As an avid home brewer and self-proclaimed beer connoisseur, I jumped at the chance to serve beer at the Los Angeles county fair in ’08 for the California Fermentation Society, an organization of which I am a member. The previous year, one of the employees at the local home brew supply shared with me the finer points of this exciting duty. Obviously, since you are serving beer, you can drink as much as you want. That year Trumer Pils won the competition. This beer, that is now made in the U.S., Berkeley, I believe, is much better than Budweiser as far as pilsners go, but that is not saying much. I enjoyed a beer from Telegraph Brewing (Santa Barbara), Moylan’s (Novato), Marin Brewing Company, Boston Brewing, the Bruery (Placentia), Humboldt Brewing Company, and many others. The other great thing is the tips. I earned about thirty dollars in less than four hours. I didn’t spend my whole time serving because I took breaks, and I didn’t give away free beer, which one other guy did and that allotted him eighty dollars in the same amount of time. At the end of the night, I took home a T-shirt that reads “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,” Benjamin Franklin. I was happy to have the shirt because I had given the same shirt to my mother recently. All in all, it was a very enjoyable night. Aside from the money and free beer, it is fun to be a bar tender. You get to assert a sort of power when you are giving people drinks. As a beer lover, I am truly grateful when a tasty beer sits in front of me ready to drink.
This year was different. The California Fermentation Society was dropped from covering the Beer Garden at The LA County Fair. The fair officials figured they could hire someone to run it and they could keep the left over profits. I wouldn’t blame them if the whole Beer Garden wasn’t the idea of the society to begin with. The society approached the fair almost ten years ago and proposed that they do this beer tasting. I am not sure if the competition itself was the idea of the CFS, but the tasting certainly was. The wine tasting garden is the result of the same phenomenon. Someone else set it up, and then the fair came in and scooped up the profits. The problem with this is that the customer suffers. The people serving will no longer be knowledgeable about beer the same way that the home brewers were. The prices are all guaranteed to go up. The worst part is that this was the only fundraising event that the CFS runs all year long.
I doubt they will go back to the way it used to be. Nothing does. Don’t skip the beer tasting if you go to the fair. I am sure it is worth the few extra dollars to taste some good beer amongst the money pit that is any fair. Last year there was great beers to be drunk. My advice: skip the fair. Take the kid’s to Beach Wood BBQ (Seal Beach) or Father’s Office, then go to Disneyland.