20 Jan Bluffton is Warming Up for 4th Annual Brrr Fest
The 4th Annual Brrr Fest in Bluffton is coming up on February 15th from 2-5pm (1pm for VIP). The festival has been growing every year of its existence and has all the best of parts of a festival in February. One, it’s inside, so don’t let the name fool you. Two, it helps the city of Bluffton revitalization. Three, it has unlimited sampling from professional breweries, but also includes a home brew competition. Four, it’s a wine fest at the same time it’s a beer fest.
I talked to festival organizers Chad Kline and Mike Lautzenheiser of Bluffton Now! to get a better idea of how this festival began and what’s new for this year. You can read the interview below and then go get tickets, but I think you’ll want tickets right away, so here’s the link (https://www.blufftonnow.org/brrr-fest).
IOT: How did the idea for the festival come about? What is the underlying reason behind the festival?
Bluffton Now!: Bluffton NOW! was exploring event ideas on how to raise funds for community redevelopment efforts. This event was originally part of a larger event idea but was later pared down to just a beer fest to keep the inaugural event planning easier. The first year’s event was a success and was decided to add wine after an unsuccessful attempt to do a stand-alone wine tasting event.
The event is geared to bring something different to our community other than the traditional fundraising dinners. It also acts as an event to attract younger adults to become engaged in the downtown revitalization process. The event also was designed in many ways to attract a brewery to come to our downtown which is currently in progress.
IOT: Has the event grown each year? Talk about moving the venue. and describe the new(ish) venue.
Bluffton Now!: The event has grown substantially from the first event. The first year, we saw approximately 125 people participate in the event at a local small event space. We moved the event the next year to a larger space and had over 240 people in attendance, which maxed that space out as well.
Last year (third year for the event), we moved it again to a much larger space and had over 325 in attendance and still had some room for more. Each year, we have also added additional offerings at the event. As mentioned earlier, the second year we added wine tasting. Last year, we added live music to the event. This year we are hoping to officially sell out the event and greatly expand our silent auction offerings.
IOT: How did the homebrew competition start with the festival?
Bluffton Now!: We really wanted this event to focus on local breweries and local beer. Since the beginning, we have always involved the Fort Wayne MASH Club and the Pour Misfits Brew Crew because of the homebrewers within the groups. We wanted to also provide a contest with recognition at the event for local homebrewers, since many of them were offering their beer on tap already at the event. The number of participants in the contest continues to increase. We have offered the winning homebrewer the opportunity to brew at a commercial brewery as part of their prize. The first two years, the winners had the ability to brew with Chapman’s Brewing and last year the winner received the opportunity to work with Parlor City Brewing when they open.
IOT: You have a wine tasting as well. Which predominates for the day, wine or beer? Why?
Bluffton Now!: The beer has the tendency to dominate the offerings at the event. We have had problems getting many of the area wineries to participate in the event. We offer the opportunity for local home winemakers to share their concoctions at the event. By offering wine, we have provided an audience that the wineries don’t always connect to. We see many of the normal beer tasters stopping over to get a taste of the wines that are offered at the event. Since the beginning, Fruitshine Wine has offered their locally grown berry wine concoctions and continues to be a very popular attraction for the event.
Last year, Hartland Winery in Ashley, Indiana brought a bourbon barrel aged wine that was a big hit with festival goers as well. Adding wine allows us to attract more couples to the event. It also allows us to show off more of what the regional has to offer. With an underlying goal of attracting local wine options to our community.
IOT: What is new for the festival this year?
Bluffton Now!: This year we expect the event to very similar to last year’s event. We will have new live music offerings and have received commitments from new wineries and breweries to attend. So far, new this year will be Creatures of Habit Brewing in Anderson and Easley Winery in Indianapolis. We are still taking commitments from wineries and breweries to participate. There are also new sponsorship opportunities and an expanded silent auction.
IOT: What amenities will you have (food, games, local business booths)?
Bluffton Now!: We will again be offering local BBQ offerings from Yergy’s BBQ in Bluffton and sweet treats from Sweet Obsessions in Bluffton. There will be offerings from local business sponsors available at the event and even a DD mocktail table for those who are being responsible drivers.
IOT: Is there a charity partner for the event?
Bluffton Now!: The event is hosted by Bluffton NOW!, which is the downtown revitalization group for the City of Bluffton and a part of Wells County Revitalization, a 501c3 organization. All proceeds raised from the event go directly back to efforts to revitalization Bluffton’s downtown.
IOT: Who are the people involved in planning and executing the festival? Do you have volunteers? Talk about their importance.
Bluffton Now!: The entire Bluffton NOW! Board gets involved in the planning and execution of the event. The event is planned and executed by the Bluffton NOW! Board and Events Committee. It takes a small army of 20+ people to make the event work smoothly. Each year this event attracts more and more people to become interested in participating with our organization.
IOT: Is Parlor City Brewing going to be there? Is that brewery linked at all to the festival, or did they get the idea to start a brewery from the Brrr Fest?
Bluffton Now!: Parlor City Brewery will be there at the event as one of the participants. In many ways to the Brrr Fest helped close the deal that this community is ready for a local brewery and that downtown is a great place for it. There goal is hopefully announce their opening date at the event.
IOT: What is the list of participating breweries, cideries, meaderies, distilleries, and wineries for 2020?
Bluffton Now!: Here is the list of those who have indicated, so far, their participation in the event. The list is still changing as additional breweries sign up. Any additional brewery interested in participating in the event is encouraged to contact Chad Kline at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Breweries: Parlor City Brewing Company, Ambrosia Orchard, Gnometown Brewing Co., Junk Ditch Brewing, Hoplore Brewing, 2Toms Brewing, Chapmans Brewing, Creatures of Habit Brewing, MASH Homebrew Club, Hop River Brewing, Kekionga Cider, and Fortlandia.
Wineries: Hartland Winery, Fruitshine Wine, and Easley Winery.
IOT: What haven’t I asked you about that you want people to know?
Bluffton Now!: So much of what we accomplish in downtown throughout the rest of the year comes from the proceeds from this event. The sponsors, participants, and silent auction help fund our events, marketing efforts, and program goals throughout the year. As this event grows, we are able to do more and more to improve our downtown.