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Festival of Beers over Memorial Day weekend is expected to be largest yet

The 2012 California Festival of Beers at the Madonna Expo Center in San Luis Obispo. The event is a fundraiser for Hospice SLO. Courtesy photo
The 2012 California Festival of Beers at the Madonna Expo Center in San Luis Obispo. The event is a fundraiser for Hospice SLO. Courtesy photo

The 27th annual California Festival of Beers on Memorial Day weekend is expected to be the largest yet in both size and number of attendees.

After relocating last year from Avila Beach Golf Resort to the parking lot at the Madonna Expo Center in San Luis Obispo, the festival is making another, but much less drastic, move: The main tasting event May 25 will leave behind the pavement and set up on Madonna Meadows, the large grassy area near the inn. The move allows organizers to space out booths, expand entertainment options, and make more tickets available.

“We’re bigger in terms of space, we’re spreading out more, we’re bringing in more food and more seating,” said Kris Kington-Barker, executive director of Hospice of San Luis Obispo County.

The festival is a major fundraiser for the local nonprofit group.

This year, about 4,000 tickets were made available for the grand tasting — more than ever before. As of last week, close to 3,000 of those had been sold. In the past, with fewer tickets for sale, the event sold out quickly.

While a little more than a dozen breweries from California and beyond have committed to this year’s event, Kington-Barker expects that number to reach at least 60 as contracts firm up.

A smaller, more intimate event will be from 5:30 to 8 p.m. May 24 inside the Madonna Expo Center. The Arts and Drafts Connoisseur Tasting will feature food and beer pairing led by “Dr. Bill” Sysak of Stone Brewing Co. in San Diego County. Three hundred tickets at $50 each are available.

Tickets for the grand tasting, which will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 25, are $75. Two-day VIP passes are $150. Designated driver tickets are also available, at $25.

Festival proceeds make up 30 percent of Hospice SLO’s annual budget, according to Kington-Barker. Hospice SLO provides its grief-counseling services to members of the community at no charge.

More information is available at www.californiafestivalofbeers.com.

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