A mere decade ago, Orange County had less than five production breweries, and if you wanted to try the latest and greatest beers from around the state, you had to get in your car for a road trip. But then the OC Brew Ha Ha came to town, bringing them all here for one convenient afternoon of solid beer sampling.
I sat down with Brew Ha Ha founder Cameron Collins to chat about his fest as it turns a decade old.
OC WEEKLY: Is Brew Ha Ha Productions a family operation?
CAMERON COLLINS: Yeah, we’re owned by my amazing wife and partner, Tiffany Collins, and I. We’re very much a family business! We have brothers, in-laws, aunts, uncles and friends all actively involved in the company and the events we produce. We started the OC Brew Ha Ha back in 2010 with Tiff, me and Tiff’s mom, Carrie James. Carrie retired a couple of years ago, but there isn’t a chance in hell we would be where we are if it weren’t for her amazing work in the early years. She’s a rock star!
Are there challenges with being a tight family operation?
Being a husband-and-wife team has its advantages, and . . . it has its challenges. We talk about work A LOT! Sometimes it’s hard to turn it off, as we’re a tiny company and wear a lot of hats. It’s important that we remember to put on the “spouse hat” [instead of] the “partner hat” when we get home. It helps to have an office vs. a kitchen table to run the business, like we did in the early years. When we get home, we try to go into home and family mode.
After doing a festival for 10 years, do you still do minor tweaks?
There is a cycle in every business where you need to update yourself-—I believe I read somewhere that the rule of thumb is every seven years. In the festival business, I think the cycle is every three years. You’ve got to update what you’re doing, and you need to give people a reason to keep coming back. That goes for the breweries, the tasting format, the entertainment, the artwork . . . all of it.
What has changed this year?
New for 2019, we’ve dubbed the OC Brew Ha Ha the Brew SKA SKA! We’re bringing in a bunch of the favorite breweries OC loves, as well as some not-so-often-encountered stars from around the country. We’re trying some new hours for the Brew Ha HA by opening early for VIP at 11 a.m. and running the event until 7 p.m.
Brew Ha Ha has always had a great music element. Do you find people who just come for the band and stumble across great beer, or beer geeks who stumble across bands?
I think it’s a mix. We’ve decided a few years back that we wanted to evangelize craft beer to the masses, and we wanted to not only cater to the craft beer enthusiasts, but also convert “beer drinkers” into “craft beer drinkers.” Offering an additional entertainment element at the events certainly creates a draw to those who aren’t necessarily into craft beer, but our goal is to have them be by the time they leave the event.
What bands are booked this year, and how did that come about?
We have an awesome day of killer ska bands, with the Aquabats, Save Ferris, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Skapeche Mode and CodeName:Rocky. There’s no better music to hang out and drink beer to than ska, in my opinion. We’ve always been fans of ska, and to be honest, one of my fondest memories of the OC Brew Ha Ha was the year Reel Big Fish played. Ever since then, I have been wanting to book the Aquabats or Save Ferris. I tried to get Save Ferris on the Brew Ho Ho last year, in fact, but the stars didn’t align.
Tiff will probably kill me for saying it, but when she was in college one year, she spent the summer following the Aquabats and Reel Big Fish on tour up and down the West Coast. She’s a mega-fan.
Is there still a collaboration beer made for the fest?
We’re doing a couple of collaborations and trying to involve as many brewery pals as we can! . . . I was over at TAPS Brewery and Barrel Room in Tustin, where they were brewing the first of the collaborations with Beachwood Brewing, which will be called “\m/ ( -_- ) \m/.” We did an IPL that will be canned by TAPS the week prior to the OC Brew Ha Ha. I am especially stoked because this beer is being submitting to the Great American Beer Fest (GABF) for the IPL category.
We’re also set to do another triple collaboration with Docent Brewing, Riip Beer Co. and Pizza Port San Clemente. We’re doing an IPA that’ll incorporate all three breweries’ approaches to the style. That beer has not yet been named, but the recipe has been close to confirmed, and everyone is in for a huge treat!
An event space can make or break a beer festival. Where is it this year?
It’s back at Oak Canyon Park. It’s such a rad park . . . offering 14 acres of grass with a lake in the middle of it and a ton of mature oak trees that provide ample shade. You forget you’re even in Orange County anymore. It’s special!
Brew SKA SKA at Oak Canyon Park, 5305 E. Santiago Canyon Rd., Silverado; ocbrewhaha.com. Sept. 7. Visit the website for tickets and more details.
Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, level 1 WSET in Wine, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest happening on June 29th in Anaheim!