South Bend Brew Fest Returns for 9th Year

South Bend Brew Fest Returns for 9th Year

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

South Bend and its environs is been a great beer area, both before and after Prohibition. But since I wasn’t alive during “The Great Soberness” I’ll confine my discussion to the craft beer age. There are great breweries and bars serving great beers, and there are great festivals in the area to highlight the beer from near and far.

As far as breweries are concerned, the oldest in the craft era was Mishawaka Brewing, which opened in 1992 and closed in 2011 – a good run in anyone’s book. There was also Just Brew It in Mishawaka (1997-2000), South Bend Brewing (1999-2000), Nine G Brewing in South Bend (2005-2007), Four Horsemen Brewing (2011-2013), and the recent loss of Hydraulic Brewing in Elkhart (2019-2019).

Breweries that are still open are led by Bare Hands Brewery (2011), Evil Czech (2012) in Mishawaka, and Iechyd Da (2012) in Elkhart. After those were established came South Bend Brew Werks (2014) and Crooked Ewe (2015). Finally, the latest entries are Heavenly Goat (2017), Studebaker (2018), Westwind Brewery in Elkhart (2019), and Greenbush-South Bend (2019, but not brewing there yet).

Bare Hands Brewery is the oldest operating craft brewery in the South Bend area. They’ll be at South Bend Brew Fest on the 18th. image credit: Bare Hands Brewery

There are craft beer bars in the area as well, like Danny Boy Draft Works-ND, Fiddler’s Hearth, Taphouse on the Edge, and Hop Station Craft Bar which opened last year. And bringing all that beer together are the festivals, like the Michiana Festival of Beers, as well as the 9th Annual South Bend Brew Fest that is coming up on January 18th (tickets available here), presented by U93 and Rock 97.7.

Running a festival for nine years in a row means that South Bend Brew Fest has learned a lot about putting on an event. Jacob Hamman of the Century Center where the festival is held each year has done a great job at growing the festival each year, with new breweries and new amenities. As you probably know if you read Indiana On Tap even occasionally, festivals are hard to keep fresh. And with so many festivals now, it’s getting harder and harder to stand out. Luckily, the South Bend Brew Fest has managed this well, and continues to be a large draw in the area.

This year’s event runs from 1-4pm (noon if you have a VIP ticket). The VIP ticket gets you a lounge for snacks in addition to that extra hour and a Brew Fest T-shirt, which really is nice. The lines are short, the beers are all still there, and the breweries have time to talk to you. The VIP ticket also comes with a meet and greet sessions with the brewers and with the Michiana Beer Reviewers.

Attendees can’t wait to get into the South Bend Brew Fest. image credit: Century Center

All told, there will be more than 150 beers for unlimited sampling, along with wines and spirits to throw your palate a curve during the afternoon. Many of the local establishments mentioned above will be on hand to pour their beers, as well as those from farther south in Indiana. Walter and I like the balance between local breweries and distributed breweries, it gets you the new things from local Indiana brewers, but also some of the beers that you can’t get as often because they come from farther away, especially those smaller breweries from north of the border in Michigan.

Each attendee, whether VIP or GA, will receive a sampling glass and lanyard for the festival, and a commemorative pint glass to take home as a functional reminder of the day. There will be food concessions to keep you going longer, and a great feature is that Transpo will be offering free rides to the attendees in an effort with Century Center to promote safety and responsible practices. Finally there will be a silent auction to benefit St. Margaret’s House in South Bend – just another way craft beer benefits the community.

Come on out on the 18th and celebrate South Bend area beer – it’s January, there’s not really that much else to do anyway. You’ll be helping to build South Bend beer’s reputation, and you can do some good for St. Margaret’s House. Perhaps most important, it’ll be warm in the Century Center, that’s better than being outside.

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