As September came to a close, the city of Valparaiso welcomed the nuances that fall offered: the bright colors of the turning leaves, the lovely nip in the air as sweltering summer came to a close, and Valpo Brewfest!
This is the third year that the Valpo Brewfest has been up and running. It is a part of a growing trend of beer festivals that are popping up all over the US. Tickets for the fest sold out months ago and there were about 2500 people in attendance that day. 53 breweries set up their booths throughout the Central Park Plaza on Saturday afternoon. They shared the space with local food vendors, and live music which was performed by Fresh Hops. Curt Foreman, President of BrewFest Partners, gave me some background information on Valpo Brewfest.
“We partnered with Valparaiso Community Festivals and Events and basically helped them do the event. It’s a collaborative team effort between two operations,” Foreman said. “This is very localized. Local breweries, regional breweries, national craft brands all participate. And it just so happened that there wasn’t something nearby like this going back three or four years ago. Every year we try to add something a little bit different to the event. The great thing about these events is that the people here are serious about friendship, socializing and tasting great craft beer.”
Foreman was right about that. There was no rowdiness to be had at Brewfest. The individuals that attend a beer festival, whether as a consumer or a brewery, have a great respect for the craft and the product. It showed in a brewmaster’s manner as he talked shop, and as patrons slowly savored and scrutinized their beverages.
This year’s additions were gravity-fed beers, and new Belgian beers for the VIP customers.
Foreman also gave me an interesting tidbit about the Belgian beers: these are popular because they are so rare and made only in small quantities, and many Belgian beers are still crafted by monks at monasteries! Pretty sweet, huh?
Speaking of crafting, I was able to snag a minute with the brewmaster of Figure Eight Brewing, a local brewery located near downtown Valparaiso. Mike Lahti has been with Figure Eight for two years, but he’s been in the industry for about eleven years. Figure Eight had come that day with five different beers but not even two hours in they had run out of three of them. Must be good! Go check them out on Facebook!
“We’re excited about what we’re doing, moving into our new building on the corners of the square is a great thing for us and for Valpo,” Lahti said. “So we’re just trying to share the love and have fun with everyone.”
Neil Davey was at the Valpo Brewfest with his lovely wife, Maureen. Davey is a native of Valparaiso and was there to support the local breweries as well as the other breweries in attendance that day.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Davey said. “I’ve been here every year since it started. I’ve been to at least six or seven of the tents so far, and it’s great to have friends here because you all can try a lot of different beers and compare notes. My favorite beer would have to be the Bourbon Barrel Aged Rye Knot from Figure Eight. It’s pretty magical.”
In the large tent right across from Figure Eight was another brewery called Evil Czech Brewery (quite a name, huh?). Located in Culver, Indiana, Evil Czech is a restaurant and brewery that has only been open a few months. Show them some love on Facebook! Shawn Erickson, Vice-President of Operations gave me his thoughts on Valpo Brewfest.
“I’m like a kid in a candy store,” Erickson exclaimed. “It’s the greatest time of my life! I’ve been passionate about brewing since I can remember. We’ve done home brewing for years and finally just got our own system and we’re up and running. This is amazing -really awesome! Our first festival ever.”
If it hasn’t been obvious yet, Valpo Brewfest was a success. If you missed out on the event this year, there’s always next year. But be sure to get your tickets early because they sold out quick! Be on the lookout for this writer, because I had a great time and I definitely plan on going to the Valpo Brewfest again!
Sponsors for Valpo Brewfest: Bison Financial Group, Art Hill, Griegers Motor Sales, North Coast Distributing, Fitzgerald Earles Architects and Associates, Triangle Liquors and Trail Inn Liquors.