Fundraiser Festivals in Noblesville and Irvington Highlight Community Involvement of Craft Beer

Fundraiser Festivals in Noblesville and Irvington Highlight Community Involvement of Craft Beer

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

Walter and I have been following craft beer longer than most people, but certainly not as long as others. When we started attending festivals in 2008/2009, the Noblesville Brewfest as one of our first. The 2009 Noblesville festival was the inaugural event with about 200 attendees. It has grown in size and scope in the years since, as has our craft beer universe. But Noblesville has always been one of our favorite festivals because we meet a couple of our oldest friends there each year, and because of our history with the event.

This year’s festival was no different; just a very nice afternoon. On a cool fall afternoon, we tried beers from near and far, getting the best of a local brewery-driven festival and a distributor-driven festival. The music was good, spirits were high, and money went to a great local cause. This was in fact the impetus of the festival to begin with. The Noblesville Adult Swim Team, Inc. (NASTI) uses the Noblesville Brewfest & Wine Garden (as it is called now) as the primary fundraiser to maintain and operate the Forest Park Aquatic Center as a public pool and diving facility.

Noblesville Brewfest is one of the most experienced festivals in the state. And it’s for a very good cause. image credit: Noblesville Brewfest

Others must get the importance of this local fundraiser too because Noblesville is always a well-attended event. This year was no different, with more than 1300 tickets sold, including a mess of walk up sales – and this in an environment of contracting festivals. The community commitment to Noblesville Brewfest can also be seen in the number and enthusiasm of the festival volunteers. There more than a hundred people who give up their entire day to help set up, run and breakdown the festival, which is especially nice for the brewers since hauling in the equipment and tearing it down isn’t anyone’s idea of fun.

Everything fit together to make Noblesville a success again, and the beers didn’t disappoint either. Dan Gohr from Redemption Alewerks had a beer that was definitely my favorite of the day, a red ale made with honey and chilies called Fire & Brimstone. The honey came first, then the red ale with chili fruit flavor, and finished just a hint of heat that didn’t really build with multiple samples. A solid, solid beer. Another beer that both Walter and I remarked on separately was the Amazon Princess IPA from People’s Brewing in Lafayette. The crystal malt in this one added a complexity with really moving it over into the red IPA realm.

For the distributor-supplied beers, there were several old favorites that we enjoyed tasting without having to invest in a 4-pk or 6-pk. These inlcuded the Old Chub from Oskar Blues, the Salvator Doppelbock from Paulaner, the BFD (Beer for Drinking) from Sierra Nevada, and the Huma Lupa Licious from Shorts. We added some hotdogs and a Celtic Pretzel to our afternoon, and then headed down to another craft beer festival used as a worthy fundraiser, the Irvington Brewfest.

Held on the grounds of Our Lady of Lourdes Church and School on Washington St., in Irvington, this was the 7th annual event, a much smaller and more intimate affair as compared to the Noblesville festival. As such, it was nice that this was an evening festival, with live acoustic music from 7-11pm. The fact that it was a gorgeous evening helped, but Walter and I are becoming big fans of small, evening festivals.

The volunteers are a crucial part of the Noblesville Brewfest. image credit: Noblesville Brewfest

Even though there were only ten beverage vendors, the choices were varied and the attendees were very pleased with the beers. Walter got to try 8th Distillery gin for the first time, and we were very pleased with the fresh flavor of the spirit. Look for them at the inaugural Midwest Distillers Fest in October. Two purveyors of liquids had pumpkin flavors going on, the oft-awarded Pumpkin Ale from Bier Brewery and the semi-sweet Autumntide cider from Ash & Elm. The St. Joberfest marzen from St. Joseph’s Brewery was nicely malty and a good example of an Oktoberfest beer, and we also enjoyed the fact that Sun King brought a beer from the small-batch brewery in Fishers.

The best new beer we tried during the evening was the Belgian IPA from Centerpoint called Bevel, but when it came time to get a full pint (unlimited samples were free, but pints were obtained by purchasing tickets), Walter went for the Blood Orange IPA from Centerpoint, what a surprise. This was a nice way to run this fundraiser festival, with money going to Our Lady of Lourdes from attendance ticket purchases, and then a chance for additional funding from pint sales.

The money raised at the festival helps the parish for urgent needs. One year it went toward new lighting for the school. And much of it goes to tuition support for local children who might not otherwise be able to afford to attend the parish school.  This is why many in the crowd were ultra-local to Irvington and Indianapolis. Festival organizer Amy Petrone said, “We really like the community feel of this event. It isn’t about drinking all the beer, it’s about trying some new beers, and then sitting down with a pint and having fun with neighbors and friends.”

There were food trucks and plenty of table seating for this very relaxed festival. The candles at the tables were a nice touch as the sun went down, and the crowd was having fun without looking for every high ABV beer that the breweries brought. Everything worked together very well – the time, the place, the music, the people, and the cause. Look for more evening festivals in the future, especially as some of the festivals become more niched and smaller.

These two fundraiser festivals in a single day work to highlight the enthusiasm and responsibility of craft beer as a part of the community. Finding sponsors to defray costs for the festival, asking breweries to participate at less than wholesale rates, and making purchases for amenities on a shoestring budget so that maximum dollars can be donated to the cause makes running a fundraiser very difficult. The smooth way the Irvington Brewfest ran highlights the maelstrom of complications that Chris, Greg, and Julia overcame just before the Noblesville Brewfest.

The Irvington Brewfest has unique feel, very relaxed and low key. image credit: Walter

No fewer than seven of the 22 local breweries pulled out of the Noblesville festival in the two weeks before the event, and some of these were as late as 48 hr. before game time. Some had problems with staffing, while others had late occurring conflicts, but all called to apologize and express a desire to return next year. Nonetheless, it definitely puts a strain on the other pourers when some breweries cancel late. Maximum ticket numbers are determined based on the anticipated amount of beer available. With fewer breweries, there is less beer all of a sudden. Lines get longer at the remaining booths, and the reputation of the festival is damaged through no fault of its own.

We heard several people talking about which breweries they were looking forward to, and in three cases, those breweries ended up not being there. One can only hope that ticket sales won’t be affected for the 2019 festival. Luckily, the organizers arranged to purchase a significant quantity of extra beer from the distributors the morning of the event to make up for what was lost.

Unfortunately, this cash outlay negatively affected the amount raised for the pool effort. It’s that way with fundraiser and charity events; the Irvington and Noblesville organizers work to maximize the experience for the attendee while at the same time raising as much money as possible. The breweries generously participate in these festivals as a way to give back, but unexpected costs can really affect the product for everyone. The point of all this is, when helping with a charity or fundraiser event, everyone should try their best to makes things as easy on the organizers as possible.

Chris, Julia, and Greg realize that this was a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances, but we thank them for persevering and once again pulling off a great event. Likewise for Amy and her team at Irvington, kudos for producing a very relaxing evening that helped us enjoy helping their cause.

  • Greg Baker
    Posted at 18:49h, 24 September Reply

    Thank you Mark for your well expressed article. We at the Noblesville Brewfest and Wine Garden appreciate our brewers and the challenges they face. We want our event to be a win/win/win for brewers/patrons/our beloved public pool. Thank you for what you do for the craft beer community.

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