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ShamROCK festival revelers. Photo by Jeff Spanier
ShamROCK festival revelers. Photo by Jeff Spanier
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March Gladness: ShamROCK, SD Beer News Awards, and more

The month of March has been fantastic for I Like Beer. I made new friends on the Central Coast, tasted great beers, enjoyed the annual ShamROCK festival in San Diego, and finished the month at the 4th annual San Diego Beer News Awards.

In early March, I found myself in San Luis Obispo, visiting new breweries. Of course, each opportunity brought me some new stories to share.

Sitting down with Dylan Roddick, owner and head brewer of Oak & Otter Brewing in San Luis Obispo, taught me more about this favorite lunch stop. The beers Roddick is brewing in his nanobrewery are fantastic.

Just as impressive is the variety of beers he’s managing to keep on tap working out of the small, one-man show setup. While there, I enjoyed an English-style brown ale, a Belgian Wit, a traditional Kolsch, and a black IPA. But the beers are only half the story.

Roddick, who worked at a local bar while attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, enjoyed the people part of the industry and, coupled with his homebrewing background, decided a brewpub was the way to go. To meet his goal of having a brewpub, he decided to add a menu. His food offerings match the excellence of his beer selection. Try the nachos, but don’t leave without a sandwich and salad.

There’s always a story behind a beer’s or brewery’s name.

“We were going through all kinds of names. We wanted a nature theme,” shares Roddick. “We talked about Oak. We were discussing ‘Lazy Otter’ when my wife’s boss’ five-year-old said, ‘Oak and Otter’. We thought, ‘That’s it’. So, we got named by a five-year-old kid.”

ShamROCK Festival in San Diego. Photo by Jeff Spanier
ShamROCK Festival in San Diego. Photo by Jeff Spanier

Right around the corner, I found Humdinger Brewing’s newest location in San Luis Obispo. Co-owner Justin Amy was working the bar and was a happy, welcoming host.

I enjoyed a Peanut Butter Falcon, an English-style brown ale with peanut butter. Amy described the beer to me as follows: “I wanted to have the malts take a back seat to the flavors we introduced, the peanuts and a banana extract. We brewed it to have the flavors come through without all the roasty notes you get in a stout.”

And, Amy had a story behind the Humdinger Brewing name as well.

“When we were opening up our AG location, we were searching for names. We came up with one we really liked, Bolt Thrower. My partner Lee said, ‘I think that’s a humdinger of a name!’ We stopped, looked at each other, and said: ‘There it is’ and we became Humdinger.”

Humdinger is an event location set up with a stage for music and plenty of room for a good time.

I also tried Humdinger’s Bubble Buds Hop Water, a zero-percent alcohol and zero-calorie seltzer water. On the nose, it smelled like a hop-forward pale ale, but it was crystal clear with no head. I sipped it indignantly but quickly changed my attitude. It’s now my favorite way to stay hydrated.

In mid-March, back in San Diego, I headed to the 28th annual ShamROCK festival in the Gaslamp District. ShamROCK founder Laurel McFarland started as an intern and is now in her 28th year.

McFarland: 100% of this event goes to a charity event [Gaslamp Historical Foundation/Davis-Horton Museum] and has since its inception. It’s close to my heart and super fun, and I started my own company from ShamROCK. So, I might be a bit biased, but it’s a great event.

ILB: What’s the crowd like?

McFarland: It’s an eclectic group of younger and older people. Everyone loves Irish music and dancing!

ILB: There have to be some great ShamROCK memories from the past.

McFarland: Yes, many. We’ve married people there. We had Flogging Molly on the stage for a couple of years. And all the performers and vendors, we’ve become like a family over the years.

The camaraderie and purpose — fun for a good cause — permeate the event. It was loud, there were a lot of people — and a lot of drinks — and everyone was having fun. It was a great way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

If you missed it this year, don’t fret – ShamROCK will return next March.

At the end of March, they sent me to the San Diego Beer News Awards. Founder Brandon Hernández does his homework and recognizes not only our beer community’s established giants but also the small, local breweries that are also contributing to San Diego beer.

This year, the awards show was a public event held at Stone Brewing, Liberty Station. To see pictures of the event and a list of the amazing winners, check out

Jeff Spanier is the co-host of I Like Beer the Podcast. For the entire interview with ShamROCK, Oak & Otter, and Humdinger Brewing, take a listen wherever you get podcasts. Follow Spanier’s adventures on Instagram: @ilikebeerthepodcast.

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