Friday May 20, 2011

BRATTLEBORO -- Ben Caplin, national sales manager for Beer Advocate and an expert on beer festivals, described last year's Brattleboro Brewer's Festival this way:

"You're standing out on this field with the mountains around you on a beautiful summer day, in sandals, chewing on Grafton clothbound cheddar and sipping on something like a double IPA (India Pale Ale). Truly it was a great time."

And with 47 brewers signed up, this weekend's second annual Brewer's Festival is expected to surpass last year's event, which was deemed a success with 600 to 700 attendees.

The festival will take place Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. at the field on Chickering Drive in Brattleboro, across from Holiday Inn Express.

This year, organizers hope to see brewers introduce more than 1,000 people to their microbrews, artisan beers and hard ciders from all over the country, according to Kelli Corbeil, president of WTSA Radio and spokeswoman for the event.

One of the many breweries joining the festival's featured brewer, Brattleboro's own McNeill's, is Victory Brewing Co.

"Brew festivals and beer festivals are really one of the best ways that craft breweries get to interact directly with the people drinking our beer," said Kelly Housen, communications coordinator for Victory. "We get to watch people drink our beer and get immediate feedback.

"It's also good for people at the festivals to be able to direct specific questions to someone from the brewery who really knows the answers," she added.


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Caplin said the festival had an "epic" line-up of beers when he attended last year.

"I go to a lot of festivals," he said. "Vermont is known to have some of the best craft beers, and I was blown away by the quality of beer."

He also enjoyed the food, provided by local eateries. This year's event will include offerings from North End Butchers, Vermont Country Deli, Top of the Hill Grill and Rigani Wood-Fired Pizza, serving their own specialties such as Irish banger sausage sandwiches, barbecue pulled pork, wood-fired pizza and Rock Art Vermonster Ale turkey chili.

Live music will put the finishing touches on the festival's atmosphere.

"We're fortunate to have The Peter Miles Band and R.T.M joining in the festivities," said Kelly Hall from WTSA Radio.

When the sun goes down, the party will continue with the Tap Tour of local pubs including McNeill's Brewery, the Steak Out Restaurant and Brattleboro Bowl.

A Brewfest ticket includes free taxi transportation to Tap Tour locations both Friday and Saturday nights from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Direct rides home from Brattleboro Taxi will be provided free within a 10 mile radius of Brattleboro. Any trips beyond a 10 mile radius will be metered.

Caplin said the free ride to his hotel was the perfect ending to a great day.

"After a wonderful day drinking outside in the sun, we then had a pub crawl until 1 in the morning ... when I was done I was tired, and I asked the bartender to call me a cab," he said.

He was surprised to find the ride was free of charge.

"Not only do they take care of you all day, but they get you home safe and sound," Caplin said.

The festival is a benefit event for the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce Skills for Success Scholarship Program, the Brattleboro Rotary Club's Gateway Scholarship and the Fund for the Relief of Those Displaced by the Brooks House fire.

"Forty-four different businesses helped support this event, knowing it was going to those charitable causes," said Corbeil.

General admission tickets to the festival (which include the Tap Tour) are $35 per person and can be purchased at Brattleboro Bowl, Holiday Inn Express, North End Butchers and the Vermont Country Deli or online at www.brattleborobrewfest.com.

Upgrade to VIP tickets for $75 and enjoy early admission at noon, first dibs on all of the brewers' selections, complimentary food in the VIP room inside the Holiday Inn Express plus exclusive access to the VIP tent. VIP tickets can be purchased online only.

Jaime Cone can be reached at jcone@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.