Monterey Beer Festival this weekend

For connoisseurs looking to expand their palates, novices curious to explore the beer experience, or anyone desiring a festival filled with food, beverage and live music, you need look no further than the 2009 Monterey Beer Festival.

This Saturday, a great assortment and styles of beer will be available from 12:30 to 5 p.m. at the Monterey Fairgrounds. The theme this year is “A Tribute to Beer.”

“This festival is a tribute to beer because beer has finally made it as a quality beverage in America,” said festival organizer and co-founder Jeff Moses. “Finally, beer has gotten its due. It was considered a second-class beverage for a long time because the products weren’t available. But now the products are available and people are buying them.”

There will be close to 90 breweries represented at the festival, offering varied styles of ales, lagers and ciders to taste.

Hip-hop artist Monroe Blakkk will also be performing. Live music and unlimited beer samples are included with ticket purchase. A portion of all ticket proceeds will go to the Culinary Center of Monterey.

This year’s co-hosts will be Chris Nelson and Merideth Canham-Nelson, a couple that will hit their goal of visiting 500 different breweries by the end of this year.

They have just returned from a “year in beer,” where they spent the past 12 months traveling to breweries around the world.

“We went to a major beer event or destination every month — five destinations in Europe, seven around the U.S. We were on the road quite a bit, but it was fantastic,” said Canham-Nelson, who is in the process of writing a travelogue about their beer adventures.

She said that their role at the festival will be to welcome people and introduce them to new beer styles.

“People don’t know where to start. It’s not about whether or not you know beer — it’s about being willing to try. We really want to help build and strengthen the craft beer community on the peninsula. The festival is great for this.”

“I try to get people to be adventurous,” said Nelson. “Most people would go to a restaurant and sample something new. Beer is the same way — you should try it. If you like spicy food, you may enjoy a strong Belgium beer or an IPA (India Pale Ale), something more robust than a lager or a light-colored beer. People have different tastes.”