“It’s becoming harder to remember the time before Beer Lands came along,” says Magnolia Brewing’s Dave McLean. “It’s twice as big as it was the first year, and has a prime crossroads location that makes it easy for people to hit on their way to and from any of the performance stages.”
Truth: At the far end of the Polo Field, it’s nearly impossible to miss the outsized collection of 30 local beer and cider producers this weekend. McLean returns to curate the craft-beer section for the sixth year running, as Outside Lands celebrates its 10th go-round. The festival has matured considerably, and there are plenty of stellar acts to see — remember that year when the headliners were Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, and Tenacious D? Yikes — but aside from making us all feel really old, this anniversary also means that the folks putting it on have had a decade to dial in the details. Not that there was much that needed dialing — it’s hard to imagine another urban music festival affording the excess found in Golden Gate Park every August.
“We started out with an all-California lineup six years ago and have evolved to featuring only breweries from Northern California,” McLean says. “Ten of this year’s breweries are either based in or brewed in San Francisco proper.” In the near future, you could envision him sourcing beers exclusively from within a one-mile radius of the Land’s End stage.
An array of craft draft from 101 North, Altamont, Alvarado Street, Black Sands, and Laughing Monk, as well as Oakland United all make their festival debut this year. Since the hop craze shows no signs of slowing, expect to find all manner of IPA: sessions, fruits, doubles, and the unfiltered, “New England-style” IPAs currently trending everywhere.
For those biased against bitter, McLean observes a movement towards German-influenced pilsners, light lagers, and kölsches. Seek out exciting examples from Harmonic Brewing out of the Dogpatch, and Calicraft from Walnut Creek.
“It’s pretty exciting to see as these are delicious and drinkable styles, great for a long day at the festival,” he says.
Funk fanatics will find plenty to hashtag here. Almanac will pour its Hoppy Sour alongside the dry and slightly tangy Saison Dolores. If you ever wished your beer tasted more like a cocktail, Anderson Valley Brewing caters to your desires with their unexpectedly awesome Gin & Tonic Gose.
But if you feel like you want actual booze, head to Cocktail Magic in the wooded thicket of McLaren Pass. Bartenders from six of the city’s hippest watering holes team up with live performers to combine magic with mixology. This year, sip on cocktails from the folks at P.C.H., Whitechapel, and Alembic, and see what tricks they have up their sleeves.
No self-respecting wino can resist the lure of Wine Lands, an Outside Lands fixture since the beginning. Peter Eastlake, who has served as director of wine programming since Day One, is proud of his singular achievement.
“Outside Lands was the first large-scale music festival to feature food and wine as a meaningful part of the overall experience,” he says. “Aside from Jazz Fest in New Orleans, there wasn’t a music festival that garnered attention for food and drink — and definitely not wine!”
To make it memorable, Eastlake invited winemakers to pour their own product in a tented environment, providing attendees with the type of one-on-one engagement you expect at an actual winery, rather than at an 80,000-person music festival. This year, he assembled 40 wineries, with 120 wines in total.
Fill up on some edgy juice from Tank Garage Winery, based out of a Calistoga gas station built in the 1930s. Their provocative portfolio includes funky, skin-fermented whites, and big and spicy Syrah blends, like the appropriately titled Lipstick and Gunpowder. Those with more classically inclined palates will find balance and structure in the Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir from Alysian Wines.
Bring cash. Wines are only available to purchase by using the same RFID wristband that gets you into the festival grounds. Go online, upload your bitcoin, then enjoy pours ranging from one-ounce tasters to eight-ounce doubles. And yes, there will be plenty of rosé.
“I don’t think there’s a wine bar in the world of the scale that Wine Lands becomes for three days in August,” Eastlake says.
Oh yeah, a few bands will supposedly be performing along the way. Gorillaz, Metallica, and The Who, serve as headliners on each successive night. Come for the music, if you like. Just make sure to stay for the booze. And make a celebratory toast while you’re at it: here’s to the next 10 years of Outside Lands. It’s the country’s best fest, right in our own backyard — and when the fog comes in, you’re going to want to have some booze handy.