What You Should Eat and Drink at Red, White & Brews
Last weekend we got a chance to continue our series of visits to Cedar Fair food festivals (we’ve been to ones at Knott’s and Carowinds so far), this time checking out Red, White & Brews at California’s Great America. The festival continues this weekend, so we wanted to share with you what we ate and drank, to hopefully inspire some visits this weekend. The festival is focused largely on the great beer and wine from Northern California, with food that is “Americana” focused, designed to feel bbq like, with a bit of Northern California flavor. Along with the food, there was live music throughout the day, and lots of games for adults and kids to play.
The event takes place in the Hometown Square section of the park, which I realized was perfectly setup for something like this. It’s a fairly big open space, with room to set up stages, a shaded areas in the center for setting up tables, and the gazebo worked perfectly to host the dueling pianos. Adding the decorations to the “main street” style buildings around the square made it feel like a small town holiday celebration.
The games dotted through the area, like cornhole and giant beer pong, were being played throughout the time I was there. Large red, white & brew chairs were set up in front of the stages for guests to recline in, and entertainers with balloons walked around amusing young kids. The bands throughout the day varied in styles. Bluegrass was being played while I was there, with country and rock music coming later in the afternoon and evening.
But of course, the main highlights were the food and drink.
Red, White & Brews Brews
The most impressive thing about Red, White & Brews, and the thing that surprised me the most, was how large a selection of beer and wine was available. The press releases had mentioned there would be beer from numerous breweries, but I was shocked to see 32 different beers available from 17 different breweries. Despite being a frequent California beer drinker, I was able to find several I’d never had, and some from breweries I’d never had. That’s exactly what I was from a beer festival.
In addition to the beers, there were sixteen different California wines available as well. The beer and wine could all be tasted either individually, or by getting a $25 tasting card that included six tastes of anything you wanted. This was definitely the best way to try things, but it was nice that they offered an option for someone who just wanted one beer, or maybe wanted to try one more.
The tasting card also came with a small souvenir tasting cup (which you had to keep and carry around). As my goal was to mostly try things I’d never had before, I ended up with a variety of beers. From Alameda Island I had both the American Pale and the Heff-D. The Heff-D in particular was great on a warm (almost) summer afternoon, with the nice fruit taste you get in a wheat beer. The Santa Clara Valley Red and the Humboldt Red Nectar were both maybe a little malty for a warm day, but were very tasty beers. Finally, I had a Firestone that I think wasn’t actually on the list of beers (and I’ve now forgotten). No matter what your preferences though, there are options for everyone. But you should try to stick to California beers and skip the Bud Light…
Red, White & Brews Eats
The food at Red, White & Brews also operated with a tasting card that included five savory items, plus a choice of one of two desserts. There were also some other special desserts offered in other parts of the park. Like with the beer, food could be ordered individually instead of with the card, but if you want to try everything the card is the way to go.
First up for me was the Tombstone Slider, which had both brisket and pulled pork on it, along with a slightly fruity kind of salsa (I think pineapple, maybe?). The meat was nice and saucy, and a generous portion. It was one of my favorite things.
Next I went for the pulled pork bun. I was expecting it to be a soft steamed bun, like a dim sum pork bun, but it actually had a bubbly, crispy outside, with generous pulled pork in the middle. This one was the top of my list, unique, filling, and tasty.
Likely the most interesting (and intimidating) item on the menu, the bacon wrapped chicken hearts. I briefly chatted with California’s Great America General Manager Raul Rehnborg at the event, and he said he’d from a lot of people who said that was their favorite item, even though they were nervous about it. The hearts are tough, but they didn’t have a super “organy” or “bloody” taste that they sometimes do, and the bacon wrap was delicious added a fantastic flavor.
The last two items I had were the smoked chicken wings and the spicy roasted corn on the cob. I wished the chicken wings had a little more sauce and maybe a little more smoke flavor, but they were solid. The corn was roasted nicely, but it was a little too over-dressed for me. The flavors were good, but the amount of coating sort of turned into a pasty texture on the outside of the corn. This was partly my fault as I asked them to go heavy on the seasoning. Next time I’d ask them to go light.
Future Festivals, CGA Construction
This is the second major food festival California’s Great America has put on, after Taste of Orleans last summer (which is coming back in July). I briefly talked to Great America General Manager Raul Rehnborg about the festival, and he commented that they took away some good lessons from last years successful Taste of Orleans. One of the big ones was to make it easier for guests to see the food, and be enticed by it. Large signs throughout the area for Red, White & Brews have big pictures of all the food, and the event guides showed what everything looked like.
He also mentioned that at night the area really shined, as the lighting fixtures that had been set-up for WinterFest were repurposed to brightly light the area in red, white, and blue.
I asked Rehnborg whether we could expect more festivals in the future, and he said that was their hope. They really wanted one around each time of the season. With Red, White & Brews they wanted to capture the early summer part of the season. Taste of Orleans covered July, and Halloween and Winterfest covered the holidays. He said they had been thinking about something around Spring Break next year, to help kick off the season.
He also indicated again that next year would be big for the park, with a new attraction. He said we should expect to see construction later this summer, and an announcement in August.
Obviously we don’t know much yet, but the signs of future construction were visible. On the midway between the side of the Great America Theater and Whitewater Falls, and running up to the bridge near the RC Boats, little white spots could be seen spray painted on the ground, some with numerical indicators. Nothing was obvious up near the Invertigarden, but it made me realize there’s quite a bit of space along that stretch opposite the Demon and Whitewater Falls, and over the midway. Certainly enough space for a major attraction. We’ll let you know if any new signs pop up over the summer!
For now, Red, White & Brews continues this upcoming weekend. If you get a chance, you should listen to some music, try some beers, some chicken hearts, and the pork buns. It looked like another successful for California’s Great America, and we’re looking forward to being back in July for Taste of Orleans. And if you go, let us know what your favorite food and drink from Red, White & Brews is!