On Saturday, my boyfriend (now my fiancé but I don’t like that word) and I went to the Los Angeles Vegan Beer and Food Festival at the Rose Bowl, making it my second vegan food fest this year. There I met up with fellow blogger Evelyn, of Vegan Simplified, who actually told me about the event.
I was a little wary of how packed it was going to be when I saw that the lots were already getting full and had to park down the street. Parking actually wasn’t too bad, as we were able to cut across a lot to get to the event, and the consistent breeze offered some relief in the scorching 100-degree weather.
General admission started at 1 pm, and we didn’t get there until 2:30 but the lines to get in were short and moved quickly, which was kind of surprising. The complimentary beer glasses—basically beer shot glasses—were available at tents next to the entrance. For $20 more, you could get a bigger glass, although they still only fill it up halfway. I’m guessing that has to do with moderating how drunk people get.
I was pretty impressed with how organized the event was. Since there were way more food vendors at this event compared to the VegFest earlier this year, getting food without waiting in long lines was no problem. Of course, there were still a handful of vendors with long lines, but you could easily bypass them and still sample a good assortment of vegan fare.
First order of business was the beer, since we paid $50 for admission that included the free beer tasting. You just had to pay for the food and merchandise.
The actual festival was set up on a golf course next to the Rose Bowl, and the marketplace along with a few beer and food stands were set up along the perimeter—just outside the entrance.
We got our first drink at this beer stand, pictured below. I can’t remember the name of the drink—I just know it was a blonde ale.
Sweets Before Savory
Once we got in, we scoped out about 10 food vendors before jumping in line for Donut Farm. I had been craving a vegan donut ever since I became vegan, and I wanted to take advantage of the short line even though I was starting with dessert. I got the “Coconut Whiteout” (vanilla white glaze with coconut flakes) and my boyfriend got a blueberry-glazed donut. It was soft, doughy, and satisfied my sweet tooth. It made me wonder why not ALL donuts are vegan when vegan donuts taste just like their cruelty-causing counterparts, but better since no animals are harmed.
Next we decided on vegan dumplings from Bling Bling Dumpling. My boyfriend and I split with the dumplings and [spinach] salad combo, which came with six shiitake mushroom dumplings drenched with an addictively sweet soy sauce. Very tasty!
Pour, Drink, Repeat
Since we finished our beer within a matter of minutes, we went to another beer tent offering my current favorite: Einstok Icelandic Arctic Pale Ale. Unfortunately, I’ve developed an allergy to certain beers, and especially wines, so Einstok is one of the few beers I haven’t had an allergic reaction to. I think pale ale is my safest bet, so I stuck with that type throughout the day.
We basically kept circling various beer tents, hopping from one line to the next while drinking our beer samplings. Among the standouts were a vanilla blonde ale from a microbrewery in Coachella, and Green Flash Passion Fruit Kicker (5.5% wheat ale with passion fruit equals yum!).
Amidst the beer tasting, we got a bean and vegan cheese pupusa (more please!) and a couple mini donuts from Donut Friend: a cinnamon roll donut and a chocolate-glazed donut filled with vegan Bavarian cream (called "Custard Front Drive"). I really wanted to try Donut Friend at the VegFest but the line was ridiculously long. I’m happy to report that it lived up to my expectations! Once again, I failed to take a picture of the decadent sweets before scarfing them down.
Artisanal Vegan Cheese, Please!
Just before the festival ended, we bought artisanal vegan cheese spreads to-go (a couple were free since they had leftovers and didn’t want them to go to waste). We got the pub style combo that came with pretzels and multi-seed crackers with what I think was a mildly spicy roasted red pepper vegan cheese, chive vegan cheese, and a truffle oil and lavender vegan cheese meant to be paired with fruits. It didn’t say what the cheese was made from but my guess is cashews. My two favorites were the roasted red pepper and the chive. I love truffle oil, but foods with lavender takes getting used to—tastes too much like soap or something.
A Good Mix of Vegans and Non-Vegans
The festival had a great turnout overall, but unlike VegFest, the beer tasting drew in more non-vegans. It definitely seemed to center more on the food and beer aspect than the ethics—as there were fewer animal rights organizations there.
There were a handful of times I heard people chuckle about veganism or make remarks about “how annoying vegans are”. After hearing about an incident in which a guy at the festival kept hounding someone about why he/she wasn't vegan, I can understand people’s irritation toward vegans. It’s this type of aggression that makes vegans look bad and perpetuates the mockery of our message. It’s always a balancing act—wanting to speak out for the animals but not imposing our beliefs on someone.
I don’t know if I’ll ever master that balancing act—it’s a continuous work in progress. It’s hard to ease up on the urgency of the message or spare people from the gruesome reality and plight of animals—especially farmed animals. I know too much. I’ve seen too much. And I feel like I have an obligation to the animals to expose the horrors, even it it’s hard for people to hear or see them.
We can’t please everyone, and there will always be people who are disrespectful toward vegans—regardless of our approach. But the in-your-face aggression won’t do anything to persuade someone to become vegan. It’ll only turn them off, and they’ll vent about the incident to their friends and family, which only hurts the animals we’re fighting for.
I’m thankful that there was a huge attendance at the vegan beer and food fest, even if a lot of people there weren’t vegan. In situations like that, you just have to let the event speak for itself—to plant the seeds of compassion in people’s minds, and to show them the array of vegan, cruelty-free options that exist.