The 8th Annual Fest of Ale and Wine hits Clarksville, Ind., this Saturday, June 1. I can’t decide whether to practice my beer drinking in preparation or to drink nothing but water between now and then so that my system is cleansed for the delicious onslaught. (Chances are, it will end up being a blend of the two …)
Anyway, this year’s event promises 70-plus breweries, five craft beer distributors, six fine wine distributors, somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 craft and import beers, plus wine, food, a charity raffle … and lots of good times and good friends. Last year, the festival raised more than $9,200 for the WHAS Crusade for Children, which is even cooler.
But for your inner beer nerd, you’ll get to sample hundreds of beers from all over the world, be it Great Crescent Brewing from Aurora, Ind., or Paulaner Brauhaus from Munich, Germany. And of course, the Louisville beer staples will be on hand as well, from New Albanian to Falls City. One you will NOT see there this year, however, is Magic Hat. But you probably already knew that. You can even visit the provocatively titled House of Hops while you’re there.
So, to help set the stage, I had a chat with Todd Antz of the Keg Liquors, which puts on the event each year, to get a look into what we should expect when the Fest of Ale and Wine takes place from 3-7 p.m. this Saturday at St. Anthony’s of Padua in Clarksville.
Louisville Beer Blog: Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions, Todd. For starters, tell me about the House of Hops. What’s that all about?
Todd Antz: The House of Hops is a location at the Fest of Ale that is dedicated to the Hop Head in all of us. It’s that special place where a person can go and blast away their palate with tongue-numbing bitterness. OK, that might be a bit theatrical, but we designed this as a section of the Fest that is full of only hoppy beers. Since the start, we’ve had the participating breweries offer up special kegs of some of their hoppiest beers. This year, a couple that I’m particularly looking forward to are Bell’s Roundhouse Rye IPA and Sun King’s Bitch’n Camaro, another Rye IPA.
LBB: Sounds delicious. I’ve been reading that 70-plus breweries are scheduled to attend, with roughly 200 beers. How far do you think the average person would make it if they tried to taste them all in an hour?
TA: If someone came into the Fest with a mission like that in mind, they would not make it far. With so many offerings, we give the attendees a chance to try out something new, to maybe go out on a limb and experiment with a style they are not used to. Honestly, if you find a beer you don’t care for, dump it out and move on to the next. What we are not about is being an “all you can drink to make a jackass out of myself” fest. We keep an eye on everyone that is drinking, and if someone gets out of line, or gets a little too much in them, we pull them aside and give them a chance to re-hydrate and get themselves back together.
LBB: Sounds like a good policy to me. Which will be the first booth you’ll visit on Saturday? Do you have an annual favorite?
TA: I always have favorites, and being in the business as long as I have, you make a lot of friends in the industry. I’ve had people like Veronica from Bell’s, who has been part of all eight years of the Fest, and I try to make her my first stop for a ceremonial sampling of their Two Hearted Ale to start the day off. It’s become a bit of tradition for me. Last year, we started our first timed tapping with a keg of Founders KBS that we tapped at 5 PM. People started lining up at 4:30 to get a crack at one of the best beers in the world, and they went through the keg in 20 minutes. What makes this even more impressive is that we were pouring two-ounce samples, and still went through 5 gallons in 20 minutes. This year we plan the same thing, but the size of the keg has gone up to 7.75 gallons, so we might last 30 minutes.
LBB: Maybe I’ll get in line now. What would you tell someone about the Fest of Ale who had never attended one before?
TA: The first thing that I recommend is for people to bring fold up chairs, and find a place along the outside border of the Fest to set up. Four hours is a long time to stand around. Always have a ride prepared, whether its a designated driver, cab, but always be safe. Most importantly is to take your time and have a good time. It’s a very laid back atmosphere, so there’s no need to run around to try everything out as quickly as you can. Most importantly, at least for me, is to remember that it is a charity event. We do this to help raise money for the Crusade for Children, and everyone has always been most generous when it comes to supporting them. We have a great raffle of beer related items, gift cards to local restaurants and businesses, and tons of other fun things, so remember to bring cash to help out the cause.