Like the rest of the world, the beer industry was not immune to Covid-19’s long-term disruption, and a return to pre-pandemic levels of enthusiasm is still more dream than reality. But as the self-described Capital of Craft, San Diego’s craft beer scene and the San Diego Brewers Guild (SDBG) have hopes of reigniting passion through events like June’s San Diego Beer Weekend and San Diego Beer Week (SDBW), which kicks off this Friday, November 3.
The 15th annual SDBW may be back, but SDBG Executive Director Erik Fowler says people should expect some changes. “As this market has matured, it’s time to re-evaluate what’s worked and what hasn’t,” he says.
Fowler took over the directorship of the Guild only two months ago, and says that he’s taking the opportunity early in his tenure to shake things up in order to keep San Diego craft beer not just exciting, but a leader of the industry.
Some of the big shakeups to this year’s SDBW are what events are not happening—namely, Guild Fest and The Beer Garden at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, which are typically the kickoff and closing events for the 10-day extravaganza. Don’t panic quite yet—Guild Fest will take place, but not until February 4, 2024, and not as part of SDBW. (No word on whether to expect Torrey Pines in the future, but it’s fair to guess the relatively highfalutin’ event proved to be a harder sell in these cash-strapped, inflation-laden days, even for the toniest tipplers.)
Fowler assuming the director position so late in the year, coupled with limited resources, are what he cites as the main reasons for Guild Fest’s delay (and The Beer Garden’s possible demise). But he’s quick to assure the extra time to evaluate and finesse will make the rescheduled Guild Fest worth the wait.
“I would rather wait, push it back, and do it right as opposed to going through the motions and running things the way they have been just for the sake of it and not executing at a high level,” he explains.
But, Fowler stresses, there are plenty of new events to check out during Beer Week as well as old favorites, like the Capital of Craft IPA collaboration beer and the countywide virtual kick off toast this Friday at 7:30 pm at taprooms across San Diego.
This year also marks the first “Guild on the Streets” events, where he and other Guild members will pop up at different beer bars and breweries throughout the county to shake hands, answer questions, and make in-person connections throughout Beer Week.
Guild on the Streets Events
Friday, November 3 – Eppig Brewing, Vista (3:30-7:30 pm)
Saturday, November 4 – Pure Project, North Park (12-4 pm)
Monday, November 6 – AleTales Taproom, East Village (5-8 pm)
Tuesday, November 7 – 3 Punk Ales, Chula Vista (6-9 pm)
Wednesday, November 8 – Deft Brewing, Bay Park (5-8 pm)
Thursday, November 9 – O’Brien’s Pub, Kearney Mesa (6-9 pm)
Saturday, November 11 – Embolden Brewing Anniversary Party, Miramar (1-4 pm)
Other events worth checking out include Mission Brewing’s Beer Dinner on Monday, November 6 from 6-8 pm at their newest location in Kensington; the Kern River Brewing and Alvarado Street Brewing Takeover at O’Brien’s Pub on Wednesday, November 8 from 5 – 10 pm; AleSmith Brewing’s annual Speedway Grand Prix on November 10 and 11; and Second Chance Beer Company’s pet-friendly Pawliday Market on Sunday, November 12 from noon to 4 pm.
SDBW might look a little different this year, but Fowler believes that patience will pay off and (hopefully) bring in some fresh faces. “I really want to make a push for our industry… and really be inclusive to new people and new ideas, and get people who weren’t part of that Cool Kids Club 10 years ago to feel welcome and excited,” he says. Making craft beer feel welcoming to everyone? I’ll drink to that.
Check out all the SDBW events running from November 3-12 at sdbeer.com.