CARLSBAD — Six years ago, two members of the Carlsbad Hi-Noon Rotary Club decided a sustainable and fun event was needed for the club.
What they proposed, and now has doubled in size, is the Carlsbad Brewfest. Celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, the festival has become a fast-growing draw for craft beer enthusiasts. This year, the event runs from noon to 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 8 at Holiday Park.
“Holiday Park is really a gem to the city,” co-chair Mike Pfankuch said. “Compared to some of the other ones that have them in the streets … the whole venue at Holiday Park is very enticing for the participants.”
The event was created to piggyback off the highly successful and long-running Oktoberfest. Initially, the Brewfest was the only one on the first weekend of September within 100 miles of Carlsbad, said co-chair J.R. Phillips. Now, there are 30, forcing the event to stay relevant and provide value for brewers, patrons, sponsors and the community.
And steadily, the festival has done exactly that as this year’s event will showcase 38 vendors, 34 of which are craft breweries, two cider-focused producers and two wineries. In addition, a Kombucha producer will be in attendance.
However, growth has not been as explosive as expected, Phillips said, and one reason their marketing efforts avoid using the rotary club name. It’s a stereotype, he said, that patrons will assume the event is not catered toward beer enthusiasts.
It’s one reason, Pfankuch said, the festival incorporates so many games and interactive activities. For example, musical chairs is one of the most popular games, along with corn hole, tortilla tossing and incorporating a live deejay to keep the atmosphere fun and loose.
New this year is an Encinitas-based company that will showcase its virtual reality platform. Attendees will be able to play several virtual reality games, which includes an escape room.
“What makes us different, our event is very interactive,” Phillips said. “The interactive part is something we are very proud of. We’ve tried to create and environment that’s very collaborative, collegial and fun.”
With Brewfest being organized by the Hi-Noon Rotary Club, naturally the proceeds of the event are donated to various charities. This year, the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation, Carlsbad Education Foundation, rotary and the newest addition, Bikes 4 the Barrio, will receive the funds.
Pfankuch said the bike program is led by Electra Bikes and One Big Club. Rotary and OBC donated six bikes to students at Jefferson Elementary School in December 2017.
“We really enjoy being able to give some bikes to deserving kids that can’t afford them otherwise,” Pfankuch said. “It gives them some self-esteem and transportation to school.”
As for the event, Phillips said the focus is on growth and how to crack 2,000 attendees. This year, he expects a record crowd between 1,200 to 1,500, but still wants to grow and remain competitive with other brewfests or events in North County.
Still, the steady growth has been impressive, he said, as the rotary made $12,000 in its second year, $30,000 in year three and $51,000 last year.
But the main mission is to create sustainability and bring value to the stakeholders and sponsors. The purpose of the event, though, was to give patrons insight into the craft beer industry, especially since San Diego is a hub for brewers.
Last year, the event had several guest speakers discuss brewing, how to pair beers and other aspects of enjoying a cold brew.
“We wanted to create an event that wasn’t about drinking beer, but understanding beer,” Phillips said. “We had to create an event that these brewers saw value in or otherwise we would struggle to get people to give away free beer and time.”
Tickets are $55 for general admission, $40 for appreciation tickets (military, police, firefighters, lifeguard, nurses, etc.) and $20 for a designated driver. The event will also have a limited supply of credits for ridesharing.