By Andy Hinds
Parents and community members in North Park have rallied behind their local public elementary school in a way that perhaps best reflects their neighborhood’s vibe.
In the geographic epicenter of San Diego’s craft beer obsession, supporters of Jefferson Elementary IB STEAM Magnet are on the way to establishing an iconic local event: the San Diego Homebrew Festival and Competition.
The event, scheduled for the afternoon of March 18, will be the second annual Homebrew Fest, and will mark a significant expansion from its predecessor, with more homebrewers, more licensed brewers and more food vendors.
Like last year, the fest will take place in the asphalt lot behind the historic Observatory North Park Theatre, just a few blocks east of Jefferson Elementary.
Geena Pearson, Homebrew Fest organizer and mother of two Jefferson students, describes the event’s origin as a meeting of the minds between her homebrewing husband Erick, herself and George Thornton, the proprietor of The Homebrewer, a brewing supply store in North Park.
“There was really no other major event in San Diego where the homebrewing community could get together and compete for bragging rights, so we thought we could fill that niche,” she said.
Asked if there has been any controversy over the juxtaposition of beer and elementary students, she replied, “We have had a little pushback here and there, maybe a sidelong glance or two; but when people understand that no kids will actually be at the event, and that we are just trying to tap into [pun intended] one of our biggest local economic drivers to help the public school, the vast majority of people think it’s a cool idea.”
At least 35 homebrewers will compete this year, eight local licensed breweries will contribute kegs, and three food vendors will participate. The price of admission includes unlimited tastings of homebrewed and licensed beers.
Friends of Jefferson, the benefactor of this fundraiser, is a nonprofit foundation that supports education and enrichment programs for Jefferson students.
According to co-founder and former president An Bui, the foundation has funded a new gardening class for K-3 students, after-school clubs, field trips, and more.
“Jefferson Elementary is a SDUSD public school in which more than 80 percent of students are eligible for free meals,” Bui said, “and in light of the District’s $124 million budget deficit, community support for public schools like Jefferson is more crucial than ever.”
Bui said community partners including Homebrew Fest sponsors Waypoint Public, Barons Market, and The Homebrewer have been invaluable in the efforts to expand opportunities for Jefferson students.
For more information and tickets, go to sdhomebrewfest.com.