Written by Sarah E. Jahier
I attended my very first LA Vegan Beer and Food Festival this past weekend! I was so happy I was finally able to go and so excited to eat and drink my way through a Saturday afternoon. This was the event's 5th year, and it just keeps growing! This year the fest sold out in record time and hosted about 2,500+ people. The event attracts vegans and the veg-curious from near and far, and with good reason - vegan beer and food, all day long! I had a really great time, as did all who attended, but I wanted to walk you through my day there, let you know some of few annoyances I encountered, and offer tips and tricks to maximize your time at the fest should you attend next year (which I hope you do!).
First, I should mention that I sprung for VIP passes, which allowed Mister Spooky and me entry a full hour before the general admission ticket holders, plus unlimited beer and a special little VIP area. We bought the tickets that were $75 each (2014 prices, so be aware these may change in the future) and I thought they were well worth it!
We had stayed at a friend's house in West Hollywood, so Mister Spooky and I used Uber to get to the fest, which was being held in a vacant lot across the street from The Roxy on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Taking public transportation, carpooling, or getting a taxi or Uber/Lyft car is HIGHLY recommended as I heard horror stories from others who had to drive around for an hour looking for parking. However, if you get lucky (and get there a bit early) you should be able to find free street parking in the surrounding neighborhoods (just beware of areas that require a permit to park or have other parking restrictions) or you might be able to find a lot to park in all day for anything between $7 - $20 (just be aware these fill up fast, especially with so many attendees and the generally touristy area where the beer fest is held). Again, taking a taxi, an Uber/Lyft/etc. car, or public transportation is highly recommended, especially if you will be drinking!
We arrived a little before noon and a huge line for VIP ticket holders had already formed. We also noticed that General Admission ticket holders had already begun to line up, though their entry time was more than an hour away (at 1 PM). They began herding VIP tickets holders in (much like cattle to the slaughter, as several people commented), though there was some confusion as to who they were letting in - so getting in was a bit slow. We had our tickets in hand, so we were good to get in, but others had been told they would pick up their will call tickets in the same line (which they shouldn't), so this slowed things down a bit. After showing our tickets and IDs (this is a 21+ event, no young 'uns or kids allowed!), we finally got our wristbands and cute LAVBF beer glasses (from the lovely Nic Adler himself, co-organizer of the event!), and set about enjoying the day of flowing beer and vegan noms.
Chalk art at LAVBF 2014
Upon entry we noticed the asphalt was decorated with cool chalk art and that chalk was provided so attendees could leave their own mark on the fest. There was live music and an excited buzz in the air! It was already really hot, so we opted to cool down with a refreshing beer before heading straight for the Grilled Cheese Truck! This truck generally doesn't carry vegan options, but they created a special vegan menu for the event. There was already a line of hungry vegans dying to try the Cheesy Mac and Rib Melt and other vegan items from the truck! I was in the mood for something breakfast-y, so I ordered the Chick'n and Waffle Melt, which I believe was around $10. It was a piece of chick'n topped with cheese and sandwiched between two crispy waffles and served with a side of maple syrup. It definitely hit the spot! The line for the truck got longer and longer as the day wore on, so unfortunately I never made it back to try the Cheesy Mac and Rib Melt, but I hear it was glorious!
Of course my next stop was to get another beer and check out the special VIP section. The VIP section had picnic tables set up, fans with misters, private Porta-Potties, and our own Golden Road Brewing Company beer booth! It was a nicely situated so you could overlook the rest of the fest and even watch the bands. I liked it, though I do wish they had more umbrellas up and more shade in general. The misting fans were awesome, though (misting fans could also be found in the general festival area, though they needed more!)!
Grilled Cheese Truck's Chick'n Waffle Melt with a side of maple syrup
and beer! So freaking good!
We didn't spend much time in the VIP section, but headed back out to check out more booths. There were so many vendors there, from breweries to restaurants to bakeries and beyond! Restaurants like Crossroads, Seabirds Kitchen, Doomie's, Shojin, and many, many more were serving up beer fest specials - some dishes were created specifically for the festival (like Crossroads' potato skins) while others dished out old favorites (like Doomie's Big Macs). Lots of bakeries showed up to appeal to the sweet tooth in each attendee - Bramble Bakeshop wowed with their Earl Grey Twinkies, maple peanut butter cups and Brookies (I bought all 3 for only $7!!), while Amanda's Bakery blew me away with their peanut butter bar (around $4, if I remember correctly)! Pepples Donuts even made the trek down from Oakland to be there, and were serving up tons of flavors of their delicious donuts! There was so much good food! Looking back I wish I had eaten more!
Bramble Bakeshop's Earl Grey Twinkie, Brookie and Maple Peanut Butter Cup!
Pepples Donuts in so many flavors!
I ate a Caramel Apple Pie donut and it was heaven!
There were also a few other booths there - I was happy to see Herbivore Clothing there (and there booth was constantly swarmed!) and a few other sponsor booths were there as well. And of course, there were all the breweries! I couldn't begin to tell you all of them, but I thoroughly enjoyed drinking their beers!
I had a really great time at the fest, but I did have a few comments on what could be improved:
- The heat sucked! It was TOO HOT, though there wasn't much anyone could do about that. I do wish they would schedule the fest in March or April instead of May, so that at least it would be a bit cooler, but Southern California is tricky and pretty much any month out of the year can experience a heatwave. It was a bummer it was so hot, though! Everyone was trying to cram into any shade they could find and it just wasn't comfortable walking around the hot sun in 100 degree weather. It also killed my appetite and I just didn't feel like eating much.
- There was no free drinking water. There was supposed to be several free drinking water areas, but something happened and they didn't get set up. With the heat and all the beer drinking going on, water is pretty much a necessity. It was disappointing that there wasn't any free, SAFE drinking water available. At least the bottles of water on sale were only $2, but still...people had specifically brought their own empty water bottles to avoid having to purchase plastic bottles. Hopefully this gets sorted out for next year.
- Getting people in seemed unorganized. This goes for both the VIP line and the General Admission line. I hear the General Admission line was much worse (the line wrapped around the city block and just kept going, so it was taking people quite some time to get in), but even the VIP line seemed slow and people were confused which line they needed to stand in. The people working the event also were giving contradictory directions to people trying to find the right line to stand in. Maybe some signs would help next time, guys?
- The lines for some of the food places were pretty ridiculous - stop eating all the delicious food, geez!! Ok, the last one was a joke, but if you go, just be ready for the looooong lines for food. My strategy is to buy as much food as possible in one go when I first get in and save it for later!
View from a shady spot at the fest, right next to the stage!
We had to get there way early to find a shady spot!
- Bring a backpack or bag - you will need it for the food you will want to take home with you, as well as carrying stuff into the fest.
- Bring low-backed chairs (if allowed) or a blanket and snag a place in the shade when you first get there! Go with a group so you can take turns getting beers/food while someone is left behind to guard your shady area.
- Bring your own water - as much of it as you can! Or be prepared to shell out cash for bottled water.
- Hit as many food places as early as possible and get as much as you can when you first get in. Come hungry and try to plan in advance which food places you will want to hit up (vendors are announced in advance so you can pre-plan!) and snag that year's hot item or visit your top food picks before they sell out!
- Some of the breweries run out of beer a few hours into the event, but you will probably be able to get your fill despite this, so don't stress too much about getting your beer unless there is a really special brew you want to drink a lot of.
- Bring lots of sunblock and re-apply often. Bring a hat or parasol to keep cool. Sunglasses are also a necessity!
- The lot the event is held in is mostly dirt and gravel, so wear appropriate shoes. I wore sandals, and by the time I left my feet were dirty and grimy...if it is in the same lot next year I will probably wear sneakers.
- Yes, there will be lines...please don't be an asshole and curse up a storm because you can't get whatever you want fast enough. Everyone is there to have a good time, don't ruin it! Just be patient and be kind!
- Speaking of lines, definitely spring for a VIP pass if possible - it is worth it to get in 1 hour early, which means shorter lines for the food trucks and first dibs on seating! And the unlimited beer isn't too shabby either. If you can't get a VIP pass, at least get there early so you can find decent parking (if driving) or so you can get a decent spot in the General Admission line.
- As I mentioned earlier, traffic/parking in or on Sunset sucks, so either get there early OR take a taxi/Uber/Lyft/public transportation or carpool. The fest usually has promo codes for this kind of stuff announced a few days before the event.
- Please don't drink and drive! Either choose a sober driver OR take a taxi/Uber/Lyft/public transportation to get home.
- Take time to snap some photos! Find the photo booth to capture some silly memories and don't forget to take your own pics! My hands were usually full of either beer or food, so I didn't get as many photos as I wanted or should have.
- You will run into so many people there! Set up a designated time to meet up with your friends to take photos, or plan ahead where you will all meet. Also, make new friends! Say hello to people you recognize from Instagram, Facebook, etc.! You can meet some pretty rad people this way! You may even see some vegan celebs there! Don't be shy - go say hi!
- Bring hand sanitizer - Dr. Bronner's makes a nice one in a travel size! You will definitely need this after using the Porta potties!
- If it is your first time, you WILL be overwhelmed! It helps to plan ahead a bit, even just to glance at the vendor list and pick out the places you absolutely want to eat/drink from, like mentioned above.
Trying to stay cool under the big oak tree!
Hopefully these tips and tricks will help people prepare for next year's event! This being my first LAVBF event, I wasn't sure what to expect or how to prepare or even what to bring in with me. Next year I will definitely be more prepared and I am already eagerly looking forward to next year's Los Angeles Vegan Beer Fest!
I'm not sure if it will be held in the same spot next year....it keeps getting bigger and bigger and it looks like the lot is slated for a development project anyway. Wherever it ends up, I trust that the organizers will put on another fantastic event next year!
For more info, visit www.veganbeerfest.com and follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for future updates!