In Heaven there is no beer that's why they drink it all here, as Calexico and Oktoberfest are a perfect match to celebrate cooling temperatures as the fall events season kicks into gear.
In the great German tradition, the second annual Calexico Oktoberfest was organized by Calexico Brewing Company and the city of Calexico to bring the event to Imperial Valley on Oct. 5 at Crummett Park. More than 25 breweries, including Humble Farmer, Pentagonal and host Calexico Brewing, featured a variety of craft beers.
Robert Yepez, who co-founded Calexico Brewing with his brother Jose and their father Jose Sr., started brewing in their garage in 2015 and in 2018 opened their tap room at 2320 MLK Jr. Street. Communities the world over are holding genuine Oktoberfest celebrations but the main reason locally is the mild weather Imperial Valley welcomes now, explained Yepez.
Calexico Brewing is now distributing its product to venerable institutions such as Johnny Carinos, Inferno, Burgers and Beer and Dogwood Sports Bar & Grill. Some of the best sellers include Bulldog Brown Ale, Single Hop IPA and Calexiweizen, in the traditional Hefeweizen style (unfiltered yeast).
"Last year we had over 800 people and this year we expect 1,000," said Yepez of the event. "This is a great time for an outdoor extravaganza and we thank the city of Calexico for working with us."
Karla Flores, event organizer, noted 1,000 souvenir beer glasses had been given away by 9 p.m.
"The Yepez family brought the idea (of an Oktoberfest) to the city and they being young entrepreneurs wanted to show the community that anybody can accomplish anything they want,” she explained.
"This went beyond our expectations and we're amazed the community came out and supported the event for a good cause," said Flores. "People get to mingle with family and friends they haven't seen for a long time."
The good cause Flores referred to is AUTI Foundation International launched in Mexicali and now in Imperial Valley for the last three years. It was invited by Oktoberfest organizers and will receive five percent of ticket proceeds. Karina Kuljacha is CEO and president of the foundation aimed to help autistic children to have as close to a normal life as possible.
"It's hard for autistic children to socialize the same as their (unafflicted) peers," said Kuljacha. "But with behavioral therapy and medication they can successfully integrate into public schools and achieve as much as their classmates."
Paulette Ramirez, AUTI secretary, has a five-year-old son, Sergio, who started medication eight months ago, is attending Rockwood Elementary School in Calexico and showing much progress, she explained.
"He's now doing soccer, dance and kung fu," said Ramirez. "His king fu master, Brian Walker, is awesome. It's all about patience and the extracurricular activities Sergio is now involved with."
Nicole Valadez, a local representative of Cerveza XTECA, a San Diego brewer that started just over a year ago, hopes to spread word of its product and participate in more Imperial Valley events.
"It's really refreshing," said attendee Kiki Pesqueira said of Cerveza XTECA. "It has a good taste and I'd recommend it."
Phuong Pham, a UCLA alumnus and now plastic surgeon for Interface Inc., said he came to Oktoberfest after three days straight of donating surgical procedures to correct birth defects, such as cleft palates, in Mexicali. Pham was drinking a Red Tractor Ale from Pentagonal.
"It's wonderful to get a break from medicine and unwind after work in Mexicali," said, Pham. "The Pentagonal red ale has a good balance with notes of honey and lavender."
Colleague Bill Kivitt, enjoying a sour cherry cider from Calexico Brewing, said, "The organizers did a nice job. And I especially enjoyed hearing a local band playing the Ides of March (1970) hit, ‘Vehicle.’"
Making the journey from San Diego, coastal resident Marco Calderon was enjoying the Calexiweizen from Calexico Brewing.
"I came here because these guys (Yepez clan) are like family to me," said Calderon. "I'd recommend this beer. And this is a really good event."