Monterey Beer Festival Sold to Monterey County Fair
January 16, 2013
Something in the following news deserves a toast.
That much I'm sure of, if only because it's big news to the Monterey beer world, and beer toasts have happened with relentless reliability at every Monterey Beer Festival I've been to, and always with a community roar.
Not sure exactly what, though, so let's flow right into it:
Monterey Beer Festival has been sold, from its founder and long-time owner Jeff Moses to his longtime collaborators at the Monterey Fairgrounds, where the event has been held for the last seven years.
It was the hand-grown work of Moses, the same guy whose brother owns Post No Bills (where Moses hangs out), the guy who stables a few dozen craft labels of his own creation and the hombre who launched Big Hurt Beer with Frank Thomas to national audiences, including a vigorous bunch of fans at the Great American Beer Fest, starting in spring 2012.
At the start of the festival—11 years ago—he partnered with a Weekly food columnist named Raymond Napolitano, the charismatic oracle who once called me his heir to the local foodie news throne circa 2008.
I asked Moses what the sale means. The answer, in short: more better, and more better beer.
"It was a funky backyard-style thing to start—sea lion stink and huge Potta Potty lines all over [the original venue] Coast Guard Pier, plus blazing, sunburning sunshine," Moses says. "But one thing was there that has been there since: craft brew - before it went popular like today—plus representatives from other more mainstream labels in an all-inclusive beer party."
That might be what makes MBF unique (though Moses' obsession with classic rock cover bands had its own singularity to it too).
Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams and Stone were relatively tiny in the beginning; now they're the big boys. Last year still enjoyed the artisan nerd beer manna—Almanac (San Francisco brew at $140 a case [!]), and Moses' own Hermitage creations—but appearances by Spaten, Bud Lime and now-big Anderson Valley too demonstrate serious range.
"I swear it never really changed," Moses says. "It just got bigger. And younger."
Will that still be the case with the 2013 cases? (Many of the same local food vendors—from Andre Lugacher of Lugano Swiss Bistro to Brophy's co-founder Joe Cingari—were there from early on.
"Well," Moses says, "I wouldn't have sold something I worked so hard on—and really believed in—to anybody."
He's known Fairgrounds event chief Kelly Baldwin for years.
"It only seems natural Kelly and her team would overtake it and expand it into an event with even more to offer," Moses says. "I have no doubt they'll take the reigns and make it even more expansive - home brewing competitions, special VIPs and more."
Here's some snippets from the e-blast that made what happened a couple of months ago public information:
"The Monterey Beer Festival is proud to announce its new management, the Monterey County Fair Heritage Foundation!"
"We are hard at work planning a GREAT Festival this year with an enhanced VIP format. VIP entry will begin at 11:30am and continue all day with its own area at the Payton Garden Stage complete with local bands, restroom facilities, food concessions and exclusive craft brews."
"Be the first to taste Sierra Nevada Brewery's Beer Camp varieties, as well as special brews from many of your favorite craft breweries. Is General admission more your style? Improvements include faster gate entry, an expanded beer tasting area, MORE food and the same great stage and music!"
The blast goes on to offer returning Beerfesties 2012 pricing ($5 less) until Jan. 31.
Now where's that toast?