Airwaves 2013 was a succes (aka why IE beer matters)!

The aftermath of Airwaves' bottle share.

The aftermath of Airwaves’ bottle share.

Don’t they say that you know a party was good if you don’t remember it? Well, since in all my drunken awesomeness I’ve never managed to black out, I know a party was good when I don’t have a lot of photos of it. With Beer Geek Radio‘s first anniversary party–dubbed Airwaves 2013–I spent so much time meeting new people, laughing my ass off and drinking good beer that the only photos that actually exist from the day are, like, two blurry ones my new drinking buddies (including one awesome chick) and one of a graveyard of empty bottles.

Billed as the largest collective bottle share in the Inland Empire, Airwaves was a beer festival organized to be not only a party for local podcast duo Beer Geek Radio (the subject of my IE Weekly cover story the same week), but also a chance for the local beer community to come together and drink beer from breweries in one of the largest growing scenes in the country.

I know that people (especially in LA) scoff at the idea of anything cool or culturally significant coming out of the Inland Empire, (much less beer worth drinking) but after attending Airwaves, I have even more respect for its beer community and feel like that what’s bubbling out there is worth a deeper look.

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The event invited several local breweries to set up tables at the Inland Empire Brewing Company‘s brewhouse and also had BrewCakes on hand to serve up some grub. IE Brewing themselves, had a bunch of beers on draft including Victoria (“American Strong” that is basically a damn barleywine) and the Beer Geek Radio 1st Anniversary beer which was a meaty 11% hazelnut stout.

Included in the ticket price were 10 tasters, which I made my way through the other vendors with. And by “made my way through,” I mean that I became best friends with the awesome chick pouring for Dale Brothers (nice flavor on the black lager but where’s the body?) and traded sips of rare bottled beer with the bearded gents at Brew Rebellion, the soon-to-be-opened Yuciapa brewery (Brew Rebellion’s peach honey wheat is holycow good, like sweet velvet summer on your tongue).

For a first year attempt, the festival was a success. Nearly 30 bottles of crazy amazing good beer (think Great Divide Oak Aged Chocolate Yeti and Midnight Sun Berzerker) were poured and the IE guys discovered Beachwood Brewing’s Tovarish (I got several texts the next day asking me where to buy it, but sorry, dudes, no more). We even noshed out on a popcorn machine someone had brought and kept the party going well past its listed stop time of 5PM.

Last drip of Tovarish goes to he who brought it.

Last drip of Tovarish goes to he who brought it.

And I walked away–err stumbled into my car–with more than just a growler of Victoria. I left wanting to come back, to drink more and to connect in a greater way with the beer lovers in the IE. I’ve now been to Hangar 24, IE Brewing and tasted Dale’s Brothers, Packinghouse, Black Market, Brew Rebellion and Craft, all along being impressed not by the geek standards of “this is the best IPA I’ve ever had” or “ZOMG, a rare bottle worth trading for Dark Lord” but by the variety of solid beers that well represent the area from which they came. Being in the IE and drinking IE beers, it all started to make sense.

The people I met (lots of ladies, too!) were genuine and unpretentious and, like we do in Long Beach, felt totally disconnected from what’s happening with beer in L.A. and Orange County. Why not generate a connection? Loop them in with us? Connect the fucking dots already? I would fully support a bus tour of IE breweries or some L.A. Beer Week events out there, something (anything!) to get those naysayers in L.A. to pay attention.

Yes, it’s a small drive towards what feels like nothingness, but it’s not worse than trying to get from Downtown L.A. to Santa Monica in 5PM traffic. So no more excuses for avoiding IE beer because it exists, it’s rad and it’s there for your drinking.

And listen to Beer Geek Radio’s podcast at beergeekradio2.podomatic.com

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