It was the best of times; it was the wort of times. Get it? That’s a beer pun. Don’t let that stop you from reading the rest of this article, though. Today we’re celebrating the best of the best from last weekend’s California Beer Festival with the first annual Best of the Fest awards — deemed worthy by yours truly.

Directly to the left of the entrance, The Dudes’ Brewing Company from Los Angeles made a valiant effort by pouring foamy samplings of their Double IPA, but it was in the heart of the brown ale that this award was won. Grandma’s Pecan English Brown Ale is like drinking a chocolate pecan pie, creamy on the palate and nutty on the nose, yet light enough to start off a beer fest without wrecking your palate.

Best Flavored Beer: The Dudes’ Brewing Company / Grandma’s Pecan English Brown Ale.

Runner-up: Ladyface Ale House /Derailleur with Salted Chocolate
In a sea of IPAs, there were a few stand outs. Ballast Point’s IPA opened up the taste buds with its mild yet pervasive fruitiness, but it was at The Lab that the IPArty got started.

Best IPA: Lab Brewing Company / Hop Solution Double IPA

Runner Up: Goose Island / The Illinois Double IPA

With more than 150 brews to choose from and close to 50 breweries to visit, it can be daunting to pick just a single most memorable stop, but here we go. The first annual 5 O’clock Somewhere’s best in show can only be awarded to not one, but several of the CBF’s attendees in what we’ll call Best Local Effort.

Best Local Effort: Enegren Brewing Company (Moorpark), Lab Brewing Company (Agoura Hills) and Institution Ale Company (Camarillo) all brought their best and, judging by the lines, were rewarded for doing so.

Enegren’s Captain’s Summer Session Golden Blonde was light on the hops but lingered on the palate and hit the spot like none other, while The Lab and Institution made a great effort as relative newcomers to the Ventura area.

Let’s not forget that when you’re tasting beer, everybody is a winner. One word to the big guys who show up at small beer fests: we’ve all had your IPA and your strong ale. Maybe put some effort into it next time? Stone, I’m looking at you.

5 O’Clock Somewhere is finding the very best beverages in the VC and beyond. For more on beer, visit