The Brewing Network's fifth annual Winter Brews Festival being held at Todos Santos Plaza in Concord on Saturday will feature at least 50 craft brewers pouring their specially selected beers.
"I think it's going to be our biggest yet," said Justin Crossley of Martinez-based The Brewing Network. "The most (brewers) we ever had is 37. This year we have 50 diverse and quality craft brewers from all over the state."
Craft brewing is a growing industry offering the beer-drinking community a variety of diverse beers from which to choose and the place where beer connoisseurs can taste and learn what's available. And this is the only beer festival held in midwinter.
"There are so many new craft brewers popping up we can't keep up," Crossley said.
"We always reach out to brewers," said Jason "JP" Petros of The Brewing Network. "But this year we had a lot of people reaching out to us because it is a terrific event to be a part of."
Included in this year's brewer lineup are 21st Amendment, Faction, Firestone, Walker, Jester King, Heretic, Ninkasi, Sierra Nevada, Societe and Stone.
"There will even be non-beer options such as ... mead from Moonlight Meadery out of New Hampshire," said Petros.
For those who like cider, that too, is in this year's offerings.
Petros said the event lacks the rowdy drinking problems associated with other beer festivals. Aficionados come to Todos Santos Plaza to taste what craft brewers are cooking up and learn about the brewing process, not to get wasted on beer, a point that Concord police appreciate.
"We have good music, good people and good food," said Petros. "We are doubling the amount of food as that was a point of concern in years past."
This year, festivalgoers won't have to wait up to an hour to get something good to eat. This year's food vendor lineup includes Raviolis Market located in Concord featuring handmade raviolis designed to be "fast casual."
There is also Slow Hand BBQ out of Pleasant Hill or food truck vendor Voodoo Van serving Southern-inspired street food. FiveTen Burger, the Oakland-based food truck, will roll in and offer its sandwiches; and Tasty Zombies will also have and culinary offerings.
After being forced out of its venue in Berkeley in 2012 by the Occupy movement, Crossley approached Concord and arrangements were made to cordon off a corner triangle of Todos Santos Plaza for the celebration.
Around 1,500 people showed up, surprising promoters and city officials.
Each year since, the event has grown and this year promoters and city officials are preparing for more than double the first year's count.
"We sell out at 4,000 people this year," said Crossley.
As a way of saying thank you to the city of Concord, for the venue and its support, The Brewing Network asked the Coral Reef Alliance (the beneficiary) to share the funds raised with Concord for its downtown summer music series, which suffered cutbacks and the elimination of some programs with the demise of its Redevelopment Agency.
"It's CORAL's event," said Crossley. "The breweries all donate for CORAL."
The Winter Brews Fest is a fundraiser for the Coral Reef Alliance. CORAL is a nonprofit that unites communities to save coral reefs, which are critical for the support of a quarter of all marine species. The ecosystems provide food, coastal protection and income to one billion people around the world, but are in serious decline.
WHO: The Brewing Network
WHAT: Fifth annual Winter Brews Festival
WHERE: Todos Santos Plaza, at Willow Pass Road and Grant Street, Concord
WHEN: Noon-4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25
COST: $35 pre-sale or $45 at the gate. Includes unlimited pours and commemorative glass