Last Saturday was the 15th annual Kennett Brewfest. The event, which started in conjunction with the Kennett Mushroom Festival and was held in what was little more that an alleyway type street between two buildings, has turned into one of the premiere beer events in the area. Ninety plus brewers and representatives turned out to pour for a crowd of 3000+ people at the current location at Genesis Health Ventures.
The brewfest started at 12 noon for those of us who were lucky enough to get Connoisseur Tickets. The Connoisseur tasting has only been part of the festival for 10 years, but in that time it’s practically turned into an event all its own. More than thirty of the brewers that were there that day started early as they poured specialty, unique and small batch offerings, many of which were not going to be available at the main tasting. Brewer Hill Farmstead, whose beers normally don’t make it any further than their gift shop as far as distribution, showed up to pour two of their beers, Vera Mae (a saison made with spelt and wild flower honey) and Ephraim (a nice imperial pale ale) for this event only as they were not participating in the main tasting.
I walked in with a game plan as usual, although I was wondering how I was going to balance all the Tweeting, Untappd, picture taking and note taking I wanted to do. Very quickly I decided to discard all the social media and focus on the beers and the people around me. Several members The Delaware Craft Beer and Wine Lovers were there, and Dogs of Beer Co-Founder Chuck was along, marking the first time the two of us had been together for a beer festival in quite a while. So Tracey and I were looking forward to hanging out with friends and enjoying what we assumed would be an awesome display of beers.
And the tasting didn’t disappoint. After first stopping at Hill Farmstead we walked around the tents trying beers like Dark Horse’s Fore Smoked Stout, Ommegang’s Scythe and Sickle Harvest Ale, Round Guys’ Old Grumplestilskin, Evil Genius’ Trick or Treat Chocolate Pumpkin Porter, Jester King’s Petit Prince, Troegs’ Scratch #76-2012 special HOPS, and Maine Beer’s Peeper Pale ale just to name a few. In our travels we also stopped in to check out some favorites of ours such as, Allagash’s Curieux, Stillwater’s As Follows, and Flying Fish’s Exit 4.
If the Kentucky Derby is the fastest 2 minutes in sports, then the Connoisseur tasting at the Kennett Brewfest is the fastest 90 minutes in beer tasting. Before we knew it, they were asking us to pull back for the 30 minute break between it and the opening of the regular tasting.
The regular tasting is just head spinning and I’m not even going to try and recap what we had (I still have a list of beers to check-in at Untappd), but I did succeed in making it over to Left Hand Brewing and Voodoo Brewing. We did take some time during the regular event to stop by and say hi to the guys over at Argilla Brewing (their first Kennett Brewfest) and then go over and chat for awhile with the folks from Twin Lakes (Brewfest pros). It was great to see the state represented so strongly (Dogfish Head and Old Dominion were also in attendance) and to see people frequenting their tents.
The Kennett Brewfest seems to grow every year, but when I asked Mary Hutchins of “Historic Kennett Square” what she thought of this trend she indicated that for the immediate future, they were happy with where they are as an event. “At this point we have reached our maximum with the number of brewers and attendees. So, we will work at keeping the model the same for the next few years. On Saturday we had 92 brewers, the most we have ever had and we think the number worked well”, she said.
Another change for the festival this year was the date. The event is usually held the first weekend in October, but to the surprise of some it fell on the last weekend in September this year. “I always try to avoid the GABF just because I know some brewery staff that attend Kennett would be in Colorado instead and I want them here”, said event founder Jeff Norman when I asked him about the change. “This year they are the weekend of Oct 13 (they are usually the end of Sept). Oct 6 is the Kennett High School Homecoming football Game so that was not an appropriate mix as they are right across the street. I believe our preference for next year will be Oct 5, 2013. We will coordinate with the school.”
A lot of people come together every year to make possible the Kennett Brewfest which benefits “Historic Kennett Square” a 501-C3 non-profit organization committed to making Kennett Square a social, cultural and economic center; and Jeff was quick to thank them all, “The Borough of Kennett Square; the Kennett Square Public Works Dept; the Kennett Square Police Dept.; Genesis Health Ventures who provides the site for the fest; the Board Members of Historic Kennett Square; the Brewfest Executive Committee , a group of people who put in a huge amount of volunteered time; Waywood Beverage for staging and delivering about 80% of the beer for the day; our sponsors; our day of event volunteers; the musical acts and food vendors; of course the breweries that keep coming back year after year; and finally folks like you and our other patrons that support our organization through this festival.”
I’d like to echo Jeff’s appreciation for all those who come together make this event happen, and thank Mary and him for taking some of their valuable time to talk to me.