GnawBrew 2017 – A Weekend of Craft Beer, Art, and Music

GnawBrew 2017 – A Weekend of Craft Beer, Art, and Music

By Andrew Ogborn for Indiana On Tap

Wait? You missed GnawBrew last year? Well it’s going to be taking place September 15-17th this year. There are some nice additions this year, including a sponsorship by Quaff On! Brewing. In the next few weeks look for big news on Quaff On! Brewing, including a new destination production brewery, beer aging cellar, and distillery on over 300 acres of prime Brown County forest near the state park. What a nice way for Quaff On! to support the community. Here is the address to the website for the festival:

Here is my recap from last year’s event so you can see what you missed (don’t let that happen again!):

You know, there are only a handful of things I was really looking forward to in these warmer months of 2017. The Indy 500, my trip to California, my cousin’s wedding, and freaking GnawBrew.

Quaff On! is the presenting sponsor for GnawBrew in 2017. Go, if for no other reason then you will be able to drink Common Necessity for two days straight. image credit: GnawBrew and Quaff On! Brewing

GnawBrew…yes, an odd name for a beer festival if you’re not from the area. It’s takes place between Gnaw Bone and Nashville Indiana. Well, to say it’s between them is not entirely true. Once you turn off highway 46, you’re going to turn down a long winding road through the hills and hollers. You find yourself at the mouth of a quarter-mile long valley, which is the entrance to this outdoor love fest. By love fest, I mean the love of beer, the woods, art, and music. What were you thinking of?

I’ve often called this event the Woodstock of beer festivals. Think about it, it’s middle of summer (new for 2017 – a move to September, with its improved chances for balmy weather), there’s great music and you’re in the middle of nowhere (kind of). You’re there with a few close friends, and you’re bound to make twenty more. It’s the most relaxed and easy-going event you’ll ever go to of its size.

The set up for last year (2016) was a little different, and I definitely liked it. First off, if you went to both days you got a freaking glow in the dark wristband! I know, I’m a child. Aside from that, they decided to have the home brewer’s competition on Friday night and the main event on Saturday. Doug Talley, the man running the show, was nice enough to let me come to the event to check out both days. From what I had tasted last year, I was especially excited to try the home brews, and I wasn’t disappointed.

A few that jumped out at me this year were Dan Good Beer, Hill View Hop Farm Brewing, Huntington Collective, and the beer by James Stanley. Huntington Collective was crowned the winners, for those of you keeping score at home. James Stanley really surprised me, in a good way. He’s from La Porte and the first time he’d ever served his beer at a festival was last year at GnawBrew. I probably tried it back then but I can’t recall for sure. His wheat and amber beers were especially good.

For the guys from Hill View Hop Farm, not only did they have delicious beer, including a beer which used an actual boiled hambone in it, but their dispensing systems were by far the most unique. One of their beers came out of an actual 1950’s pinball machine, which still kind of worked! Way to go above and beyond.

The GnawBrew Craft Beer, Art, and Music Festival runs a bit differently. No one is running around to get all the beer they can as quickly as they can. People actually sit down. photo credit: GnawBrew festival

Dan Good Beer (clever name right?) came from Daniel Smith out of Greenwood. He’s been brewing for about 14 years and the work he’s put in really shows. His Honey Hefeweizen, called Solstice Shine, was particularly good, as was his Irish red called Bloody Irishmen. I look forward to having both again.

Continuing on from the home brewers and their delicious drinks, let’s talk about the main event. I’m pretty sure it started at 11 in the morning. Though now that I’m looking at the event page, it says 2pm. Hard to tell since by 11 am I was already enjoying good food and trading beer with some of the other people who stayed the night at the campground on site. I was able to score some beer from Port Jeff Brewery in New York, from a good-looking brunette girl; good beer.

(As an aside – the beer trading table retains its significance for 2017. Attendees can bring bombers or otherwise packaged beer (including growlers and crowlers) to place in the coolers when they arrive. Everyone who brings beer will have access to the trading area for the tasting of other peoples’ donations. The organizers will also surreptitiously place some special beers in the trading area as a bonus.)

People who came into the valley on Saturday probably saw something they didn’t expect, high-quality art for sale. As the Facebook page for the event will say, “Art and artists are the heart of Brown County, Indiana and at the core of what we are about here at GnawBrew”. This speaks to more than just the musical acts and the artistic work displayed, but the beer itself. When you think about it, craft beer making is an art form of its own.

The Valley Branch Retreat offers mountain biking, camping, zip lines, some even at night. I think the picture is a matter of fast film – he isn’t just hanging there like a smoked ham. photo credit: SuperDuckman24 on Youtube

Moving deeper into the valley (Valley Branch Retreat), over a bridge, brought you into the heart of the festival where the breweries were pouring, the sun was beating, and the bands were rocking. Over a dozen of Indiana’s best breweries were represented here. Some people go to festivals because they have 30 or 40 or 50 breweries pouring, and drink as much as possible as quickly as possible. GnawBrew isn’t like that. Though the valley is huge and they could bring two or three times as many breweries, it would feel too crowded. Yes, people got drunk (this guy included) but that wasn’t the goal of the day. I spent most of the festival talking to new people than drinking beer. That’s what I go to GnawBrew for.

From an event planner POV, I saw virtually nothing flawed with this event. Parking wasn’t too crowded, there were both port-o-potties and real bathrooms, and I was able to find AC when I needed it. My only suggestion would be to tell, not ask, the Dave Matthews Band to move their concerts to a different weekend, and come down and join us. Thanks to Doug, eXplore Brown County, and everyone else who was involved.

**Sorry to say, Ale Force One will NOT be at GnawBrew this year, 2017. It will be at one Indiana on Tap’s main events, Whitestown Brewfest on the same weekend.

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