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OC LIVE : EVENTS : Microbrews Are Mainly What’s on Tap at Festival

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Is the microbrew craze just one more passing fad? Thisweekend at the Hyatt Newporter, during the first Orange County Microbrew Festival, the curious can let their taste buds be the judge of whether those pricey pints have staying power.

From locals to some from as far away as Canada, 50 microbreweries (any brewery that produces fewer than 15,000 barrels a year is considered micro) will converge for a battle of the beers.

They’ll be supplemented by booths from five restaurants, plus 20 vendors and 10 bands. One-day passes, for $15, will include 10 sampling tickets; additional samples will cost $1 each. Two-day passes permit unlimited sampling for $40.

Musically, the festival offers a variety of local talent, with Dave Wakeling’s Bang! from Dana Point headlining Saturday’s alternative-rock and funk lineup and Huntington Beach’s James Harman Band in the spotlight Sunday on a program of Brews and Blues.

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Goldfish, Super Cheez, Stranger and Two-Way Street will round out the alternative/funk bill; Harman will be preceded by Walter Trout, Barrelhouse, Three Blind Mice and the Jive Kings.

The event is being organized by Ritz Entertainment, which also does the Orange County Blues and the Newport Beach Jazz festivals. But this time the music is playing a secondary role. “We didn’t want to bring in a [big name] who would draw the focus,” said Ritz president Eric Jensen. “We didn’t want to one-up the beer.”

Orange County will be represented by nine microbreweries: the Fullerton Hobrau, the Sunset Beach Brewing Co., the Newport Beach Brewing Co., DP’s Sports Grill (also from Newport Beach), Ale House Rock (Huntington Beach), the Ocean Avenue Brewery (Laguna Beach), the Harbor Lights Brewing Co. (Dana Point) and Steelhead and Bay Hawk (both from Irvine).

Are there many locals willing to pay six to eight bucks for a six-pack?

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Jonathan Thomas, who owns and operates the Ocean Avenue Brewery with his wife, Maria, thinks so.

“There’s so much more variety, with the reds, porters, scotches and wheats,” he said.

“It’s hard to compare microbrews with the standard stuff. It’s like comparing Gorgonzola and processed American cheese.”

Musician Wakeling (formerly of the English Beat and General Public) says he’s a microbrew fan. “I have a taste for it, and I try to control it, but I’m not always successful,” said the native of Birmingham, England. “It’s ‘real’ beer, as they call it in England. And it’s actually better than the brews I used to drink at the neighborhood pubs back home.”

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

* What: The Orange County Microbrew Festival.

* When: Noon to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

* Where: The Hyatt Newporter, 1107 Jamboree Road, Newport Beach.

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* Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to Jamboree Road. Go west on Jamboree to Newporter Drive and turn left onto the Hyatt grounds.

* Wherewithal: $15 for a one-day pass that includes 10 sampling tickets; $40 for a two-day pass and unlimited sampling.

* Where to call: (714) 650-5483.


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