WE KNOW, WE KNOW: We. Know. Summer has juuuust begun and yet we're about to type the name of its nearest neighbor, the one that comes later in the year: autumn. We don't mean to pit the two seasons, as they're both pretty exceptional in their own ways, but once one season has commenced, as summer has, we always keep a little eye on signs of the next. One of our main fall foretellings? The California Beer Festival, that traveling gathering devoted to the craftiest, toniest, and complexiest of the Golden States sudseries. Yep, it starts in summer, but the final dates roll just when the air is starting to dip into autumn-like tones (perfect craft-brew sippin' weather, in our opinion). There will be four dates, and four cities in all for this round of the brewery tour (and by "tour" we don't mean brewery tour but a mega tour of breweries -- okay, just to be clear). The cities will include a couple SoCalers/Central Coasters in September -- hi, San Dimas and Ventura -- but the party starts around the Bay Area, with a late June date with Novato and an early August visit to Santa Cruz.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Well, beer. And a guy in a bear suit, since "California" is in the name. (Nope, bears do not drink beer, but guys in bear suits can and should show up at festivals supporting local brews.) Some 70 beers will be on tap in Novato, and the labels are completely a who's who, or who's brewin', rather: Mendocino Brewing Company, Marin Brewing Co., and 101 North Brewing Company will be three of the labels on the taps. Plus Burts Honey Wheat Beer will be served, too (Burt being the festival's symbolic bear). Tickets go -- they're $40 -- so jump on the Novato date, which is Saturday, June 29. If you miss it look to Santa Cruz, which will welcome the kegs, and the guy in the bear suit, on Saturday, Aug. 10.