27 Oct Indiana Community Gives Back With Portage Brewfest
Northwest Indiana greeted me with gusty winds and some of the blackest clouds I have ever seen on the morning of the Portage Brewfest. When the downpour started and I began to worry about finding two of every animal, I figured that whatever happened, at least the event was indoors. By the time I walked out, a hurricane could have been raging and I would still have been walking on sunshine. Good beer, a well-run festival, and a great cause will do that to a person.
Unlike some of the larger brewfests in the central area, Portage keeps things small. Held in the community center at Woodland Park, the first thing that struck me about this festival/fundraiser was how smoothly the logistical aspects were planned and executed. There was plenty of parking available, next to no line for wristbands and tickets, and the people to pouring stations ratio was perfect. The longest I waited for a chat and sample was around 30 seconds, which really lent to the community atmosphere of the festival.
You might think that with a smaller community brewfest you’d be trading size for variety, but this was not the case with Portage. Many of the local breweries made an appearance, as well as some big names such as Lagunitas, Dogfish Head, Southern Tier, New Belgium, Bells, and Brooklyn Brewery. Of the Northwest Indiana region breweries, Evil Czech, Three Floyds, Figure 8, and Shoreline were all in attendance.
The final treasure of the afternoon were the very dregs of a bottle of Figure 8’s Bourbon Barrel Rye Knot. A baltic rye aged in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels for over five months, this beer had it all: rye up front, a nice smoky flavor, and a gorgeous bourbon finish. This is a rotating tap at Figure 8, so I hope to see it make another appearance soon.
Excellent selection notwithstanding, the Portage Brewfest isn’t just a chance to sample great beer and get to know the community. It was started last year as a way to help raise money for the Portage YMCA’s scholarship fund. With 5,200 members from the local community, the Portage YMCA offers child care, fitness and wellness classes, team sports, and more. It’s important to the community that these programs be available to all, and to that end the YMCA offers several financial assistance options to individuals and families who want to prioritize community and fitness but may not have the funds available to do so.
With 7% of their members taking advantage of financial assistance, the Portage YMCA saw a need that they could fill, and that’s when the idea for the Portage Brewfest was born. This year’s online ticket sales far exceeded last year’s, and with their continued commitment the Portage Brewfest team hopes to make next year even better. Last year’s brewfest raised $18,000 for the scholarship fund, and organizers are hopeful that this year’s efforts will be just as successful, if not more so.