05 Apr Blue Chip Brewfest Will Be A Good Bet on May 5th in Michigan City
by Indiana On Tap editorial staff
Many craft beer festivals succeed or fail on the strength of the beer and the invited breweries. Held in a parking lot or at the event center closest to the brewery, the site isn’t crucial to the experience. Other festivals use a certain site because it lends meaning to the event. Mishawaka Mayfest (now called Mishawaka Kamm Island Festival of Beers) is held near the Kamm Brewery site because it is a nice park and reminds attendees of the history of Mishawaka brewing.
Likewise, Corkscrew and Brew and the Columbus Craft Beerfest are held in city parks because they are central to the themes – promoting the town and showing prospective businesses and residents the amenities of the venue. It is the rare festival where the site is a destination in and of itself, but the Blue Chip Brewfest is one such festival. Held at the Blue Chip Casino Hotel Spa in Michigan City, the craft brews are just the beginning of the day. The casino is a destination for many after the drinking, but there’s so much more.
May 5, 2018 is the 8th annual Blue Chip Brewfest and will be the biggest yet, having tripled in size since the first edition in 2010. The casino and the city can take a lot of credit for this growth; people like coming to the venue for the entire day or weekend, with a craft beer festival as a great incentive to make the trip that particular weekend. This year’s festival will have more than 85 breweries represented, pouring over 300 different beers. Previous festivals have had around 2,000 attendees, and this year’s edition will exceed previous festivals in terms of patrons, breweries and beers.
Jack Elia, Asst. General Manager for Boyd Gaming, told me that Northwest Indiana craft beer has boomed in the past few years. This festival offers an opportunity to put people together with all these new breweries. He said, “It’s just a great party that promotes both Northwest Indiana’s craft breweries as well as national craft beverage offerings. The response has been just incredible.” The Brewfest is just one of many events that Blue Chip uses to bring guests to their property.
Jack was quick to point out that any brewery is invited to pour at Blue Chip Brewfest, big or small, as well as distributor represented or brewery represented. The majority of booths will have very knowledgeable pourers who can tell you about the brewery, their philosophy of beer, and all about what they are pouring that day. The breweries love the fact that the festival is held on the first floor of the parking garage; it’s out of the wind and any rain that might fall, the space is ample for a growing festival, and gives a solid surface on which the breweries can set up. So, they come back year after year and bring their brewery friends – more and more breweries every year.
That being said, the offerings on May 5th will be varied and excellent. Walter starts drooling every time The Devil’s Trumpet is mentioned; My Ghetto is one of her favorite beers, so she’s hoping Bob and Chris bring it on Saturday. Likewise, we both are fans of One Trick Pony in Lansing, IL and Round Barn Brewery from lower MI. Being from Indy, we don’t get to drink them very often, so we have to take advantage of every opportunity.
Shoreline always manages to bring some novel beers to festivals, including some wood aged beers. We love their barrel aged series and their willingness to move beyond house beers for festivals. Back to the out of state brewers, Revolution will have a big presence at Blue Chip given their participation in the Brewmaster’s Lunch (see below), and Middle Brow, Burnt City, and Maplewood will be in from Illinois as well. Tapistry from lower Michigan, Great Lakes and BrewDog from Ohio and Central Waters from WI are just a few of the other regional brewers represented at Blue Chip.
Even for those national breweries that will be using distributor and brand representative pourers, the opportunities abound. The festival gives you a chance to try many of their beers all at once, instead of purchasing one or two (if you can find them) over a long period of time. This is a way to learn a lot about many breweries in a single afternoon. Take Firestone Walker for instance. New to the state, you could purchase a Firestone Walker variety pack or single bottles or four packs, or you could try most of their distributed offerings all at one booth in one afternoon. Then you will know if they are someone you want to invest in the next time you go to the beer store. With 85 breweries on hand, it is impossible to mention them all and more breweries may be added, so check back at the festival website often to see who has confirmed to pour.
It’s evident that the beer at the Blue Chip Brewfest will be very good – that’s something on which we all can agree. But the opportunities at the festival just begin with the beer. I am constantly amazed at how festivals can keep coming up with new amenities to improve the attendee experience. In this case, Blue Chip is having a Brewmasters Lunch (for those 250-275 people with the Brewmaster’s ticket) featuring Josh Deth from Revolution Brewing in Chicago. Now the Windy City’s (and Illinois’) largest brewery, Revolution is just the latest brewery to take advantage of Josh’s experience and innovation.
Josh started at Golden Prairie Brewing in 1995 as a keg washer; this is where anyone worth their salt really starts to learn the business. It has been said by many a brewer that the only way to know brewing is to start from the bottom. Later, while working as a cellarman at Goose Island in Chicago (pre-AB InBev), Josh had the idea for Revolution Brewing. A failed brewing effort, he opened Handlebar with his wife, Krista.
During this time, Josh continued to champion local business, heading a Chamber of Commerce and managing a farmers’ market. This experience, along with the nagging idea for a brewery of his own, led Josh to Milwaukee Avenue and an old building in need of restoration. Revolution Brewing opened in 2010 at this location and has done nothing but succeed and expand in the years since. The Brewer’s Lounge, the Production Brewery, and the Taproom are just outward signs of Revolutionary success. This sense of persistence and interest in the community are Josh’s messages to craft beer makers and drinkers.
Get your Brewmaster’s Lunch tickets soon if you wish to hear Josh speak and have a scrumptious four course lunch paired with Revolution beers before the festival begins. However, the VIP ticket gets you some nice perks as well. Besides getting into the festival at 1pm (a half hour before GA ticket holders), the VIP ticket gets the purchaser into Sam’s Town Ballroom at noon for special VIP-only beers from the Upland Brewing’s Wood Shop in Bloomington. Upland’s sour program is one of the best in the nation, and their rebranded sour label packaging is up for national design awards.
The GA attendee also receives perks at Blue Chip Brewfest; a souvenir pint glass, music throughout the festival from a DJ, and food available from Blue Chip’s King of the Road Food Truck. These amenities are welcome additions, but the beer will hold sway as the main attraction during the festival. In addition, there is plenty to do at Blue Chip Casino and in town before and after the festival.
The Blue Chip Casino Hotel Spa has a 65,000 sq. ft. playing room, five different restaurants, and full spa, salon, and fitness center. The hotel has more than 450 room (that many festival attendees take advantage of), and there are two gift shops in which to buy souvenirs with your winnings in the casino. But wait, there’s more. Shoreline Brewery and Zorn Brew Works are both located in historic buildings within walking distance from the casino along the river. The arts district downtown offers many unique shops, as does the Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets (let’s hope Walter has forgotten about the Vera Bradley outlet there or else I’m never getting out of town).
All in all, the Blue Chip Brewfest offers attendees a great time before, during, and after the beer festival, in a town known for its history and rebirth. Tickets of all types are available here. This is a 21+ event, with valid ID required – I wish I had a nickel for every eye roll I get when I ask Walter if she remembered to bring her ID. I ask her before EVERY festival and I just laugh when she goes nuts…… of course I end up paying for it.