Beer. Lots and lots of beer. Beer from Hawaii, beer from around the corner, beer that’s hard to find, beer that tastes like no other, beer that’s thick and creamy, beer that’s hoppy, beer that goes great with steak, beer that compliments cheese; a cornucopia of beers. This would attract most people instantly and yet the Northern Virginia Brewfest, taking place June 21-22, at Morven Park will have so much more than just beer. In fact the organizers hope that along with sampling some of the best beers America has to offer that the public gets to spend some time outside with the family and have some fun.
"Basically what we’ve done is we’ve taken Morven Park and we’ve worked in 40-45 different beer vendors so we’ll have 90-100 different types of beer, and you show up and come in and you can go and sample different types of beers from different breweries. Then there will be live music, vendors for shopping and children’s activities not to mention plenty of food," Anthony Cavallo of Vintage 50 Restaurant, who, along with his brew master Phil Madden organized the festival, said.
The Northern Virginia Brewfest, in this incarnation, is brand new, but residents may remember a previous incarnation that used to be put on by Dominion Brewery. Cavallo says that this new festival, which has already had a fall event occur last year, began because Dominion had stopped its festival and he felt there was a need for one.
"I don’t think we wanted to do anything different. From what we had gathered that Dominion had done a very good beer festival. We just wanted to give Loudoun County the same experience they had there," Cavallo said.
In order to do this Cavallo had Madden use his more than 15 years in the industry to select some of his favorite breweries to be invited to the festival. Smaller microbreweries like to come to festivals in order to share their beer with a larger audience who might not be able to taste it otherwise.
"We drew up a list of breweries that I worked with in the past and we hand picked a group for the quality of their product, around 65, and we got about 45 that are going to be participating," Madden said. "They’re local and national ones that I think put out a really good beer."
Tasting that beer will be easy and far less expensive than the local bar. Entry is $20 prior to the event and $25 at the gate — designated drivers get a $5 discount — for the day and the price includes a commemorative BrewFest glass and four beer tickets for tasting. Additional beer tickets can be purchased throughout the event for $1 each. Non eof the beer can leave the premises, however, the brewers will be on hand to offer advice on where to get their beer and answer questions about the brewing process.
"Once you’re in it’s really about two bucks for a 12-ounce beer and it’s a pretty good deal, especially when you’re talking about the beers we’re having because we have many beers that you would never see in a standard bar — we have those to, of course," Rob Simpson, vice president of High Road Inc. who helped to organize the event, said.
People who are not beer aficionados shouldn’t be worried about the impressive amount of beers to try at the event. Beer experts and representatives from the breweries will be able to give advice on different beers. Cabot Cheese will be offering a lesson on cheese and beer pairing and local brewing clubs will have demonstrations on how to make home brews. Cavallo and Simpson both want the festival to introduce people to new beers and experiences and open people’s minds up to what beer can taste like.
"For somebody that isn’t as familiar with craft-brewed beers I think they have to open their minds to what beer can actually be and be willing to sample and try new things," Madden said, "because what they are use to from their early days will not be what they’re seeing in the craft-made beers. They’re going to be seeing a lot more flavors a lot ‘hoppier’ beer and some beers that won’t seem like anything they’ve had before."
WHILE BEER IS the main event at the festival it is far from the only thing going on. The festival’s organizers wanted to make it entertaining and fun for anyone who could possibly attend. Brewfest will feature music throughout both days including bands such as Road Soda, Everybody But Pete and The Crawdaddies. Music styles range from rock to funk to Cajun.
"We have one main stage and it's somewhat down at the end of the beer vendor area. We try to separate it a bit so you can hear the brewers and talk with them. The music provides a great addition to the beer festival and people love to get some drinks and go listen," Simpson said.
Additionally the festival will have almost 40 vendors selling a variety of goods and services for those who wish to do a little shopping while sampling. There will be vendors selling everything from jewelry to cigars and even a representative from Kluge Estates Winery and Vineyard doling out glasses of their wine for those who might not be to keen on the taste of beer. The festival will also feature plenty of opportunities to accompany a drink with some cuisine.
"We’ve got Hard Times Café, we’ve got Buffalo Wing Factory and then we have some folks doing kettle corn and we’ve got festival food and stuff like that," Simpson said.
Finally, the festival will have a section for children’s event so that parents can bring their children to have some fun while they sample the beer. There will be face painting, a moon bounce and other children’s activities all making the event a family-friendly place.
"We have a family-fun area and we did something similar in the fall and it was quite successful ... so it really does lend itself to a family day out and we separate the family area enough that the parents can enjoy the music and have a beer but still hang out with the kids," Cavallo said.
ACCORDING TO MADDEN beer is the fastest growing category in alcohol production thanks to the new popularity of microbrews and a focus on treating beer differently then before.
"What I’ve seen is that people don’t see beer anymore as the cheap drink," Cavallo said. "Now the microbrews are becoming main stream. These great beers are being paired with great food. We do a lot of it here at Vintage 50 and other local restaurants do, too. People want to come in and get a good beer not just cheap beer."
That is what Brewfest will be offering people and that is worth the price of admission. Of course, if one were to want to get in free to the festival the organizers are still looking for volunteers to help pour beer and work at the event. Volunteers get free entry to the festival, four beer coupons and a free T-shirt for a few hours of work.
"It will be a great time. Everyone is going to be there with their season specialties. We’ve got some great breweries coming and bringing some really good products," Madden said.