My volunteer shift concluded, I was ready to join the festivities. I had been dispensing a cask of Ballast Point‘s Fathom India Pale Lager, which uses lager yeast instead of the ale yeast of an IPA, to the thirsty throng attending BP’s 14th Anniversary Beer Festival . I revved what was left of my socializing engine after several hours of constant chatter by seeking out Steve, one of Ballast Point’s top production czars and San Diego native. I commented on the packed lawn at Liberty Station. Steve maintained, “Everybody loves beer. If they say they don’t it’s because they haven’t found the right one yet.” We glanced around, and by the looks of it, every attendee had found what they were searching for. The atmosphere buzzing over the sixty-plus beers available, damp air couldn’t dampen spirits. This was Ballast Point’s moment in the no-show sun.
Naïvely thinking – like most San Diegans do – that despite the forecast, cloud cover just won’t last, the early-morning decision to wear shorts and sandals perhaps wasn’t optimal considering the beer-pouring task awaiting me. Having arrived before noon, I thankfully had my pick of the tap handle-litter. I decided if my feet were going to be soaked with anything, I’d choose one of the best beers around – Fathom on cask. Many a time have I enjoyed the smoothness of cask beer; this was the first time I would have the privilege of serving it.
The fellow volunteers and I killed time by discussing – you guessed it – beer, all the while vocally appreciating the moments of relative quiet as we sized up the lengthening queue. Positioned in tent “A,” we were the first and most visible of all choices. At 1p.m. sharp, the masses that had been waiting descended upon us. West Coaster Mike manned the neighboring battle station, a cask of Sculpin IPA.
The crowd was eclectic to say the least. Attendees ranged from curious, burgeoning craft beer indulgers to festival-veteran connoisseurs. I met enthusiasts from out-of-state visiting for the event. The common denominator was the search for great craft beer.
Familiar faces emerged in the crowd. Jeff Hammett, West Coaster and San Diego Beer Blog author appeared and said hello – his view on the day you can read here. Ballast Point Specialty Brewer and Home Brew Mart GM Colby Chandler was making his rounds and Kelsey McNair of North Park Beer Co. came to try out the Fathom. Also, I was also finally able to more-than-happily return the beer serving favor to Ballast Point tasting room experts Alise, Amber, and Kristi. Dan, Kristi’s husband, having just spilled beer on his digital camera, was surprisingly jovial. “It’s ok! My camera isn’t waterproof, but it is beerproof!” His reaction was a great indicator of the festival’s vibe.
Several patrons purposefully allocated their last tab for a taste of Fathom on cask; I’ve never heard “saved the best for last” so many times in one day. Some had not heard of Fathom, and Double Gold Medal Winner was the only phrase of persuasion I needed. Among them was drummer TC from roots music group Pau Hana, and he ended up using three more of his ten taster tabs on the beer, explaining, “There’s just no need to go anywhere else.” Gold Medals at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival and 2010 World Beer Cup are proof. This beer is truly one-of-a-kind.
My new-found bond with Fathom sealed, I was half-hoping that Jack White, owner and founder of Ballast Point, would reply in its favor to the quintessential “which BP do you prefer?” question. “That’s like choosing your favorite kid,” was his fitting reply, his face that of a proud parent. “But really, there’s a time and a place for all of them.” Congratulating him and Head Brewer/Distiller Yuseff Cherney while savoring a Sculpin IPA, yet another Gold Medal Winner, I couldn’t have agreed more.