San Diego beer festival pours in Liberty Station

Beer festival promoter Dan Silberstein hasn’t seen a city quite like San Diego.

Silberstein, who helms the Los Angeles-based promotions company Drink Eat Play, was surprised eight years ago when he started the San Diego Brew Festival, which brings 70 national and national brands to Liberty Station from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, January 11.

San Diego has a fraternal vibe percolating among the many brands within the city limits.

“Because there are so many breweries, you find people who worked in one brewery moving on to another,” Silberstein says. “And because there’s so much intermingling between breweries, there’s a lot of collaboration, they’re all very familiar with each other and willing to help.

“There are Facebook groups where people will ask for certain hops or assistance on cleaning out their fermenters or anything along those lines. There’s more assistance and community in San Diego than in most other cities that we’ve done events at.”

The key to Silberstein’s success is his penchant for throwing events for beer lovers and nondrinkers alike. There’s a full list of food trucks, live music and lawn games from which to choose.

“I haven’t been to many other beer festivals, but I think, one, we make it very entertaining,” Silberstein says. “We have entertainment; we have a ’90s cover band, we have lawn games, we have 10 varied food trucks, we put an emphasis on having a variety of breweries.”

He believes the city’s transparency in handing out permits has helped them grow over the years, which has been key to Brew Fest’s continued success.

Brew Fest also is indebted to the brewers. The hosts purchase all the beer that’s dispensed. That approach is different from other beer festivals, as Silberstein’s team doesn’t rely on donations from breweries, which allows them to offer more types of beer to patrons.

Silberstein launched a nationwide network of beer festivals 12 years ago, when he and a few friends started the Los Angeles Beer Festival. Their idea caught on immediately, allowing them to expand to Orange County and San Diego in the coming years, providing top-notch suds and fun for attendees.

Silberstein says the company’s decision to launch the Brew Fest in San Diego stemmed from the rise in popularity of pillars in the craft community, like Stone, Coronado and Ballast Point.

The 70-plus participants include local and national brewers, kombucha and hard cider companies. Silberstein requires the companies send someone to educate attendees on the beer they’ve chosen to pour.

“We make it accessible to everyone, from ciders to kombuchas to regional, national breweries,” Silberstein says. “Anyone who has someone who can pour and educate attendees on what they’re drinking, we’ll save a spot for them.”

A special space

Silberstein is particularly excited about hosting the 2020 event at Liberty Station, because of its accessibility.

“We also wanted a space where people could make a day out of it,” Silberstein says. “So, people can go to the lot to watch a movie; they can go to public market and grab some food after.

“But people can spend their whole day after the beer fest enjoying Liberty Station, and I think that’s one of the things that makes it a cool venue for a beer festival.”

Silberstein doesn’t come from a brewing background, launching the festival in Los Angeles on a hunch more than a decade ago.

Fast-forward all these years, and Silberstein and his company are still going strong, thanks, according to him, to the support they’ve received from brewers and beer lovers.

“I’m not with a brewery. I’ve never brewed beer, but I just have the experience of producing these events,” Silberstein says. “And I think the breweries appreciate someone coming in and supporting them by buying beer.”

An event to remember 

Silberstein’s main message to anyone interested in attending this year’s Brew Fest on January 11 is simple. He believes those who make the trek to the space will leave the venue having enjoyed their experience.

“Because we’re purchasing the beer and not making a donation, we can ask them for the seasonal or the more unique beers, rather than just their core lineup that you can get anytime that you go to the brewery,” Silberstein says.

“So, for the foodie there’s something to do. For the person who doesn’t drink much, there’s a band and lawn games. And then, for someone who just wants to make a day out of it, they can go to the beer festival, have dinner and then go out from there. So, there’s a little bit of everything for someone.”

San Diego Brew Fest

Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, January 11

Liberty Station, 2850 Womble Road, Suite 110-312