If there was ever a question about the city of Vista becoming a viable craft beer destination in North County, the turnout at Saturday’s Rhythm & Brews Music Festival put any doubt to rest.
More than 1,500 people converged downtown just off Main Street to enjoy live music from five bands and beer from 27 craft breweries.
“I think this event is a stamp of approval for Vista,” said Dan Love, owner of Mother Earth Brew Co., which co-sponsored the event with fellow Vista brew house Back Street Brewery. “I think Vista is a great city. People are proud of being raised here and raising their kids here. They don’t just grow up and move away. And they are willing to support something that is passionate and the craft beer industry is very passionate. It’s a great statement for downtown Vista.”
The annual festival is still young – it started last year—but many festival-goers were impressed by the variety of breweries represented, including all nine from Vista and three heavy hitters from Colorado (Avery, Great Divide, and Oskar Blues).
“The breweries here are awesome,” said John Ewing, a sound engineer from Woodland Hills, who was in town visiting his sister. “This reminds me of Portland.”
Kevin Hopkins, Mother Earth’s director of brand who was the festival’s brewery coordinator, said it was important to augment San Diego beer with non-local brands.
“Variety is the spice of life,” he said. “Every Vista brewery is represented, all the major North County breweries are here, some of the favorites from San Diego proper, three from Colorado and one from Hawaii. We felt it was important to bring in beers to compare and contrast. North County deserves it.”
The festival also featured a homebrew competition. There were 67 entries and winners from five categories were announced from the stage. Chris Barry won Best in Show for his Fuggin Cocoa Stout and will get a chance to brew his beer on Mother Earth’s new 25-barrel system later this year.
Love thinks this is only the beginning for Rhythm & Brews. He’s hopeful that as the popularity of craft beer continues to grow, so will the festival and present an opportunity to possibly move the festival to the Moonlight Amphitheatre, Vista’s open air venue.
“It’s the most underutilized venue in San Diego County,” he said. “I am hoping at some point we can garner 5,000 or 6,000 people for this event. The Moonlight is a beautiful, world-class place and there we can make this a more family friendly event.”
Angela Clay, the sister who Ewing came to visit, would love to see Vista continue to showcase craft beer anyplace festival organizers see fit.
“I love beer and I want to support the local breweries,” said Clay, a school teacher from Bonsall. “I appreciate that Vista is open to the craft beer community and to something that is up and coming. It’s an exciting time for Vista.”
The festival also raised more than $10,000 for area non-profit organizations.