Eight beers enter, one beer leaves. This is the age of the battle, where if it’s a thing, you can pit it against another thing. In this case, a beer battle to determine the best beer ahead of the annual Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food and Brew Festival this Sunday to be deemed the “Best in Fest” Brew Winner.

Bright and early on a Sunday morning in early May, four judges chosen by Curtis “HopHeadSaid” Taylor gathered at Barrelhouse 101 to weigh in on the entries provided by eight contestants, most of whom were local to Ventura County. At 9 a.m., paired with donuts from Rolling Pin in Camarillo, every beer was a little kiss good morning.

The winners, as determined by judges Joby Yobe, Barrelhouse 101 owner, “The Beer Goddess” Erin Peters, Wine Warehouse beer specialist Lisa Wickenden and beer educator Zachary Rosen were Institution Ale Company’s barley wine “Delusions of Grandeur” in third, Santa Barbara’s Pure Order Brewing Company’s “Santa Barbara Pale Ale” in second and, taking the top spot, LAB Brewing Company’s barrel-aged oatmeal stout.

Roger Bott, head brewmaster at LAB, will be awarded at the festival and his oatmeal stout will be served at the Yummies Top Chef Dinner tomorrow night.

Maybe 9 a.m. isn’t your waking hour, so grab a book and hunker down in the evening with a pint of “Dissonance,” a golden stout on nitrogen tap at Institution Ale Co. in Camarillo.

Dissonance returns after going quickly at its debut in January. Brewed with Beacon coffee, vanilla beans and cacao nibs, the stout may look like a pale quaffer but you’d do good to treat it with respect.

Also in the works at Institution: more space. Camarillo’s Planning Commission approved the brewery’s expansion plans and construction will continue shortly. Hopefully this will mean more space in the somewhat cozy tasting room.

Institution may have come in third at the Best in Fest, but it’s No. 1 in my book with the many experimental and classic releases as of late. Get it while it lasts.


Chris O’Neal is ever expanding and breaking chairs. Follow him on Instagram @agentoneal