Kameo Bonner pours a Red Headed Stranger from Ranger Creek at the San Antonio Beer Festival. Credit: Mitch Hagney for the San Antonio Report

Thousands of San Antonians flocked to Dignowity and Lockwood parks on the Eastside to celebrate San Antonio’s 11th Annual Beer Festival, which included over 150 breweries, largely with their own tents, and over 400 individual beers.

Varying ambers, stouts, blondes, and IPAs mixed as participants explored individual samples. Each tasting card allowed participants to sample eight beers for $2 per brew.

Benefits for the event went directly to the San Antonio Food Bank, which donates meals to over 70,000 families each week. While numbers are still in flux for the current year, last year’s Beer Festival yielded nearly $90,000 in donations for the nonprofit organization.

The Food Bank contributed volunteers as well as marketing assistance in order to create revenue for the Beer Festival, and, thus, its mission to feed San Antonio’s hungry. Each dollar earned yields roughly seven meals, according to the organization.

“It was not tough to get volunteers for the Beer Festival,” SA Food Bank CEO Eric Cooper said.

In addition to raising crucial funds for a worthy cause, the Beer Festival helped prove the event hosting capacity of Dignowity and Lockwood parks, which are collectively up for $3.1 million in bond money to enhance the Eastside’s public space, including the closing of Burnet Street in order to develop a full park without a public street in the way.

The event offered a wide variety of assorted craft beers and gave attendees a chance to taste something from every represented city, which included Texas beers as well as an array of suds from breweries as far away as Colorado, Massachusetts, and California. Tasty side dishes included turkey legs, paletas, and frito-pies.

Breweries from near and far represented themselves to discerning and enthusiastic San Antonio drinkers – Some had even prepared a signature brew months in advance, especially for the festival.

Ranger Creek offered a Tangerine Saison that was exclusive to the event, but also included their crowd favorite offerings like the Red Headed Stranger and the Oatmeal Pale Ale.

Beers from Hood River, Ore., along with beers from Boston combined to create a comprehensive and adventurous mix at the festival that overlooked the San Antonio skyline amid beer swigs and local eats.

New Belgium Brewing donated bikes that were given away throughout the afternoon to participants who had opted in. Winners were excited to wheel their prizes through the Eastside toward downtown.

Councilman Alan Warrick (D2) attended the event, enthusiastically sampling the local fares and experiencing a city-wide event on the Eastside.

“It’s phenomenal to see the entire city out here, tasting amazing drinks and seeing Dignowity Park in a new way,” Warrick said.

Broadly, being able to see the San Antonio skyline from Dignowity and Lockwood parks presented both a new opportunity for engagement with the Eastside as well as a chance to become acquainted with the best beers in Texas. The open spaces, facing the skyline of the city, represented a tremendous change from the previous years’ Maverick Park experience and downtown participation.

Many breweries had the opportunity to show off unique cask fares and their connection to the public, and San Antonio’s beer community was out in thousands, tasting and participating in the experience of the local beer industry.

The San Antonio Food Bank received generous donations from local beer enthusiasts, who directly connected to their breweries and their community. Celebrating together, the San Antonio community demonstrated what local hops and malts can mean for a city that needs its support.

Mitch Hagney is a writer and hydroponic farmer in downtown San Antonio. Hagney is CEO of LocalSprout and president of the Food Policy Council of San Antonio.