light cart). So we look elsewhere for our fix.
The Bounty of the County awards, which take place every year at the fair, usually entail a wine and food pairing, but this year a separate category was added for beer. Institution Ale Co., Surf Brewery and the soon-to-debut Poseidon Brewing Co. all paired their beers with food from The Kitchen, Barrelhouse 101 and Saloon BBQ, respectively.
Institution Ale’s Restraint brown ale, with several awards under its belt already, took home not only the people’s choice award for best brew but also the best pairing alongside The Kitchen’s macaroni and cheese stuffed peppers. But there was a slightly overlooked competitor in the midst that deserves a fair (no pun intended) double-taste: Poseidon’s grapefruit-infused India Pale Ale.
An explosion of citrusy, hoppy deliciousness, the grapefruit threw this beer into overdrive on the finish. For a brewery that has seemingly come out of nowhere, Poseidon is on my must-visit list. Its grand opening is Monday, Aug. 11.
Tucked behind Wild Bill’s Old-Fashioned Soda Pop Co. (which we’ll get to in a moment), is Herzog winery’s wine garden. For $7.50 a glass, you can get a good selection of its goods. This little alcove is off the beaten path though not too far removed. In other words, while the kids are stuck on the Ferris wheel, you can sneak away to have a cheeky glass or two or 12. I’m not judging.
But far be it from me to say that the best deal at the fair is Wild Bills Old-Fashioned Soda Pop Co.’s bottomless soda mug. A gigantic tin mug for $12 gets you free refills all day on flavors like Buckin’ Birch Beer and Old-Fashioned Vanilla. On our last visit, we refilled the mug at least nine times. If you bring it back on another day, it’s only $8 for unlimited refills.
Not only are they great on their own, but something tells me that these sodas would make great mixers. I’m not suggesting anything here, though. That would be cheating.
Chris O’Neal floated through the fair on clouds made of Willamette Valley Pie Co.’s strawberry rhubarb pie. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @agentoneal.