Judging the 3rd Annual Sabroso Craft Beer & Taco Festival in Silverado, California

An overcast morning harkened perfect outdoor weather for the 3rd Annual Sabroso Craft Beer & Taco Festival. The festival was held in Lake View Park, tucked away in Santiago Canyon next to Irvine Lake. It has the perfect atmosphere for an outdoor festival – lots of trees for shade, picnic tables for enjoying food & libations, and graded grassy area for lounging and enjoying the music from the main stage. There was also a mariachi band roaming around adding to the ambiance.

West coast craft beer breweries gathered to provide a “tasting room” experience for thousands of craft beer aficionados. But, that’s not the only reason why people came. You need something to eat while sampling the beer. What better pairing than a taco! Food trucks, food purveyors, and breweries that serve food competed for “People’s Choice” chosen by the public and/or “Best of Show” awarded by a panel of food judges. The food judges this year were Peter Hsieh, from LA Wonders, Chelsea Madren, a.k.a OC Food Diva (KCBS Certified BBQ Judge), and Jessica Rice from BeerAndBaking.com. 16 teams competed and it was supposed to be a blind judging. However, two of the teams put their name in the description of their tacos. In a regional or national competition, this would be cause for an immediate disqualification. But since there was no money involved, just a trophy and bragging rights, this rule was not applied. Each taco was judged in four categories: Appearance, Creativity, Taste, and Texture. Here are some OC Food Diva’s tasting notes and scores for the tacos submitted:

Taco #1 – Soy Marinated Flank Steak Taco: It had a good texture. The steak was tender. Overall, it had Asian-inspired flavor palette. Score: 4/4/4/4

Taco #2 – Breakfast Taco with chorizo fried rice, Dos Chinos asada, quocream, and fried egg: Fantastic presentation with sunny-side fried egg on top. Definitely fits the Dos Chino’s flavor palette of stoner grub. The only thing missing was a crunchy texture element. Kimchi would have been a great addition and would also provide acidity. Score: 5/4/5/3

Taco #3 – Falasophy’s Spicy Modern Taco with falafel, cilantro garlic sauce, pickled red cabbage, house-pickled jalapenos, and avocado aioli: The falafel had a nice crispy exterior and tender interior. The pickled vegetables added a contrasting acidity to the creamy sauces. Score: 4/5/4/5

Taco #4 – Chianina Beef Tongue Pastrami Taco with queso fundido, pickled ramps, cabbage, rye, and spicy island dressing: The pastrami was excellent, but it was overpowered by the queso and dressing. Score: 5/4/2/4

Taco # 5 – Flour Tortilla Taco with 12-hour braised short rib, arugula, horseradish cream, buttermilk fried onions: The short rib was tender and had a nice flavor. Not a big fan of flour tortillas with tacos as they add a gummy glutinous flavor. Score: 4/3/4/3

Taco #6 – Rojo Pork Taco with citrus braised pork, barbacoa, avocado cream, cilantro slaw, cotija cheese on a corn tortilla: The taco had a mushy texture overall. The flavors were indistinguishable. Score: 3/3/3/2

Taco #7 – Korean Pork Belly Taco topped with pickled radish and cucumber. Loved the crispy skin contrasting with the tender braised pork. It had a nice texture along with the crispy vegetables. But the flavor was just one note from the pork and needed an acidic flavor to balance it out. Score: 4/4/3/4

Taco #8 – Anchiote Lime Fried Plantain Taco topped with roasted corn, soyrizo salsa, garlic lime mojo sauce, cotija cheese, cilantro, and radish: This is a good vegetarian option with a good balance of spicy, sweet, and acidic flavor. Score: 4/4/4/4

Taco #9 – Cajun Shrimp Taco with coleslaw and creole aioli: The shrimp was perfectly cooked with a good snap. It had nice contrasting texture with the crunchy cabbage from the slaw. The flavor could have been pumped up a tad either seasoning the shrimp and/or the aioli. Score: 3/4/4/4

Taco #10 – Barbacoa Short Rib Taco with cilantro onion salsa: The barbacoa was fantastic with its fatty, sticky, and tender texture. It just needed more salt to bump up the flavor. It was also missing a contrasting texture as it was mushy. Score: 3/3/4/2

Taco #11 – Pork Belly Taco with banh mi sauce and Asian slaw: The pork itself was rather flavorless. The slaw had rice vinegar but needed added seasoning like salt, sesame oil, etc. It had potential. The pork needed to be marinated, seasoned, and/or glazed. Chopped peanuts would have been a good flavor and textural element. Score: 3/3/1/3

Taco #12 – Organic Kurobuta Pork Taco served with queso fresco, nopales cactus, and salsa morrita on a handmade corn tortilla: The pork was tender, juicy, and had a great flavor. The sour, savory, and spicy flavors were all balanced. It just lacked a contrasting textural element. Scores: 4/5/5/2

Taco #13 – Braised Goat Taco with Manteca, plantain, cucumber pico de gallo, and black mole. The goat was fantastic! It was tender and had a good flavor. It just needed a crunchy texture to contrast the tender meat. Score: 3/4/4/2

Taco #14 – Pork and Plantain Taco: The plantain was too sweet and the beans did not match in texture or flavor with any of the other ingredients. The pork had a nice flavor but was greatly overshadowed by the overly sweet plantain. Score: 2/3/2/3

Taco #15 – Cinnamon Carnitas Taco topped with mango salsa, lime, and pickled red onion: The presentation was nice and had a good flavor. Score: 4/4/4/4

Taco #16 – Three Sausage Mix Taco with smoked tomatillo salsa, avocado smash, cotija cheese, garlic cream, and cilantro. It was interesting to have sausage inside a taco (no pun intended). The Latin flavor profile of the toppings just didn’t match with the sausage flavors. Score: 3/4/3/3

And the winners are…

People’s Choice:
1st Place: Pour Vida
2nd Place: Grits Fullerton
3rd Place: StadiumBrew Co.

Best of Show:
1st Place: PorkoRico BBQ
2nd Place: Falasophy
3rd Place: The Kroft

Even with bellies full of tacos, there was still room for a few of beer tastings.

Bottle Logic Brewing’s tastes like a traditional stout. It is strong, bold, yet smooth with a slightly bitter bite on the end. Rating: 4/5

Bottle Logic Brewing’s Borracho Leche is heavy, yet crisp with a bite on the front. It has a creamy flavor and has spicy notes that linger on the end of the palate. Rating: 4/5

Left Coast Brewing Co.’s Una Mas is strong and bold, yet extremely smooth with no aftertaste. It has malty and caramel flavors. Rating: 4.8/5

Sabroso Craft Beer and Taco Festival was an amazing experience. Make plans to attend next year!

To see more photos, please visit OC Food Diva’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

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