Saturday, September 10th 2011 started out strange. I woke to the rumble of thunder and then loud crashing noises that turned out to be nickel-sized hail beating my patio cover. Rain, hail, thunder?! These things don’t happen in Orange County! Okay, maybe they do but not very often. Determined not to miss my first OC Brew Ha Ha experience, my fiancé Sean and I armed ourselves with sensible jackets made it down to Irvine for the event.

In attendance were over 60 different breweries with all the proceeds to benefit the Fallen Fire Fighters Relief Fund.  This being only the second annual OC Brew Ha Ha, it was still my first time going so needless to say I was anxious to see how the event was managed. There was a line for everyone to obtain their commemorative glass (I do like that it was a full-sized pint glass and not a taster glass) and tabbed wristband for the tasters. I was able to receive a press pass and they gave me three (yes, three) wristbands with my glass.

The event was nicely spread out with lots of seating and food. I immediately ran intoStephen Johnson and John Holzer of New Brew Thursday and then ran off to get my first taster before it got crowded.

I tried some amazing beers, and excitedly I have discovered a new brewery that I must visit because their beer was ridiculously good. I already knew about Iron Fist Brewing Co.but haven’t really had many chances to sample their beer. Velvet Glove (9% ABV, 93 points on was so mind-blowing I have already had dreams about it. I must have more.

Other notable beers were Feeding Frenzy (8.5% ABV, 93 points) by Port Brewing Company, which had a nice balance of malty flavors with a strong hop flavor. Taco Asylum’s booth had Matilda (7% ABV, 96 points) by Goose Island which was a nice change of pace. Matilda was light and farmhouse style with a hint of spice. I enjoyed visiting my local brewery tents like Old Orange Brewing CoNoble Ale WorksThe Bruery,CismontaneBootlegger’s, and Newport Beach Brew Co. One I didn’t get to try wasButcher’s Brewing which had a super-long line. They have been added to my list of must-try breweries.

Then craziness ensued when I headed over for the festival within a festival known as Beer Geek Island…which was literally on an island in the middle of the lake inside the event.OC Beer Society was hosting the event, which was a bottle share between known beer enthusiasts via Facebook evite. I was lucky enough to hang out with Derek Bougie (head brewer at Newport Beach Brew Co.) and his wife Patty (aka @ocbrewerswife), “Dr.” Bill Sysak of Stone Brewing Co. and New Brew Thursday, John Holzer & Stephen Johnson of New Brew Thursday, Dawn Muehl of Port Brewing Co./Lost Abbey. Needless to say, ridiculousness ensued and lots of rare and amazing beers were had.

Some of the beers I had on Beer Geek Island were incredible. The Cigar City 110K+OT Batch #4 Imperial Red Ale was so good all I wrote was simply…wow. I was also lucky enough to have Bourbon Barrel Aged Santa’s Little Helper by Port Brewing Company thanks to Dawn which was incredible. The bourbon smell and taste was prominent but who said that’s a bad thing?!

Sadly I missed the speeches by the beer experts. I was utterly lost on the details and failed to determine the times for the Cicerone presentations by Dr. Bill, Ed Heethuis of Strab Distributing, Jarred Dooley previously of The Burery now of The Playground, Jon Porter of Tustin Brewing Company, and Jace Milstead of Firestone Walker Brewing. Not a mistake that I plan to make twice! I highly recommend everyone go next year and I hope to see you there!