Bottom’s up! La Jolla Historical Society hosts Antique Brewery Fest


Brewery Fest will give patrons taste of beer-making history

La Jollans can drink up for a worthy cause at La Jolla Historical Society’s Antique Brewery Fest, set from 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 21 at Wisteria Cottage. The fundraiser will showcase a variety of centuries-old European beers, providing guests not only with samples to taste but insight into the brewing process, recipes and the cultural history of beer.

“Since we’re all about history at the historical society, we thought we’d bring in an all-new angle of history,” said Ruth Varonfakis, the organization’s public relations director. “These are 200-year-old beers with recipes formulated by Trappist monks or old European families.”

The tasting menu includes 18 different beers from Belgium, England, Scotland, Germany and the Czech Republic, provided by Merchant du Vin. Each has been created according to a historical and regional brewing tradition from a benchmark brewery, allowing them to be termed “authentic.”

Part of what makes an event like this so unusual is that guests will be imbibing the same beverage consumed by men and women hundreds of years ago.

“A long time ago, the water supply was very poor, so wheat beer was a lot safer to drink because the water was boiled,” said Laird Butler of Merchant du Vin. “What they’re going to experience is a very flavorful but balanced beer. A lot of the beers today are either fairly bland, like your domestics, or they are extreme beers.”

The beers will be set up at sampling stations where tutorials will be presented on the unique brewing process responsible for each beer’s distinctive flavor. Guests will also learn about beer’s role in history, from Germany’s 1516 “Reinheitsgebot” (Bavarian Purity Law) to taxes applied to breweries of the Belgium Trappist Monastery at the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Saint-Remy.

Guiseppe’s of La Jolla will serve hors d'oeuvres created to compliment the antique beers, and guests will receive a souvenir pilsner glass.

This event, said Varonfakis, exemplifies the organization’s goal of creating fun, innovative programs in order to reach a wider audience.

“John Bolthouse has really been ratcheting up the events for the residents of La Jolla and anyone else who is interested,” Varonfakis said. “The society has been a very quiet, behind-the-scenes, wonderful resource for the community, but it’s kind of breaking out of its shell.”

“We have to do things that appeal to more of the community,” said Bolthouse, who serves as executive director. “Overall, we want to be accessible both philosophically and physically to the La Jolla community.”

The idea for the brewery fest took root during a conversation Bolthouse had with Butler when the two met during the society’s Secret Garden Tour earlier this year.

“This was right up our alley,” Bolthouse said. “We’re all about history and preserving stories.”

Tickets for the 21-and-over event are $75 for members and $90 for nonmembers, and can be obtained by calling (858) 459-5335 or visiting www.lajolla Reservations are limited, so Varonfakis encouraged people not to wait.

The Antique Brewery Fest is just one of several programs the historical society is developing to attract more visitors, Bolthouse said.

“All Roads Lead to La Jolla,” a new exhibit, set to coincide with the La Jolla Motor Car Classic in January, will illustrate the history of the automobile and its impact on La Jolla. Coming later in the year is “Life on the Home Front,” an exposition on life in The Jewel during World War II.

“We are priding ourselves on being very dynamic and vibrant and busy around here,” Bolthouse said.

La Jolla Antique Brewery Fest

When: 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 21

Where: Wisteria Cottage, 780 Prospect

Tickets $75-$90 at or (858) 459-5335

Note: Must be 21 or older, photo ID