01 Jul Kentucky Craft Bash and Guggman Haus Taproom Opening – A Great Saturday
We love beer festivals; that doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone. They are a lot of work, and we know this since we put on 10-12 festivals each year, but even the festivals you organize turn out to be a lot of fun. However, it’s nice to get out and go to different festivals and see how the other half lives.
You can learn much from observing how other organizations put a festival together – number of food trucks, types of entertainment, check-in procedures, etc. I know that not everyone looks at how organizers handle ice for vendors or counts the number of portalets, but hey, we enjoy the beer too, we just do these other things as part of our continuous learning about craft beer and the things that surround it.
This past weekend we stepped out of Indiana to see how our southern neighbors run a festival. The Kentucky Craft Bash, organized by the Kentucky Guild of Brewers, was held at Festival Plaza and the Great Lawn in Louisville, right next to the Ohio River. It’s a nice park and a perfect venue for the festival. True, Louisville isn’t exactly the center of the state so some breweries and fans have to travel much further, but then again, the majority of the breweries in the state are in the Louisville, Lexington, south of Cincinnati area – all close to the venue.
The Kentucky Guild of Brewers, run by Executive Director Derek Selznick, put together a great event on that spot, taking into account the last of the Covid protocols and the fact that so many people want to get back out into the world for events. There were more than 60 breweries on hand pouring 200+ beers (with a handful of meads and ciders and even three sakes). The theme of the guild is “By Brewers, For Brewers,” and the event was a great time for attendees and brewers alike.
For many breweries, this was their first chance to get out and see their brethren from around the state, so visits from other booths were many and jovial. We don’t know every brewery in Kentucky, but we know enough to say hi and to recognize brewery friends getting together after a long pause. The crowd was ample, but not so large that booths were slammed and staff couldn’t get out to walk around.
As a festival attendee, you should be interested in the brewers/staff having a good time. If they’re happy, then your experience will be better; they talk more, they may suggest a beer you might like better, they can point you to other beers/breweries you might like. Plus, if they have a good time, they are more likely to go to more festivals. You want that.
The check-in for the festival was orderly and we didn’t wait long at all to get in after the festival was open. The booths were spread out enough, and the number of attendees was just enough that there were not very long lines even after the GA attendees arrived at 1pm.
One of the things we really enjoyed was that they had time tappings at over half of the brewery booths. This helped people move around all over the grounds looking for special tappings, and the beers were extremely good. The times for special tappings were divided up throughout the entirety of the festival, from noon right up to 4pm (ended at 5pm). It gave new things to look for and made the entire festival a bit like a scavenger hunt. A great idea backed up by great beers, but I’m wondering how hard it was to schedule and organize….I’ll find out and try to use it in the future.
There was a list of the beers being served on the website and we did take a list to the festival, but I didn’t really use it. Beyond seeing when special tappings were taking place, the information I get about the beer is better garnered from the booths than from a list. Unfortunately, some booths didn’t list their beers to give you a start to finding something to sample. Having to ask what they have slows down the process and isn’t, in and of itself, high level conversation.
We prefer asking things like how a lager was cleared, how long they have been open, or how they negotiate the hazy or slushie phase of craft beer. Show them you’re interested in their work and process, and they’ll more likely than not let you see behind the curtain. It’s fun and educational.
All in all it was a great festival. We enjoyed 99% of the beers, which is better than the average fest. We made several new acquaintances, and renewed some old friendships, like with Del Goins of Millcraft Beverage Solutions, a mobile canning company. We got to speak to Travis Wilkinson, late of St. Joseph Brewery and then Ram Brewing in Indy. He brewed in Colorado after that and is now Director of Brewery Operations for Goodwood Brewery + Spirits in Louisville. The folks from Braxton Brewing are friends and we had a good talk, and we really liked the people from Brewer Dude, Rock House Brewing, and Hometown Brewing.
After the festival we had dinner with two very old friends who live in Jeffersonville on the Indiana side of the river at Harbor and Hops, and then we decided to make an Indiana stop – so much was going on, we had choices. We decided to make our first trip to the Guggman Haus Brewing Taproom in the Boyle Racing Headquarters on the near north side in Indy.
This space has been in the making for quite a while, and features a much larger brewhouse, a full kitchen that will be up and running soon, and ample seating in a taproom and event center which can serve as overflow. There is also a Boyle Racing Museum room with memorabilia and the large car mover that has been lovingly restored. The beer garden is still open and can be reached from two large garage doors in the side of the new space.
Walter and I did a couple of beers and called it a night, but there were plenty of people who were enjoying the evening. Abby and Courtney were rushing around cleaning and straightening, but they were actually a bit more relaxed after the even bigger crowds they had seen in the afternoon. Looking around the large indoor space and the pretty outdoor space, it occurred to us that this would be a good place for a festival – we just can’t get festivals off our minds.