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“There is going to be a lot of brewery reps on hand where you can really, as a beer fan, get to talk to the people who represent the beer day in and day out,” said Bryan Rounds, the on-premise sales manager for Central Coast Distributing.

Kelly Trom
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Beer geeks, unite.

The fourth annual SLO Craft Beer Festival is bringing more than 40 different breweries together on March 1 from 1-5 p.m. at the San Luis Obispo Veterans Memorial Building.

Attendees certainly won’t be tasting the average Coors Light and Pabst Blue Ribbon brands. Instead, more obscure beers that are soured and higher octane will be featured at the festival.

“The reason we like to do events like this is to encourage people to try beers they might not try otherwise,” festival organizer Michael Gasbara said. “Beer has been a part of our culture around the world for many centuries. Now, with the current craft beer movement, people are discovering craft beer has its own culture.”

The event is sponsored by the Craft Beer Coalition and has grown every year since its start in 2011, Craft Beer Coalition official spokesperson Terence Collins said.

“It started off very small and intricate,” Collins said. “Every year, we have been able to get higher-quality beers and more participation in the event. I would say that we are growing by around 30-50 percent every year.”

The festival draws beer enthusiasts from all over California. They flock to beers aged in bourbon, scotch or rum barrels, beers that have been intentionally soured or beers that have had unusual additions to them.

Central Coast Distributing is one of the companies responsible for bringing new beers to the festival. Bryan Rounds, the on-premise sales manager for Central Coast Distributing, said San Luis Obispo is a great city to bring together many different breweries.

“We are in the middle of California,” Rounds said. “You can drive three or four hours north or south and you are in some of the greatest beer areas in the world, and we are right smack dab in the middle of it.”

Central Coast Distributing is bringing approximately 75 different beers for attendees to try from all over California. New Belgium Brewing Company will bring its new Snapshot Wheat and Spring Blonde to the festival, instead of its more widely known Fat Tire.

“What I try to bring to this particular festival are brands that are new that haven’t been released or are just released,” Rounds said. “Or that aren’t as widely available, maybe more beer-centric or geeky-type beers.”

Some of the more well-known beers will have a slightly different twist to them. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Torpedo will be served in cans.

“Cans are gaining in popularity,” Rounds said. “It is a new way to store and serve beer. With this festival, we can show the average consumer that canned beer is not just for cheap beers, the 30-pack that you can pick up at Albertson’s.”

Brewery reps and brewers themselves will be at the various booths to serve beer and educate festival-goers about the different beers they will be consuming.

“There is going to be a lot of brewery reps on hand where you can really, as a beer fan, get to talk to the people who represent the beer day in and day out,” Rounds said. “You can learn a little bit more about the different beers that you are about to taste.”

If that’s not enough to quench attendees’ thirst for knowledge, they can also attend different lectures at the event that will compare the different types of beer. This educational aspect is not something that can be found at every beer festival.

“Some of the festivals that I have been to, they herd you like cattle; ‘Here’s your beer, go away,’” Rounds said. “Those are the kind of festivals that aren’t gaining in popularity. People want to walk away with something other than a hangover the next morning or a buzz that afternoon.”

Online tickets for the festival are sold out. Those interested are encouraged to check with local ticket outlets Luis Wine Bar, Spike’s Pub, Central Coast Brewing and Boo Boo Records.

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