South Bend Brew Fest captures the best of the small festival atmosphere

South Bend Brew Fest captures the best of the small festival atmosphere


By Adam T. Schick for Indiana On Tap

Winterfest looms large over us this week, and I couldn’t be more excited. 100+ breweries, nearly 7,000 attendees, a chance to catch up with brewery friends and owners, and the opportunity to sample some of the best damn beers in the world gets all sorts of emotional.

But let’s be real: it’s kind of a hastle. Anything of that magnitude is going to be. It’s like trying to get the gate to catch your flight while your entire town is trying to do the same, and everyone is running late and going in different directions. I mean, it’s worth it for a chance to showcase just how awesome the Indiana craft beer industry really is, but it’s taxing for all parties involved, the brewers included.

Since I’ve been in this business, I’ve grown much more fond of the smaller festivals. The ones with 20-40 breweries and less than 2,000 attendees, where the lines aren’t too long, and you get a chance to actually talk with brewers and brewery representatives about their beers. It’s a much more personable experience, and goes a long way towards building an actual relationship with a brewery.

This past weekend’s South Bend Brew Fest definitely fits into that category. With 45 breweries, the majority from Indiana and Michigan, and what seemed like around 1,500 attendees in the spacious Century Center in downtown South Bend, South Bend Brew Fest felt a lot like Whitestown Brew Fest last September: just a simple festival aimed at bringing great beer to good people who don’t always have a chance to make it to the Guild’s three big festivals.


The great thing about South Bend was, because of it’s proximity to Michigan, it had a lot of pull in getting breweries from MI to attend and pour, which introduced me to a lot of beer we don’t normally get in Indianapolis. Two standouts of the fest came from Saugatuck Brewing: their seasonal Neopolitan Milk Stout, and their house Blueberry Maple Stout. I’m usually wary about stouts with those flavors coming off as too sweet or artificial, but my jaw dropped at the first sip of the Neopolitan. It tasted like a spoonful of the multi-flavored ice cream, with an added alcohol bite. Exceptional.

Other standouts included the pecan coconut Breakfast Cookies Stout from Elkhart’s Iechyd DaDark Horse Brewing’s Plead the Fifth Imperial Stout, the “white” oatmeal stout named Ivory from Brew Link Brewing, the Ottermelon Gose from Central State (if you can’t make it to Winterfest, head to their grand opening. Please.), the Turtle Tamer IPA from South Bend’s Crooked Ewe, and pretty much every beer I drank from GreenbushRound Barn Brewery, and Atlas Brewing, to name a few. There were some national distributors there, but with so many Michiana breweries in attendance, they were easily avoided.

With dinner at Iechyd Da the night before (amazing pizza, folks), post-game pints at Bare Hands, and the always wonderful Sunday brunch at Evil Czech over pints of their delicious Luscious Mounds, a stout that tastes amazingly like a Mounds bar, South Bend Brew Fest brought a great weekend in northeastern Indiana together. I can’t wait to head back next year.

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