Whether it was Ben Franklin telling us that beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy, or William Shakespeare being quoted as saying, “For a quart of ale is a meal for a king,” beer has always been, and is still a popular drink today. Sadly, after prohibition we suffered through the dark ages of beer. In our early years as a country, brewing beer was a craft. In fact, prior to prohibition we had over 3,000 breweries. After prohibition, we were left with just a few dozen, which for the most part went on to become the big name mass-producers you see today.
Thankfully, the roots of our craft beer culture are experiencing resurgence, and our country is proud to be home to over 2,000 breweries today. In fact, there are at least ten microbreweries located right here in Michiana. South Bend is right in the heart of the action and for the second time has hosted the South Bend Brewfest. This year’s event was held on January 12th, 2013 inside The Century Center. The diversity of beer and breweries at the event was fantastic. Over 30 different breweries, mostly local and regional, were on hand to provide samples of over 125 different beers.
If you were unable to attend this year’s Brewfest, here is a recap of the details and some of my thoughts so you know what to expect for the next one and hopefully mark your calendar for the third annual South Bend Brewfest.
Tickets to the event were $35. With each ticket you received a commemorative pint glass, a food voucher, and the ability to sample as much beer as you wanted over the four-hour period of the event. Not too bad of a deal considering the glasses were very nice and you got to spend four hours tasting beers that you otherwise may never have known about. In addition to the regular drinking passes, non-drinkers could pay just $10 for a “designated driver” pass and received a food voucher, unlimited water and soda, and also a commemorative glass.
After purchasing our tickets and putting on our wristbands, we headed downstairs for our glasses and a map of the event floor. To be honest, it was a bit overwhelming. There were hundreds of people already there and the place was buzzing. If you wanted to, I guess you could create a plan of attack on the provided map to decide where to begin sampling, but we just wanted to get beer in our glasses and try something new, so we hopped right over to one of Michana’s finest new breweries, Iechyd Da Brewing Company based out of Elkhart, IN. The Scottish Ale and Blonde were both fantastic.
With a few fresh beer samples down, it was time to just start moving throughout the floor and hitting as many of the booths as we could. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks was that this was easier said than done. The turnout was so amazing that it was often so crowded that it made it difficult to navigate down the rows. A small price to pay for all the great beer, but I do hope the layout is addressed next year to make it easier to get around.
Here is the original brewery and beer list, and unfortunately it was impossible to verify everything here with so many and so little time, but I’d say this list is on the conservative side because there were some surprises not shown here. Namely, Bell’s Hopslam. If you aren’t familiar with this beer, it’s a coveted limited seasonal release that comes out in mid-January, and it’s one of the best Double IPAs you’ll find anywhere in the country. When I saw this at the Bell’s booth, I made sure I grabbed a few of the freshest Hopslam sips that you can possibly find. Unfortunately, they ran out before I could make a second pass.
- Abita: Purple Haze, Turbo Dog, Jockamo, Amber
- Bare Hand’s Brewery: 754 Pale Ale, cask of Double 754 with extra hops in the firkin, and more.
- Barley Island Brewing Company: Barfly, Dirty Helen, Brass Knuckles, Sheet Metal
- Bell’s Brewery: Winter White, Best Brown,Two-Hearted, Midwestern Pale Ale
- Blue Moon: Belgian White, Valencia, Pale
- Boston Beer: Lager, Alpine Spring, Angry Orchard, Twisted Tea
- Boulevard Brewing: Hoppy Wheat, Unfiltered Wheat, Single Wide IPA, Bully Porter
- Brooklyn Brewery: Lager, Pilsner, EIPA, Brown Ale
- Chicago Beer: Pale, Lakeshore Lager, Windy Wheat
- Crispin: Original, Brown, Fox Barrel Pear, Foxbarrel Perry
- Dark Horse Brewing Company: Crooked IPA, Boffa Brown, Rasberry, Amber
- Evil Czech Brewery: Cham Wheat, Lucky Dog APA, 7am, Que Eyed
- Flat 12 Bierwerks: Amber, Porter, Half Cycle
- Flying Dog: Underdog, Old Scratch
- Four Horsemen Brewing Company: Hop Rush, Stout, Irish Red, Pale
- Global Beer: Gulden Draak, Gulden 9000, Piraat, Petrus Aged Pale Ale
- Greenbush Brewing Company: Dunegrass, Closure, Red Bud, Apathy
- Harpoon Brewery: IPA, UFO White, Winter Cider
- Henry Weinheard’s: IPA, Amber, Private Reserve, Batch 19
- Iechyd Da Brewing Company: Local Blonde, It’s Not A Skirt Scottish Ale, Revolution IPA, Boxcar Brown, Odd Job Series- Dragon’s Lair
- Leinenkugel: Lemon Berry, Honey Weiss, Sunset Wheat, Creamy Dark
- Magic Hat: #9, Heart of Darkness, Demo
- New Belgium: Fat Tire, Snow Day, Ranger, Shift
- New Holland Brewing Company: Mad Hatter, Full Circle, Dragons Milk, Cabin Fever
- North Coast Brewing: Red Seal, Scrimshaw, Brother Thelonius, Pranqster
- Oaken Barrel Brewing Company: Gnaw Bone, Amber, Razz Wheat
- Schlafly: Kolsch, Coffee Stout, Tasman IPA, Biere De Garde
- Shiner Beers: Bock, Wildhare, Black Lager
- Southern Tier: Pale, 2XIPA, 2XStout, Live
- Triton Brewing Company: Railspliltter, Stout, Sin Bin, Amber
- Upland Brewing Company: Dragonfly, Wheat, Komodo Dragon, Porter
- Victory: Headwaters, Hop Wallop, Golden Monkey, Storm King
- Woodchuck: Amber, Granny Smith, Crisp, Seasonal
While this event is centered around great craft beers, there were a few other highlights. For one South Bend Brew Werks, a new homebrewing shop located in South Bend was on hand promoting their new business and showing some of the equipment and ingredients available for homebrewers. They are located at 216 South Michigan Street and provide all the equipment and ingredients you need to start making your own beer or wine at home. As a homebrewer and winemaker myself, I can’t tell you how fun it is to make this stuff at home.
In addition to South Bend Brew Werks, a Michiana homebrew club was on hand to provide samples of what is possible by brewing your own beer, and Chapin Park Brewer’s Association was at the event actually brewing beer on-site and showing attendees how to take grain to glass. For anyone with even a passing interest in beer, it was very informative to see how world class beer can be made right at home.
Overall, it was just a great way to spend an afternoon in downtown South Bend. Hundreds of great people all coming together to sample fantastic beer, and share a common interest. It will be interesting to see how this even grows and changes next year. While the event was fun and overall a great experience, there are a few changes that I hope they can implement going forward. I would like to see a better layout or a larger space so that it was easier to get around. At the height of the event, the one aisle was nearly impossible to move through and you were standing shoulder to shoulder with people and it was hard to go from booth to booth.
Another issue was a lack of seating. There were very few seats available and it was difficult to find an empty chair to take a break. These two issues may have simply been a result of the overwhelming response and having more attendees than planned, but hopefully things will get better next year. Finally, the food situation was not ideal. There was just one place to order your hot dog or soft pretzel and the line was often so long it would take 15 minutes or more to get your food. At the very least there should be more than one place to get food from to accommodate the crowd. Ultimately, I think this would be a great opportunity to work with a few local restaurants and have them cater the event. This way not only do you have a few different food choices, but you get to highlight more downtown South Bend businesses.
These small issues were minor and didn’t take away from the events really, but hopefully the organizers have learned from this second year and can make the South Bend Brewfest even bigger and better in 2014. Anyway, it was a good time this year, so hopefully I’ll see you at next year’s brewfest. Here are a few more photos from the event.