A flow of event ideas over the past decade to attract young professionals and others in Columbus has nearly spilled over, ranging from music gatherings to food festivals. During such discussions, one idea that has bubbled to the surface more than once is a craft beer-tasting event.
Elements of that already have been done successfully, such as the D-Vine Winter Wine and Beer Festival each February at The Commons to benefit Developmental Services Inc. But now a larger craft beer event has entered the picture in the inaugural Columbus Craft Beerfest, 3 to 6 p.m. Aug. 27 at Mill Race Park on Fifth Street.
Fifty-five vendors from around the state, plus one each from Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky, will make it the largest such event locally. Proceeds will benefit the Columbus Park Foundation, which supports a broad range of efforts on behalf of local parks and their recreational activities.
Craft beer makers from the Columbus area that will participate are:
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ZwanzigZ Pizza and Brewing, Columbus
Powerhouse Brewing, Columbus
450 North Brewing Co., Columbus
Gnarly Grove Hard Cider, Columbus
Columbus Area Classic Alers, Columbus
Hillview Hops Farm, Columbus
Quaff On! Brewing Co., Nashville
Upland Brewing Co., Bloomington
“I wanted someone to do something like this,” said Elaine Wagner, who has worked at beer fests as a pourer to get an idea of the work and the events.
So she and her team of organizers, along with ZwanzigZ, began traveling in person in February to more than 50 craft breweries in Indiana and inviting them to a then-forming event rounded out with two live bands and food.
The set-up will allow ticket buyers unlimited, four-ounce tastes of beer. However, organizers say they pay careful attention to those who need to take a break, drink water or perhaps stop.
With enough beer flavors to read like a summer ice cream stand — it stretches from chocolate milkshake to blueberry and vanilla cinnamon — Wagner and ZwanzigZ brewmaster Mike Rybinski fully expect about 3,000 people to get a taste of Columbus’ foam and fortune. And they hope that a good number of those attendees will be out-of-towners and overnight visitors.
“We’re very optimistic,” said Rybinski, a veteran of such gatherings. “Craft beer popularity and sales are on fire and still on the rise. I think people still are discovering that there’s much more out there than bland, yellow, fizzy beer.”
Only 11 percent of national, annual beer sales are from craft beer, Rybinski said. But half of Indiana’s current breweries are of the craft variety, he said.
Many of the international, commercial beers “are only two degrees to the left or right of each other,” in taste and variety, Rybinski said.
Wagner said young adults in Bartholomew County want events or gathering places where they can socialize, eat, drink a little and enjoy music. She happily noted that the local downtown scene and other entertainment options are beginning to come to life.
“It’s a lot better,” Wagner said. “But I think we still have a long way to go.”
A Welcoming Community survey from the Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County showed in 2004 that young adults locally wanted more ways and places to relax with friends locally.
Music is part of that mix, and the tunes at Columbus Craft Beerfest are meant to be as smooth as the beer.
A popular local pop-rock cover band, The Tiptonians, will play a one-hour set. The group has been seen at a variety of local gatherings, including a crowded kidscommons Carnivale earlier this year and the Ethnic Expo international festival last fall.
“We’re definitely excited about it,” drummer Richard Bodor said. “Most of us in the (six-member) band are in the demographic that really likes going to craft beer festivals on our own. So this will definitely be a good experience for us.”
“We had to compete to get them,” Wagner said, pointing out that there are several other craft brew events statewide the same day. “We were very aggressive, which is why we started inviting them in February for an August event, before anyone else had done so.”
Bigfoot Yancey, a folk-rock-bluegrass band featuring Columbus resident and banjo and mandolin player Loran Bohall, also will play an hour-long set. The group is fresh from an appearance at the Indiana State Fair.
Afterward, organizers will examine the event’s success — and consider doing it again, Wagner said.
“We’ll have to see,” she said. “First, we just want to make sure this first one is a very high-quality event that we do the right way.”
What: The nonprofit Columbus Craft Beerfest, featuring 55 craft breweries, food vendors and two live bands: the pop-rock of The Tiptonians and the folk-rock-bluegrass sounds of Bigfoot Yancey.
When: 3 to 6 p.m. Aug. 27. Last pour will be at 5:45 p.m.
Where: Mill Race Park on Fifth Street in Columbus near Round Lake and the amphitheater.
Why: To benefit the Columbus Park Foundation.
Admission: VIP tickets are $50 and include a complimentary gift; general admission is $35 in advance and $45 at the gate. These tickets allow for a commemorative sample glass and unlimited, four-ounce pours. But organizers say they will carefully watch for patrons who have had too much to drink. Tickets for designated drivers are $10 in advance and $20 at the gate. All available at columbusbeerfest.in.
Principal sponsor: ZwanzigZ Pizza and Brewing.
Information: columbusbeerfest.in and the Columbus Craft Beerfest Facebook page.