The Best Beers We Had At the Summit Beer Festival 2019

California’s Craft Beer Summit is a massive event, both for those in the California craft beer industry and for craft beer aficionados. Those in the industry get to partake in a two-day expo with dozens of vendors hawking products and notable speakers from across the country doling out wisdom on how to take your brewery to the next level. For aficionados? The Craft Beer Summit ends with the largest beer festival in the state, with unlimited tastings from 170 breweries, delicacies from several food trucks, and camaraderie from thousands of fellow craft beer lovers in attendance looking to sample old classics and new favorites.

We made it a point to attend both the expo and the festival this year– and while we missed out on Day 1 of the expo due to sudden unforeseen travel, Day 2 still had plenty for even non-industry folks to enjoy. Brewers’ guilds from across California were pouring samples, guest speakers like David Walker from Firestone Walker and Kim Jordan from New Belgium were on hand dropping knowledge, and the American Cornhole Association was on hand with the latest developments in cornhole technologies. (No, this is not a joke. Double Chuck mini tabletop cornhole could be the way of the future.)

Still, you’re likely not reading this article to find out which malt distributors were on hand at the expo or which label makers had the most impressive art display– you’re here because you want to know which beers impressed at the fest. We sampled nearly 90 beers over the course of the five hours, a testament to our rigorous liver training regime. Obviously with 170 breweries pouring, we weren’t remotely able to get to everything– and some of our most eagerly anticipated breweries like Moksa Brewing and The Rare Barrel were tapped out before we arrived to collect samples. Still, to showcase as many of the great breweries we interacted with as possible, we’ve chosen to give love to twenty of the best beers we had at the Summit– along with a couple of bonuses!– to highlight some of the great craft beer the state of California has to offer. If your favorite from Saturday isn’t listed here, odds are we either didn’t get to them or they ran out by the time we did. Please let us know in the comments below which beers were your favorites, and we’ll make sure we get to them at next year’s Summit!

Arrow Lodge: Chill Out

Arrow Lodge Brewing knows IPAs. They won the people’s choice award at Hopped LA’s Invitational Hazy IPA Fest, and they were a favorite at LA Beer Week according to a certain illustrious beer publication. Now, here they are again, giving us a tea-infused IPA, which could’ve easily been overwhelming but instead delivered a balanced, creamy, juicy, and slightly herbal concoction that left us wondering what these IPA wizards will conjure up next.

Beachwood Brewing: From Long Beach With Love

This love letter to the host city of Long Beach is a collaboration between many of our favorite Long Beach breweries (Ambitious Ales, Belmont Brewing, Dutch’s Brewhouse, Liberation Brewing, Long Beach Beer Lab, Ten Mile Brewing, Timeless Pints, Trademark Brewing, *and* Rock Bottom Brewery!). Clean, hop-forward, and terrifically fresh, this West Coast IPA is the perfect representation of what makes local west coast craft beer great.

The Bruery: American Anthem

Emily saw “peach cobbler” in the description and immediately assumed she was ordering a sour. Instead, she got a slapper of a bourbon-barrel aged ale, delivering that peach cobbler with a side order of 13.6% ABV. Compared to some of the Bruery’s other hefty concoctions, this was relatively light– dare we say flaky? Cinnamon and booze-soaked peaches blend together to make for one drool-inducing dessert drink.

Burnin’ Daylight Brewing Company: Take Flight

We’ve praised Brendan Lake’s Rolling Pils on more than one occasion on this site, but maybe you’re not convinced that this Lomita brewery, under a year old, is the real deal. Well, here we go again with another clean, flavorful, and elegantly executed beer from Burnin’ Daylight. Take Flight is a classic west coast IPA with strong hop flavor and an easy sip for a 7%+ ABV. It’s only a matter of time before the festival lines get long at the Burnin’ Daylight table.

Casa Agria Specialty Ales: Oro del Sol

It was tough deciding which of Casa Agria’s outstanding beers to put on this list. We were tempted to include Drawn to Dawn, a magnificently executed stout with well-balanced maple and cinnamon flavors. However, as parishioners at the Church of Sour, we ultimately decided to lavish praises upon the Oro Del Sol, their barrel-aged wild ale aged on golden plums. Plum sours are often hit or miss, but the bright flavor and big-time sour kick make this one a grand slam.

Cellador Ales: Slide Down My Cellar Door

Cellador Ales end up making this list every time we encounter them at a festival, so it’s no surprise that they’re back again here. We’ve had this beer before at a previous Cellador event, but perhaps because of the hot weather in Marina Green Park, this juicy barrel-aged sour made with Masumoto Gold Dust Peaches stood out even more this go around. It’s an exclusive for their Syndicate members– all the more reason for us to save our pennies and sign up next year.

Cellarmaker Brewing: Christopher Riwakan

Those who find themselves in the throes of the Haze Craze have already heard of Cellarmaker, purveyors of the some of the best hazy beers on the West Coast. This New Zealand Pale Ale, Christopher Riwakan, is, to paraphrase Walken himself, not just another notch on the ol’ haze belt. It’s tropical, lighter than air, and almost impossibly juicy. If you visit San Francisco without hitting up Cellarmaker, your planning stinks worse than the watch Walken hid in Pulp Fiction.

Dionysus Brewing: Galactic Halo

This is the second straight festival in which we’ve encountered Dionysus Brewing and put them immediately onto our Best Of list– perhaps it’s time we planned a trip to Bakersfield. In the past, we’ve fallen for their sours, but this time it’s their hazy IPA, Galactic Halo, that sent us reeling. It’s a Galaxy-hopped can of tropical juice, perfect for enjoying on an LA (or Bakersfield!) summer day.

Flatland Brewing: Path of Righteousness

When Russell tried this beer, he immediately put down in our notes, “Perhaps the best beer of the entire festival.” Path of Righteousness is a rye whiskey barrel-aged stout with salted pistachios. It’s nutty, boozy, a pinch salty, wonderfully balanced, and impossibly smooth for a 13.5% ABV barn burner. This was, to our knowledge, the first beer we’ve ever had from Elk Grove’s Flatland Brewing, but it certainly won’t be the last– we’ll be first in line every time we encounter them at future festivals.

Hop Dogma Brewing Company: Ol’ Keller

Often times at these festivals, the standouts tend to be IPAs, stouts, and sours, because when consuming loads of big flavors, the biggest ones tend to be the most memorable. However, it’s important to also properly appreciate some of the lighter fare, as a good pilsner is often just as wonderful as a barrel-aged ale– especially at an outdoor festival. Hop Dogma Brewing from Half Moon Bay put out one of our favorite crispy bois of the festival, Ol’ Keller, a clean and well-executed German pilsner. We could’ve easily crushed a dozen of these.

Kern River Brewing: Chuuurch!

Our friends frequent Kernville and bring us back cans of Kern River Brewing once they’re done swimming, tubing, and drinking (a super combination of activities, if we do say so ourselves). So while we’re fans of Kern River’s work, this was our first exposure to Chuuurch!, a medium-bodied west coast dank bomb that can easily stand alongside of the west coast IPAs at the festival.

The Lost Abbey: Ghosts in the Forest

Those who worship at the aforementioned Church of Sour owe it to themselves to make the pilgrimage to San Marcos and drink the immaculate beers produced by the Lost Abbey. We’ve made that trek before, and their barrel-aged ales are all easily worth the price of the tank of gas. Their Sinner’s Blend was a BBA monster, but we keep thinking about Ghosts in the Forest, a hauntingly sour oak-aged wild ale that gives you pucker and barrel in equal measure per sip.

Monkish Brewing: Mas Fruit Cart

We’ve been to a lot of beer festivals at this point, and often times, when we see an insanely long line for a hyped brewery, we think, “That’s weird, there’s beer just as good two tents down where there isn’t a line!” However, whenever we see the inevitable long line at Monkish, we think, “… Yeah, that makes sense.” The Let My Angel Sing is a fantastic hazy DIPA, and the Coco Solera is pure mouth-watering chocolate syrup… but we always have to give love to their saisons. The Mas Fruit Cart is tart, oaky, jammy, complex– everything you expect from a Monkish saison.

Mraz Brewing: Purple Plum

Two plum sours… on the same best of list? Have we officially gone plum crazy? Mraz Brewing, located in El Dorado Hills outside of Sacramento, has delivered a beer with plenty of pucker but manages to retain a healthy amount of fruity sweetness. We’ve since learned that Mraz offers Purple Plum in *cans,* making this absolutely one of the more impressive canned sours we’ve encountered. Would that we lived closer so we could stock up. *wipes tear*

New Glory Craft Brewery: Infinite Suffering

Was it a good idea for Russell to pound multiple helpings of this 15.5% ABV dessert stout, a collaboration between New Glory Craft Brewery and Nightmare Brewing? Bring him some more Advil and he’ll tell you. Normally we aren’t ones to tiptoe too far into the pastry beer world… but on the other hand, we *do* love tiramisu. The burn from the booze and the bourbon barrel (say that five times fast) keep this treat from getting too sickly sweet.

Original Pattern Brewing: Wee Man

As mentioned above, we love being impressed with something unexpected. When we approached the Original Pattern Brewing table, we expected to be most impressed by their terrific IPA, Transcendent Universes. However, we instead were even *more* taken by Wee Man, their Scotch Ale, a sweet, malty, caramelly delight. Between Original Pattern and Temescal (see below), we’ve now got incentive to plan some beer travel to Oakland in the near future.

Riip Beer Company: Not-so-Distant Future

While some breweries desire to be known for their haze bombs or their pastry stouts, Riip Beer Company in Huntington Beach is known by craft drinkers across Southern California for their terrific old-school west coast IPAs. We consumed our fill of Not-so-Distant Future, their collaboration with Liquid Gravity Brewing, in the not-so-distant past and found it to be up to their usual exemplary hoppy standards.

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales: The Professor’s Patent

We were blown away by Sante Adairius’s selections at this year’s Firestone Walker Invitational, so we weren’t surprised that they blew us away once more this weekend. Like Minds, their barrel-aged buckwheat saison, could’ve easily made this list, but since we’ve already written about so many sours here, we’ll instead feature The Professor’s Patent, their impeccable creamy double IPA. For Sante Adairius to make IPAs this good *and* sours this good? It’s unfair, really. (But we won’t complain.)

Temescal Brewing: Temescal Pils

Once again, it’s time to show love to the top-notch pillies served at the festival. The Temescal Pils from Temescal Brewing was a big-time standout, offering the clean lightness you want in a pilsner but also delivering a surprisingly full flavor. Anyone who (foolishly) complains that pilsners are “watery” can’t possibly conjure up such a dismissal for the Temescal Pils.

Zack’s Brewing Company: Somebody’s Boysen’d The Water Hole

Did we love this beer because it’s quite sour, breezily light, and fruit forward? Or did we love this beer because it has the best name of any beer at the festival? We don’t know, and we don’t care. This is our first ever beer from Zack’s Brewing in Fresno, and we’re instant fans. Also, come on, we dare you to try to say the name of this beer without smiling. Say it aloud right now. Especially if you’re in public.

BONUS: Bottle Logic: Fundamental Observation and Highland Park Brewery: No Rest

Any serious stout drinker knows Fundamental Observation, with the hype around it only growing with its Best In Show victory at last year’s FOBAB, and No Rest, a banger of a collaboration between the reliably terrific Highland Park Brewery and the buzzed-about stout phenoms at Three Chiefs Brewing. We’ve had both of these several times in the past, so it felt unfair to include them in our main list, but in case you needed confirmation (and we really doubt you do): yes, both of these stouts do absolutely live up to the hype.

BEST HARD KOMBUCHA: Boochcraft: Watermelon Mint Chili

Hard kombucha isn’t necessarily our jam, but we thoroughly enjoyed Boochcraft’s Watermelon Mint Chili, which somehow manages to taste exactly like it sounds. It goes heavy on the watermelon (thankfully), but it delivers just enough chili to give the drink a little kick of heat on the back end. If we were going to sip kombucha poolside on a summer day, this would absolutely be our top choice.

Thanks again to everyone involved with the California Craft Beer Summit, from the organizers at California Craft Brewers Association to the brewers to every volunteer who helped point us in the right direction. We can’t wait for next year. In the meantime, please share your favorites below! Cheers!