Ah, Ventura County Beer Week, the event that takes Ventura by storm once a year and brings with it joy, compassion for your fellow man (or woman) and a slew of beer-centric events that would bring tears to the eyes of even the most stoic beer drinker. The week-long program culminates with the California Beer Festival, but in this edition we’ll be discussing the events prior to the big day.

On Sunday, Sept. 14, California Beer Week officially kicks off at Spencer Makenzie’s Fish Co. with a NorCal vs. SoCal beer competition offering a few rarities to the city —like Stone Brewing Co.’s Stone Arbalest, a Belgian-style ale aged in bourbon barrels (SoCal) and Sierra Nevada’s Southern Hemisphere Harvest (NorCal), a fresh hopped pale ale. Presumably drinkers will vote on which pairs better with the restaurant’s specialties. Also on tap will be Lost Abbey, Bear Republic, Smog City and a few more.

On Monday, Winchester’s Grill and Saloon will feature a Firestone Walker tap takeover with this year’s iteration of the Velvet Merkin, an oatmeal stout aged in bourbon barrels plus the recently released Oaktoberfest. Tuesday at Grapes & Hops, those who quaff wine will pit their favorite vino against a few select beers.

Of particular interest to those of us who split time between Surf Brewery in Ventura and Carpinteria’s Island Brewery is Watermark’s so-called Turf Wars Beer Pairing. A four-course dinner served alongside eight beers — four from each brewery — will determine the king of the county (though technically Island is in Santa Barbara). At $50 a person, one should expect some big beers and an equally impressive feast.

Barrelhouse 101’s Rare and Limited Craft Beer Party promises to be a not-to-be-missed kind of ordeal, featuring over a dozen rare and one-off beers on tap including Almanac’s Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine, Port Brewing’s bourbon barrel aged Santa’s Little Helper and numerous offerings from The Bruery. A “special bottle selection” will keep you on your toes as well (fans of Firestone will want to keep a keen eye on the list). For the full slate of offerings, visit Barrelhouse’s Facebook page.

Finally, Friday’s Brew with a View event hosted by The Tavern will pair five breweries — Surf Brewery, Anacapa, Island Brewery, Poseidon and The Lab — with five local restaurants, all leading up to Saturday, the day of the festival itself.

Stay tuned for a review of the California Beer Festival, and if you’d like more information about any of these events, visit www.venturacountybeerweek.com.


Chris O’Neal is going to be floating through Ventura for the next week and a half. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @agentoneal.