This is a Good Time to Have a Charity Beer Festival

This is a Good Time to Have a Charity Beer Festival

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

Walter and I traveled up to Bluffton this past weekend for the 5th Annual Bluffton NOW! Brrr Fest, which was once again a terrific success. People were definitely ready to get out a have a good time, but the Bluffton NOW! organizers (Chad Kline) kept safety in mind by spacing the booths and limiting attendance.

The 2021 festival was a bit later in the year than usual, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm. If anything, coming out of the pandemic turned Brrr Fest into even a hotter ticket than normal. Evidence of that was seen in the fact that the event sold out in about one week, and when they put more tickets on sale, those went in just a couple of days.

This is all good news for the Bluffton NOW!, the organization to which Brrr Fest is dedicated. Ticket sales, sponsorships, proceeds from the silent auction…. they all go to fund the revitalization of downtown Bluffton. One recent project, for example, was the downtown murals; amazing, huge works of art that everyone can enjoy. One muralist was brought in from Portland, OR, but the second was Indiana’s own Nancy Wagner, from nearby Poneto, IN (see image below).

Bluffton NOW! also funds local grants for business re-investment in the downtown area, including exterior façade improvements and mechanical or structural elements to increase the value of downtown properties and the overall look of the city. Bluffton NOW! even had a direct effect on the craft beer community through the help they gave to Parlor City Brewing Company when they opened. Chris Bryant of Parlor City Brewing told me, “I was approached by Bluffton NOW! soon after the realtor for the building knew what my plans were. Bluffton NOW! helped with a generous grant and in return I hope to bring quality beer in a unique atmosphere to downtown Bluffton. There has been much support by the local community and we are always seeing new faces every weekend.”

The festival on Saturday was well attended, had ample local business support in the way of sponsorships, and of course had local breweries and wineries pouring great products. They were arrayed around the outside of the large room of the Wells County Community Center, with live music from Trevor Hunt in one corner and food from Grant’s Catering BBQ in the opposite corner. In the middle of the room were the tables with silent auction items. There were many people bidding online (they had their phones out), so we hope that it was a successful part of the fundraiser.

image credit: Bluffton NOW!

Walter and I tried many beers as we toured the room, including a great hazelnut brown ale from the Roulette Series of Chapman’s Brewing. This is a top-notch beer, and was one of the best we sampled. One of the first beers to blow at the event was the Tasty Whip Dammit! from HopLore Brewing of Warsaw. This beer is a banana and pineapple sour made with soft serve ice cream. Walter is convinced that this beer would be fantastic as a slushie or as the liquid in a true ice cream float (ask Hog Molly Brewing in Columbus, beer floats are a crowd favorite).

We met Bradly Harbaugh, the assistant brewer at GnomeTown Brewing and had a good talk about Chinook hops and making single hop beers. They brought a very nice ginger and maple amber that they made for the holidays and which we have decided would be a great beer to serve hot, like a mulled wine – don’t laugh, it’s done quite often and is great, see an article about them here. Another unusual beer was the gluten reduced lager called Arno Glutenlager from Fortlandia Brewing. Ken Daly told me that they are going to keep a house made gluten reduced beer on all the time for those people who require them. Look for more on this subject soon.

Chris Bryant and Parlor City Brewing had a hazy IPA made with Kveik yeast that had some bitterness despite no boiled hops, and had the full body that people want from their hazy IPAs. There were also great products from Creatures of Habit Brewing from Anderson, the Belgian Quad with plums from Bad Dad Brewing called Plummer’s Crack, the jalapeno Para Mis Amigos cider from Kekionga Craft, the new Hop Mess from 2Toms Brewing, and a great black currant mead from Ambrosia Orchard called Lil’ Currants.

A partial look at the huge board of beers poured by MASH Fort Wayne Homebrew Club. image credit: Cody Moon

Those were the professional breweries at Brrr Fest, but that wasn’t the end of the beer. MASH Fort Wayne Homebrew Club brought 32 different beers to the festival – yes, 32! We stood around and made nuisances of ourselves by trying beer after beer. Walter had a nice, sweet West Coast IPA called Dixie Wrecked and I was impressed with the beers of several brewers, including Cody Moon. He had some wonderful sours and several nice saison/farmhouse beers. The Four Saisons was a standout with fantastic funk and perhaps a bit of pediococcus. Look for more from Cody in the near future.

The Pour Misfits Brew Crew were also there pouring great beers, including a Scotch ale called A Wee Bit Heavy from none other than the event’s organizer, Chad Kline. While he swore that this beer didn’t include scorched wort, it had great caramel flavor and sweetness. As part of the festival, some homebrews were being judged for a competition. BJCP categories were clustered and medals were given in the several resulting categories. MASH Club brewers Jed Lengrich and Andy Metcalf took home multiple medals each, while Circle City Zymurgy brewer Keith Goldstein’s grodziskie beer was named best in show.

Brrr Fest is always a great festival for a great cause, but the conditions of the last year led to this being a HUGE success in 2021; a wonderful outcome for Bluffton NOW!. If you are considering a beer festival as a fundraiser in 2021, you might want to get on the stick because it seems that festivals are going to be big hits this year.

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