01 Nov A Great Season for Craft Beer is Highlighted by Two Halloween Beer Festivals
Late September and October are probably the busiest beer events times of the year, both for festivals and brewery events. On the Indiana On Tap calendar there were 34 craft beer events listed for October, the most for any month of the last year, although May was a close second. The On Tap Tickets site also shows that October is big for craft beer in Indiana. But adding September and October together, you get 62 events, the most for any two-month period by a large margin.
Indiana On Tap’s calendar is the best thing going for Indiana craft beer events, but we can’t get everything on the calendar. This makes it less than totally accurate for an absolute calculation of event numbers, but assuming that IOT hears about and posts about the same percentage of events held each month, then the results are still applicable.
Some of the reasons why September/October have so many events aren’t that hard to guess. The fall is a festive time of year, with the leaves changing, people making pumpkin everything, football at full throttle; people are just in a festival sort of mood. If you add in the first week of November, which has a lot of events for International Stout Day, then one could say that the last two weeks of September, the entire month of October, and the first week of November are primo event days for craft beer in Indiana. This includes Indiana craft brewery anniversary events, where October and November are two of the three busiest months (June being in between these two).
I was a bit surprised at the numbers I counted. I though spring/summer would be the most popular time for events, but it didn’t work out that way. The summertime has kids out of school and people traveling more often, including brewers and event organizers. This means that festivals are lower on peoples’ list of priorities. Plus, it’s often sweltering hot in July, the exact opposite of the blistering cold of January (although February has some outdoor festivals which are fun). So autumn seems to be optimal.
In a Goldilocks kind of way, fall is just right; a pretty time of year, not too hot or too cold. But fall has more going for it, craft beer wise. It crosses pumpkin, marzen, and porter/stout seasons; I don’t think any other period has so many popular styles of beer associated directly with it. Summer has the crushable session and the kolsch, spring is more of a saison time, and Helles lager is a warm wether beer too, but Sept./Oct./Nov. are kings for time-of-year focused beers. Heck, pumpkin beers even have their own festivals (like Pumpkin, Cider and Fall Beer Fest at Union Jack Pub in Indy).
I don’t mind the cold at all (I’m the guy always in shorts at the festivals), but the heat gets to me quickly, so I wouldn’t be upset if the winter festivals were all outside, and the summer fests were held some place with air conditioning, but that’s just me. It is interesting to note that the great majority of craft beer festivals are held outdoors, either all the way out, or with some covered areas (like Tailspin Ale Fest in Louisville, Frigid Digits in Indy, or Crown Beer Fest in Crown Point). South Bend Beer Fest is indoors, as are Brrr Fest in Bluffton, Winterfest in Indianapolis, and Savor Lebanon, but in general, most festivals live outdoors It might be the size (hard to find affordable spaces for big indoor festivals), or the spillage/breakage issue, but I think Walter and I have only been to a couple of summer festivals that were held indoors.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature can bite too. Cold, wind, rain, sloppy ground, these are possibilities and can make things difficult for a craft beer festival. This may be why ticket sales for autumn festivals sometimes lag until just a few weeks before the event. One, people are looking for what else may come on the calendar (FOMO), and two, they may be waiting to see what the weather is going to be like. With the high number of things to do and the choices of themed events, marketing an event becomes even more important in the fall.
Speaking of themed events, Walter and I spent the last two Saturdays at Halloween based beer fests. First we visited Hoppy Halloween out in Plainfield on October 20, and most recently (Oct. 27) we went to the Broad Ripple Beer Fest put on by the Brewers of Indiana Guild. It might not have been indicated in the name, but Broad Ripple was definitely in the Halloween spirit, both the people and the beers.
In terms of marketing the festival to appeal to purchasers, both these festivals did well. Hoppy Halloween had a costume contest, a collaboration beer available only at the festival, and a zombie flash mob dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller at a (slightly) unannounced time during the festival. Broad Ripple Beer Fest also had a costume contest, a cask tent, and a larger list of pouring breweries than the average festival.
The new location for Hoppy Halloween was killer, it had West Indy Harley Davidson and Chateau Thomas Winery involved in all phases. There were Harleys being displayed and demonstrated with specials inside the store, there was an after party with live music at the winery, the central house on the grounds (I think it used to be a Ritter’s Custard) for wine tasting, and the entire festival was located on a cul de sac, so it was private-ish even though in an urban area.
The weather was good two weeks in a row, although a bit windy for Hoppy Halloween (but compared to 2017…..ooh boy). Moving the festival ahead by one week was a good idea, both for the weather itself and for coordination with the Guild for the Broad Ripple event. On the other hand, you couldn’t asked for a better day for Broad Ripple Beer Fest, loads of sun and warmer temperatures.
The music was great from the DJs at both festivals. It’s strange how being in costume makes people more willing to dance… or maybe it was the beer. Nevertheless, the Halloween costumes were the stars of the day at both festivals. I’d say that nearly 75% of attendees at each festival had some sort of costume on. Some were silly and some scary, some were of dubious origin and some clever. There were probably too many guys dressed as girls; it has to be done well to carry off something like that – see the picture of the Brothers Grissom from Broad Ripple Beer Fest. They nailed it.
The costumes took a back seat at Hoppy Halloween only when some of the dressed up folks lined up and started to dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller – the zombie flash mob was quite a hit. After that, the costume contest was judged, with the Mad Hatter scoring big (see photo).
This is all well and fine, but there was beer at the festivals too. The cask tent at the Guild events is always a hit, with breweries putting spins on beers with exotic ingredients. Broad Ripple Beer Fest was no exception; the pepper, spice, and fruit additions to base beers made for some excellent choices. Hoppy Halloween went another direction, with a star of the show being the Just One S’more collaboration beer from Brew Link Brewing and Indiana On Tap. It turns out that attendees really like having a festival-exclusive beer that they can either taste on draft or purchase to take home.
Hits at Hoppy Halloween for Walter and I included the Devilish Belgian Golden Strong from Evansville Brewhouse and Mr. Lewis unfiltered DIPA from Rock Bottom (a tip of the IOT hat for the beer name), while we found the Barrel aged Blend from 18th Street Brewery and the Pinkies Out tea/beer blend from Wooden Bear/HoiTEA ToiTEA at Broad Ripple Beer Fest were quite memorable. Overall, the combination of beers and Halloween festivities made for two great Saturdays. I can’t believe we have another 10 ½ months until we can do this all over again. Our advice – get your costume and your calendar together early. And get plenty of sleep, next fall is going to be busy.
banner image credit: Walter says hi to Care Bear Ruari