It May Be In PA, But You Can Still Get Your Delaware On at Kennett Brewfest

Tomorrow, October 13th marks the 21st time that Kennett Brewfest will open its gates to the beer loving public. While many fine festivals have materialized during those 21 years (and yes, sadly some have ceased) Kennett has grown into what I consider the template for a successful beer festival.

From the food, to the music, to the sheer number of breweries, to even something as simple as having more than enough (free) water available, Kennett gets it right year after year. But what really raises the bar for this festival is its VIP session which it dubs the “connoisseur session”.

While other festivals VIP tickets get you into the event early, Kennett requests that the breweries participating in the connoisseur season bring something special, something unusual, or maybe even something rare, to pour during the one-and-a-half-hour period before the regular session begins.

To be honest, with in the neighborhood of 50 breweries (just about half of the total attending) pouring during this year’s connoisseur session, it is practically its own festival and this year, Delaware is nicely represented.

Below is an edited map for the connoisseur session highlighting the Delaware breweries that are participating this year, plus a quick rundown of what they will be pouring. Click here for a full map from the festival’s website, and if you were unfortunately not lucky enough to get connoisseur tickets this year (although they didn’t sell out nearly as fast this year as they have in the past) but you have tickets to the regular session, you can find that map here.

KBF 2018

If you’d like to print out the Delaware Map, simply click here, right click on the image and select view image. Then print from your browser, or you can copy the image or save it and print it from you favorite graphics program.

Here’s what these Delaware breweries are planning on pouring at the connoisseur session (notice: plans change last minute and so sometimes do the offerings, so don’t take this list as written in stone). These breweries will also be pouring in the regular session (again, subject to change) along with fellow Delaware representatives Wilmington Brew Works, Twin Lakes, Dogfish Head (Seaquench, Liquid Truth Serum), and Dewpoint.

Argilla Brewing: Tent 113 – Will be bringing their Dregs of the Earth, a barrel aged sour which currently rates a 3.83/5 on Untappd.

Bellfonte Brewing: Tent 111 – Will be bringing their Claymonster, which has been described as “One Helluva BIG Dark Strong Belgian Ale!” (10.2%ABV). With nearly 100 check ins on Untapped, Claymonster has a rating of 3.8/5.

Brick Works: Tent 124 – Will be pouring their Love Vigilante Biere De Garde, a recent offering from the brewery with the beer being added to Untappd as recently as September. It doesn’t have many ratings yet, but sits at a respectable 3.6/5.

MIspillion River: Tent 123 – No word yet on what MR will be bring to the festival, but if the past is any indication, we shouldn’t be disappointed.

Rebel Seed Cidery: Tent 83 – Hey, cider is more than welcome at a beerfest, and if you’re the type that can’t get enough pumpkin in your diet this time of year the fine folks from Marydel have you covered with their Pumpkin cider (3.73/5).

2SP Brewing: Tent 90: – OK, I know, Aston PA. but come on…we still consider Mike and the gang as family, right? The guys will be pouring two beers: Uísque Fumaça, a smoked beer (4.09/5) and their recently brewed High Strangeness, a session IPA (3.69/5).

2013 Kennett Winterfest

GlassSome people would be content if they were Mary Hutchins, Jeff Norman and the rest of the team behind the annual Kennett Brewfest.  After all, when you’re the heart and soul behind one of the premiere beer events in the area, there really should not be anything else you feel compelled to do.  You have nothing to prove, nothing more you need to achieve, nothing at all.  That is unless you ARE Mary, Jeff and the rest of their team who, not much more than a week after this year’s awesome Kennett Brewfest with over 80 breweries, put this up on their Facebook page.

kennett 2

Not happy with just throwing one of the largest (and in my mind the best) beer festivals in our area, they decided to host another, this one in February featuring bigger beers that you’d find more commonly in the Winter months.  But instead of the large fall event they’re now know for, they decided to go back to their roots when that event was smaller and held in a side road off the main street in Kennett Square, invite a smaller number of brewers and cater to a smaller crowd.  The result – Kennett Winterfest.  Forty brewers and 800 beer lovers showed up on a drizzly, damp Saturday afternoon to have a great time, Kennett style, and to be honest no one really seemed notice the weather.

The crowd under the beer tent.
The crowd under the beer tent.

As I made my way into the festival, I first turned left and soon found myself sipping a Psycho Kilter from Starr Hill.  Starr Hill should be available in Delaware soon, and I encourage you to seek them out.  I then found myself in front of the Waywood Beverage table which was pouring Founder’s Breakfast Stout.  With its not so subtle hint of coffee, you’d think I wouldn’t like this beer but for some reason I do.  There’s enough chocolate in it to keep it from being a one trick pony.  This is a complex beer.  And excellent on a chilly day.

I then found myself in front of a table that I was very interested in, Kennett Brewing Company, and apparently I wasn’t the only one interested.  Early in the festival they easily had the largest crowd in front of their table.  I first tried their Scottish 140 Shilling ale.  I actually thought this was a bit on the light side, but in fairness I did just have a Breakfast Stout.  The beer tasted well made and clean.  I then went back for their 1934 Kid xxx Pale Ale, that I really liked.  I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to talk to much to the guys behind the table, but I did find out that they are looking for a location around Kennett Square.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds for these guys!

Argilla Brewing's Bryon Thomas visits the guys at Kennett Square Brewing.
Argilla Brewing’s Bryan Taylor (L) visits the guys at Kennett Square Brewing.

What followed was a parade of excellent beers.  I of course made my way over to Hill Farmstead to try their Harlan IPA, and again was not disappointed by the beer these guys are making.  I also got to taste Lancaster Brewing’s Double Chocolate Milk Stout, Lavery Brewing’s Imperial French Ale, DuClaw Brewing’s Sweet Baby Jesus Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter, and many others.  And I certainly was not going to leave without trying Port City Brewing’s second anniversary offering, Two: Stong Smoked Porter.  Awesome stuff.

LEFT: Lavery and Farm Hillstead.  RIGHT: Port City and Free Will.
LEFT: Lavery and Hill Farmstead. RIGHT: Port City and Free Will.

Of course I stopped in to see the local boys.  Pete, Steve and Bryan were pouring for Argilla, having brought their Mildly Rye and Panic Bar Porter.  I finally got a chance to try Twin Lakes’ Jubilicious Winter Ale, which I found quite nice.  And the guys were nice enough to give us a demonstration on how to get the last drop of Tweed’s Stout out of a firkin.

Pros!
Pros!

In a follow up conversation with Mary she wanted me to pass her thanks on to the brewers,  Nicole Grebloskie and the rest of the Historic Kennett Square fundraising committee and volunteer Jeff Norman, “who has been organizing the Kennett Brewfest since its inception 16 years ago and can now add the Winterfest to his list of highly successful events.”

Tulla's Table
And of course, huge thanks to Talula’s Table for providing the food!  Bacon mac & Cheese or Mushroom mac & Cheese.  Good stuff on a chilly day.

When asked about next year she said, “We were really pleased with the event this year and certainly plan to repeat it next year.”  In fact, since our exchange they’ve announced that the second annual Kennett Winterfest will be Feb 22nd, 2014.  But that doesn’t mean one should over look the next Kennett Brewfest, scheduled to be held on Oct 5th, 2013.

So now Mary, Jeff and the whole Kennett team can lay claim to hosting two amazing beer events.  Surely they’re content now.  Well, so you would think.  That is until 8 days after Winterfest when this got posted on Kennett’s Facebook page:

firkin

Here we go again 🙂

Kennett Brewfest 2012

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.

(Clockwise from bottom) A look down Connoisseur’s row; the line around the back of the complex waiting to get into the regular tasting; looking down the back row of the 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.

The Boulder Beer tent pouring during the Connoisseur’s Tasting.
(L) Twin Lakes in the house. (R) The server for Twin Lakes lets me have a peak of the Festival from her perspective.

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.

When you go to beer festivals do you see “the pretzel people” as well, or is just a regional thing near us?
The Fegleys Brew Works station.
Delaware Craft Beer and Wine Lovers (clockwise from bottom) It didn’t take Brian and Rob long to find the bacon on a stick; The Dogs of Beer talking beer; Pat and Dana stop for a picture.
(L) Where ever you go, it always seems that Guinness is served with a smile. (R) Me talking to the guy from Evil Genius.
(Clockwise from bottom) Steve and Pete from Argilla Brewing setting up; Chuck and I talking to the folks at the Twin Lakes tent; Argilla Brewing head brewer Steve Powell takes a picture with a guy who by that time was probably feeling pretty darn good.
The servers at the Old Dominion Brewing tent.
(Clockwise from bottom) Voodoo Brewing’s station; a nice selection from the guys at Voodoo; a toast to another great Kennett Brewfest!

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.

See you next year!!