By Chris Campbell
Six years ago, Lexington’s first modern day beer festival ushered in a new chapter in our city’s quest to quench its thirst. The brainchild of then-president of Lexington’s homebrewers club Chris Vandergrift, the first Fest of Ales brought regional, national and international brews to Cheapside Pavilion. It’s hard to believe, but in 2009 – the event’s first year – Alltech was Lexington’s only brewery. Vandergrift relied on larger regional labels and imports to anchor the festival, but in 2014, the beerscape in Central Kentucky has changed, and the tap list will reflect that.
“All Lexington’s breweries as well as all the ones that distribute out of Louisville will be represented” said Vandergrift. “Not only will everyone get a chance to try many of our local breweries’ offerings, but it will be a community event for many of our local beer reps. The scene has come a long way since the first year.”
Vandergrift, webmaster and author for www.lexbeerscene.com, has managed to take an idea for promoting craft beer and morph it into an extremely popular yearly event. 2014’s festival will feature no less than 160 brews from all across the country, but the highlight will be on beers brewed in the Commonwealth. “The core of it all will be a section for the Kentucky Guild of Brewers, expanding to Ohio and Indiana breweries and then everything else.”
While the extensive brewer list proves to be a large draw in itself, there will also be a slew of special tapping available during the three hour event. The culmination of the thirty-five rarities will be the tapping of Michigan-brewed Founder’s KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout) which has a cult following, and habitually receives mention when publications attempt to pin down some of the best domestic craft beers around.
“Every year there’s something that excites and surprises me about the fest, and KBS is sure to be a highlight and a big draw this year” says Vandergrift. “But KBS definitely isn’t the only show in town.”
Rarities such as Dark Horse Bourbon Barrel Plead the Fifth (Michigan), Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break (Denmark), Southern Tier Mocha (New York), Atwater Blueberry Cobbler (Michigan) and Lexington’s own Country Boy Bourbon Chestnut Brown are just a few of the specially-tapped brews that will be available throughout the evening.
Co-sponsored by the Downtown Lexington Corporation, the sixth-annual Lexington Festival of Ales is similar in atmosphere to Thursday Night Live, with food vendors and live music. But don’t plan on showing up and buying a ticket at the door. The event typically sells out weeks in advance, and with only 1500 available, the $30 admission passes are already a hot commodity.
“It’s a great opportunity to sample your favorites, try something completely new, and to even get to chat with the people who actually brew the beer you’re drinking,” Vandergrift added.
If you’re still thirsty when all’s said and done, Pazzo’s will be offering a Fest of Ales after-party immediately after the doors close at around 8:30pm.
Info, lexbeerscene.com; tickets available via Pazzo’s, The Beer Trappe, Liquor Barn.
This article also appears on page 9 of the August 7, 2014 print issue of Ace.
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