San Clemente-based Brew Ha Ha Productions is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its flagship craft beer tasting event, the OC Brew Ha Ha, with a day of live music courtesy of The Aquabats!, Save Ferris, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Suburban Legends, Skapeche Mode and CodeName: Rocky. It’s also a family-friendly event with rides, games and free cotton candy for kids and, of course, more than 160 different craft beers to taste from over 80 participating craft breweries for those 21 and older.
It’s all going down Saturday, Sept. 7, on the sprawling green grounds of Oak Canyon Park in Silverado. Tickets are $45 for general admission; $65 for VIP (which includes a one-hour early entry); $25 for non-tastings/show only. Kids ages 7 and under are admitted free with paid adult. All tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday, June 17 at ocbrewhaha.com. This year’s event includes extended hours as the VIP tastings are 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; general admission tastings are noon-3 p.m.; and the venue will remain open with continuing live entertainment and craft beer stands and food trucks offering variety of eats and drinks for sale until 7 p.m.
“We’re going back to our roots with this one because the biggest Brew Ha Ha we had was when Reel Big Fish played (in 2013),” Brew Ha Ha co-founder Cameron Collins said during a recent interview over pizza and beer at Pizza Port Brewing Company in San Clemente. “Ska music has always been a big part of the OC Brew Ha Ha. We’ve had the English Beat play, The Aggrolites and now we have the Aquabats!, Save Ferris, Suburban Legends … these are like Orange County legacy bands and we’re stoked to have them play.”
A decade ago, putting together the inaugural OC Brew Ha Ha was a big undertaking. Collins, along with his wife, Tiffany, and her mother, Carrie James, launched Brew Ha Ha Productions and threw the very first fest with just 40 breweries on Sept. 11, 2010 in Irvine near what once was Lion Country Safari, in between Wild Rivers and Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre. About 1,000 people showed up and though the event didn’t turn a profit, it did receive rave reviews from attendees and the participating craft brewers. With the growing popularity of craft beer and a bit of a boom in breweries popping up in the last five years, Brew Ha Ha Productions now hosts not only the OC Brew Ha Ha, but the annual Brew Ho Ho held at the Phoenix Club in Anaheim during the holidays, the Brew Hee Haw in partnership with the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa during the summer and it has stepped into being a premium attraction at numerous festivals that also have a huge live music element throughout Southern California and beyond.
Brew Ha Ha productions has been responsible for curating and providing the craft beer for festivals such as the Sabroso Craft Beer, Taco & Music Festival, Punk-in-Drublic (or Punk-N-Brew) and The Bash Music & Craft Beer Festival. All three of those festivals now have numerous stops throughout the country and has had Collins tasting craft beer being brewed in states like Arizona, Virginia, Florida, Massachusetts and more. Though the OC Brew Ha Ha will always focus on local breweries, Collins said he’s working to bring in a few craft beers from other parts of the country for those that purchase VIP passes to the festival.
“That makes it fun and offers a unique experience for people,” he said. “For us, always with Brew Ha Ha, it’s important to treat the brewers like they are the bands or the rockstars because they are. When you walk up to taste a beer, you’re not just talking to a volunteer, the person who made the beer is standing right there or the owner is nearby and you can interact with them and the artisans that created this product.”
Though they go to dozens of beer-focused events and festivals across the country each year, Shannon and Jon Eckelberger, bar manager and head brewer respectively at the Pizza Port Brewing Company in San Clemente, said they are both big fans of all of the Brew Ha Ha Production events.
“From a bar manager perspective, it’s a place where a bunch of breweries are together in one place and you can talk and network with them and try different beers that we might want to have at our place, too,” Shannon Eckelberger said. On top of their own multi award-winning brews such as the Junk in Da Trunkel Dunkel German-style Weiss, Dusk Til Dawn coffee beer and California Honey Ale, Pizza Port has several other local craft beer offerings on tap as well.
“We can also talk to customers who might not know that there are five Pizza Port locations and we can bring something exclusive or special to the festivals as well and get those people to come to our brewery,” she continued. “We meet people all of the time that come into our place and say ‘Hey Shannon’ or ‘Hey Jon, we met you at Brew Hee Haw or Brew Ho Ho’ and that’s always fun to see them again. Plus, at the events, everyone is together, hanging out and there’s live music, so that’s a plus.”
“We go to a lot of events that are just the same event year after year, after year, after year,” Jon Eckelberger added. “They never change. That’s what’s comforting about what Cameron and what Brew Ha Ha Productions does is because they are changing and growing accordingly. As brewers, we can go to any brew fest and drink beer, so that’s no big deal, but at Brew Ha Ha you’re surrounded by a community and this beer culture, you’re listening to live music, you’re not bored, you’re talking to people and honestly, I just look forward to these events.”
Ian McCall of Riip Brewing Company, which opened just over three years ago in Huntington Beach, said that the Brew Ha Ha Productions events were a great way to get new patrons to taste Riip’s more hop-centric offerings including its flagship Dan K IPA, Super Cali West Coast Double IPA or the Citra Hazy Pale Ale.
“Our brewery is a destination brewery, we’re not really near any major freeways, so it’s a nice way to tell people about our brewery, have them actually taste our beers and then come see us for more,” he said.
Though there are other craft beer events that pop up throughout Southern California, Collins said that what sets Brew Ha Ha Productions’ events apart is the quality of the festival from the selection of breweries, the selection of craft beers, the limited edition, rare and collaborative offerings, the live music and more. He also noted that supporting craft beer in Orange County is “supporting local business, supporting small business and supporting jobs within your community,” which is why the company buys all the beer instead of asking brewers to donate it. Last year alone, Collins said Brew Ha Ha Productions bought just over $1 million worth of local craft beer for the festivals.
“If you want to say that you support craft breweries, then put your pocketbook where your mouth is,” he said. “We’ve raised the bar and continue to produce the best, most well-run and organized events in the nation because for us, for me, good enough is never good enough. We are here to exceed expectations and standards.”
Another big goal of the crew at Brew Ha Ha Productions is to convert beer drinkers into craft beer drinkers because if the craft beer market crashes, Collins & Co. are out of business. That’s another big reason why the company has partnered with festival production companies such as Orange County-based Synergy Global Entertainment and Los Angeles-based companies Live Nation and AEG, as well as curated relationships with radio stations like KLOS 95.5/FM KLOS; KROQ 106.7/FM and 91X 91.1/FM.
“Our goal with events like Sabroso, The Bash or Punk-in-Drublic is to bring those beer drinkers in and not offer them anything like Budweiser at our concessions,” he said. “There are none of those beers at the events, so they’re forced to experience and interact with craft beer and most of the time they leave liking something and they now know the brewers so the next time they go to the store, instead of reaching for that red bow tie, six-pack, they’ll go ‘Huh, maybe I’ll try this lager from this guy or this IPA from that guy that I had at the festival.’ There’s been a big shift in the last four or five years into more of a craft beer evangelism as we’re converting people into craft beer drinkers.”
Just as the craft beer culture has expanded and matured, Collins said that Brew Ha Ha Productions has now recognized that 10 years after its first event, a lot of the brewers, the owners and the attendees have gone on to get married and now have kids. Collins and his wife have four children and with craft brewing being such a big family-oriented business, the OC Brew Ha Ha has modified itself a little to become a more family-friendly affair.
“We’ve always made it a point that the OC Brew Ha Ha is an event to come taste beer, it’s not a drinking festival,” he said. “We’re encouraging people that though you can drink as much as you can, not to drink more than you should. I was 30 years old when this started and I got into craft beer in my 20s, but now a lot of us are parents, so we thought our event should include something for families. Again, it’s not a drinking festival, it’s a celebration and you can go celebrate with your family, bring the kids, there’s rides, games and music so that’s something that we’re all pretty stoked on.”
One of Collins’ proudest moments was being able to help produce a band and brewery collaboration between punk outfit NOFX and Stone Brewing Co. called the Punk in Drublic Hoppy Lager. He’s also paired punk rock band Rancid with Ska Brewing for the Brewstomper Golden Ale. As more artists are becoming interested in beer collabs, Collins said he has other partnerships in the works and that he’s been getting hit up a lot to help facilitate some new releases. Though he’s currently putting his energy into the 10th anniversary bash, he’s also been looking to the future and how to carefully craft even more events.
“As I sit here now, 10 years later, I can’t imagine an OC brew scene without the OC Brew Ha Ha,” he said. “I think it plays an important role in it and typically a business needs to reinvent itself every 7-10 years, but now with technology it’s more like 3-5 years and that’s what Brew Ha Ha is doing right now. We’re kind of realigning our focus into being a more family-friendly event, bringing on some fun music, keeping it Orange County-focused. For the future, I can’t tell you what it will be like, but I can tell you that I’ll do everything I can to make sure we stay relevant and produce the best events that happen in this county.”
10th Annual OC Brew Ha Ha
When: Noon-7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7
Where: Oak Canyon Park, 3505 Santiago Canyon Road, Silverado
Tickets: $45 general admission; $65 VIP admission; $25 no-tastings/show only; 7 and under admitted free with paid adult. All passes are available at ocbrewhaha.com.
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