Winterfest Gets Bigger and Better
Winterfest is just around the corner. What is it you ask? Well, maybe you missed my write up about it last year – don’t worry I forgive you and you can find it here link – but it’s only some of the best Indiana beer you can find in one place. I had a chance to speak with Tristan Schmid, the Communications Director for the Brewers of Indiana Guild, about one of my favorite topics: beer.
Rachel: Your website, Drinkin.beer says Winterfest will be held in an “even bigger and better location” at the fairgrounds this year. Is this growth due to new products being offered, accomodating a larger number of breweries or is it something I haven’t even thought of (please say it’s this!)?
Tristan: We're excited to hold Winterfest in its most spacious home yet, the West Pavilion of the Indiana State Fairgrounds. In addition to inviting the Brewers of Indiana Guild to the State Fair's Beer, Wine, & Spirits Exhibit the past several years, the Fairgrounds have graciously hosted Winterfest annually.
The building's availability worked out well for us. Winterfest is a week later than it was in 2016, and there aren't nearly as many big events going on at the Fairgrounds that weekend, so parking will be easier.
The layout of the festival will be great because unlike the Grand Hall and Champions Pavilion – where Winterfest was held the past two years – the West Pavilion is a rectangular, open building with about 11,000 square feet more space.
The total number of breweries will be about the same, but the number of Indiana breweries is the most in Winterfest's history – 97 as of the time I write this. Registration is filling up faster than ever, so breweries are obviously eager to pour at what we think is Indiana's best winter beer fest.
It's also a crucial event for the Brewers of Indiana Guild, a nonprofit trade association. Festival ticket sales make up the bulk of our revenue, which powers projects like the Drink Indiana Beer app and DrinkIN magazine, along with our legislative efforts which have made Sunday growler sales and Tomlinson Tap Room possible.
While Indiana isn't considered by many to be a craft beer powerhouse, the more I talk to others in the industry across the country, it becomes more evident that Indiana is particularly well positioned, which is good for the local economy, communities and beer drinkers.
Rachel: Will there be a cask tent this year?
Tristan: This and every year! I'm excited to say this because the cask area is the thing I've always personally found most unique and compelling about Guild fests. As you know, it's the place to find a wide variety of unique, often one-off small batches of beer that you probably won't get anywhere else. The cask area will be bigger than last year, too.
Rachel: What are some new breweries you are really looking forward to having at the event this year? Same question with a brewer that’s coming back from last year?
Tristan: With nearly three quarters of Indiana's breweries pouring at the fest, there will be a huge range of hundreds of beers to choose from.
Some breweries really go all-out. For years, Bare Hands has brought it big, with dozens of beers on tap.
I'm also looking forward to seeing what those breweries who opt for a bigger space do with it. Last year, Quaff On! was the first to take advantage of a larger space and brought a cool bar and games. Sun King joins them this year and we have space for a few others, so you'll see more interesting displays.
Other artisans, including meaderies, winemakers, coffee roasters, and even a local hard soda company will be there too, so there's plenty of variety beyond beer.
Rachel: What’s your favorite beer trend right now and what beer trend do you think is on the way out in 2017?
Tristan: 'Tis the season for barrel-aged stouts – though give me a nice BA Russian Imperial Stout anytime.
I'm also a fan of a good sour, particularly Flanders Red.
I appreciate sessionable beers, too, especially at a beer fest, where intoxication can ramp up quickly with too many "big" beers.
Hop bombs aren't as big as they used to be. Don't get me wrong: Beer fans still love a good IPA. But people quickly caught on that amping up the bitterness and alcohol levels for their own sake didn't mean that the beer was good.
Rachel: If you want to tell me (no pressure), what brewery do you like most at the event?
Tristan: Well, as a spokesperson for the industry, I can't play favorites. But I can tell you that Indiana's craft brewing community is incredible – I have so many friends whom I see at our festivals that I didn't know before I started this job.
The sense of community is one compelling thing about Indiana's beer scene. Its modern roots are in the Broad Ripple Brewpub, founded more than 26 years ago. John Hill planted the seeds of what became a massive family tree, with brewers going from his brewery to start their own and continuing that brewpub tradition of providing a local gathering space as well as a springboard for other brewers. There's a ton of camaraderie that originated in the Brewpub and has helped our industry substantially.
So it's always great to see John at our events. In addition to starting Indiana's longest-operating brewery, he also founded the Brewers of Indiana Guild and is always the last to leave our events. I'll never forget the last Winterfest, when he ended up with a back full of stickers as brewers came up to him and patted him on the back, leaving their brewery sticker behind. He later claimed that he knew what they were doing, but I'm not so sure.
Rachel: As to Drink Indiana Beer | Brewers of Indiana Guild, what events and partnerships can we look forward to seeing in the future?
Tristan: Last year we launched the IN Beer Brigade, a membership program allowing Indiana craft beer fans to directly join the Guild and support the Hoosier brewing community. We were ecstatic to partner with 3 Floyds and Indiana's northwestern breweries on the first guild-led collaboration beer of its kind in the nation, Corn King IPA, which we released during a month-long tour and release parties at breweries across the state.
In 2017, we're partnering with Sun King to host a Central Indiana collaboration beer, so look for details on that and the associated parties very soon at www.brigade.beer.
We've also partnered with Do317 to power our new events page at drinkIN.beer so it will feature all kinds of parties and releases, in addition to our Guild festivals like the long-running Indiana Microbrewers Festival.
We're excited to announce that we're adding another festival to our lineup, which will take place in Broad Ripple in late 2017. And we'll be at more brewery parties than ever before to celebrate their anniversaries and special releases.
Our third annual Indiana Craft Brewers Conference takes place in March in Indy. With the impressive growth of the industry, we're focusing more than ever on quality. Two educational tracks – technical brewing and business operations – help brewers from across the state with issues they're facing in this increasingly competitive landscape.
We're cooking up good things with The Hi-Fi in Fountain Square; we're continuing to grow our relationships with Purdue and IU to focus on beer quality, hops growing, yeast and more; and we're always working with legislators and the Alcohol & Tobacco Commission to ensure that the industry remains strong and that our brewery members succeed.
And the Guild's relatively new affiliate membership program is growing quickly, with a wide range of businesses joining to support our brewery members
Finally, I'd like to give a huge shout out to HopCat, who have graciously supported all of our festivals in big ways for the past several years. Stop by their Winterfest booth for some great beer.
Winterfest will take place February 4, 2017, 3:00 – 7:00 p.m. at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.