CARLSBAD — ‘Tis the season for the strong drinks.
And for Gina Marsaglia and Vince Marsaglia, co-founders of Pizza Port Brewing, nothing kicks off the holidays like the brewery’s annual Strong Ale Festival in Carlsbad Village.
The two-day event offers beer lovers and connoisseurs an opportunity to taste a variety of robust and quality craft beers from around the country. The 24th Strong Ale Festival runs from 5-10 p.m. on Dec. 2, and 3-9 p.m. on Dec. 3, with VIP sessions beginning at 3 p.m. and noon, respectively.
Due to the pandemic, the last event was held in December 2019. Gina Marsaglia said even though procuring brews has been a challenge, this year’s festival was never in doubt.
“We are very excited,” Gina Marsaglia said. “Probably because it kicks off the holidays for us and just the amount of people that have come over the years.”
The event highlights “strong” beers, mainly above 8% alcohol content, from around the country. In years past, the festival showcased at least 100 selections of ales, porters, stouts, pale ales, Indian Pale Ales and more.
The idea for the festival was conceived on a rainy night in 1996 when the Marsaglias and friends were discussing a unique way for their young brewery to kick off the Christmas season. So, they hustled up as many strong brews as possible, drank and had a blast. Thus, the Strong Ale Festival was born.
At first, the festival mainly featured barleywines and spicy dark ales, but Strong Ale has expanded over the years to include a more diverse selection of high-octane beers, such as IPAs, hazy IPAs and Belgians.
Gina Marsaglia said this year’s official beer list wouldn’t be released until the festival commences, but Pizza Port is bringing back some of its classics.
“We are releasing a version of our double IPA, Kook, that we discontinued in the market,” Gina Marsaglia said. “We are releasing a special one for Strong Ale, plus our Bacon and Eggs. We did a roasted coconut one for that. It’s really incredible.”
Festival goers like Eddie Haynes, a regular festival attendee since 2005, are drawn to tasting a variety of solid stouts, triple IPAs and other craft beers not readily available in Carlsbad or the Southern California region.
Haynes said he is excited about the festival’s return, which he believes is a great social event for sharing drinks with friends.
“It’s been a bummer,” Haynes said of the festival being dark. “It was one of those things I was sure would come back again. As things have been opening and we’ve learned to live with COVID, I was super-stoked to hear it was back again.”