Brews and blues screenshot

Anaheim Brewery owners Greg Gerovac and Barbara Gerovac, and Anaheim Brewery worker Eduardo Gomez.

Despite not being able to enjoy the numerous beer selections offered at the Fullerton Arboretum on a cool summer night, the Arboretum and Anaheim Brewery did not let their annual Brews and Blues event succumb to cancellation: they hosted a virtual experience Saturday night for music and beer enthusiasts.

Normally held on the third Saturday of August, the Brews and Blues event brought 14 local breweries to the Arboretum last year in addition to food businesses and live bands. With COVID-19 making it hard to hold large gatherings, having the same experience was not possible. However, Vanessa Johnson, facility rental and sales manager of the Arboretum, said this being a community event was a major reason why they decided to hold it through Zoom.

Guests could register for the hour-long event through the Arboretum’s website, as it was free for anyone interested. The only thing that needed to be paid for was a brew kit from Anaheim Brewery, which came with the choice of four beer bottles and one glass.

Re-opened in 2011, Anaheim Brewery has partnered with the Arboretum for nearly all of its existence. They used to give the Arboretum the used barley the brewery would have from making beers to use as compost, this made for the perfect brewery to help host the event, said Greg Dyment, Arboretum director.

Throughout the night, owners Barbara and Greg Gerovac gave guests a tour of the beers offered in the brew kit, describing what type was being tasted, as well as the reasoning behind the name. From the light and easy to drink hefeweizens, to the darker and bitter red and India pale ale, guests were taught a lesson on the beers they could drink from the comfort of their home.

Providing the music was the Chris Anderson Group, another long time partner of Brews and Blues. A three-man band from Long Beach, the group joined virtually from the Long Beach Towne Center and gave those on the Zoom call the chance to forget about the pandemic and jam to the rock element that bassist Mike Casper incorporates into Anderson’s soulful vocals, giving the sense that everyone was at the Arboretum.

In between taste tests and music, staff from the Arboretum thanked those who attended, as buying the beers not only supported local breweries but the arboretum located on the Cal State Fullerton campus.

Each beer kit cost $45 from the Anaheim Brewery, but with each one sold, $25 went back to the Arboretum. In addition, the Mysun Foundation, a private foundation located in Clayton, Missouri, pledged that it would match every donation made to the Arboretum for up to $75,000 from now until the end of October, which includes the money donated from the brewery.

The money raised from the event and the foundation will help the Arboretum reach its goal of bringing back its horticulture staff full-time, as well as maintain everything inside as it has been closed since March due to COVID-19. Johnson said that she would view the event as a success because money was spent to host the event.

“There is no big third party production company like some of the other online virtual events that are going on. Some of them have really put some dollars behind their production, we did not. We are just using the resources that we have,” Johnson said.

As for whether the next Brews and Blues event will be in-person or virtual, Dyment assured that no matter what, the event will happen again.

“I hope that by next August, we're not living virtually through all of our little screens that we set in front of us every day. But if we are doing it that way, we'll do it this way next year too,” Dyment said.

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