Two Festivals in a Weekend – Each Was a Blast, But Very Different

Two Festivals in a Weekend – Each Was a Blast, But Very Different

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

This past weekend was a bit of a strange one for me. Walter is traveling, so I did a festival on Saturday on my own – it felt weird. Luckily, it was Brews on Buckeye, and nobody can feel alone or sad there. And we did get to visit the JA Wine & Beer Festival on Friday night together, so our weekend festing was just abbreviated, not gone.

JA Wine & Beer Fest. Parkview Field in downtown Fort Wayne was buzzing on Friday night as the Tin Caps baseball team was out of town, but the beer fest brought in a good crowd on the off night. Over 1700 people were on hand for the JA Wine & Beer Fest, an important fundraiser for Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana. 1700 is a good number, but it didn’t feel crowded since they used the entire concourse for the vendor booths, from behind home plate all the way out into centerfield. Thirty or so vendors were on hand, including many of the local breweries and some new establishments that Walter and I hadn’t seen before, but are now friends and potential partners.

Aaron and Kenn Scribner of Copper Forge Distilling in Fort Wayne was one of the new people we met and we learned a bit about. Look for them at many future festivals, as you should look for more events from Hunt Club Distillery of Sheridan and Edwin Coe Distillery of Churubusco. It seems that distilleries have really broken out this year and are doing wonderfully well at festivals.

Yes, JA Wine & Beer Festival is fun, but more importantly, it’s for a great cause. image credit JA of Northern Indiana

Bottle sales are allowed at many festivals, and this is where the distilleries and wineries seem to be doing extra well. Friday evening was a sort of hybrid festival, done on Parkview Field’s alcohol license, but with exposition permits to allow sales of some bottles through the alcohol license owners. You ordered your bottle from the booth and then picked it up and paid at the Parkview Field booth.

I wish more breweries would consider selling packaged product at festivals. Friday night I got a full can of the Blueberry Blonde from Zach White at Chapman’s Brewing through the alcohol license, and Beech Bank Brewing did well selling pre-filled howlers a couple weeks ago at Rushville Libations by the Levee. I do understand that hauling all that product, especially if you are filling howlers or such, can be a pain and they have to be kept cold, but breweries could start with small volumes to see if the idea might take off.

There were a couple of beers at the JA Fest on Friday night that I certainly would have purchased had I been given the chance. I knew the Strawberry Imperial Saison from Goshen Brewing (called Strawberry Moon) was excellent, having had it before, and the Vienna Lager (Alps, Bro) from Todd Stone at Junk Ditch Brewing was a great new find for us. Seltzers aren’t really our thing, but the prickly pear and lime seltzer from 2Toms Brewing (2 Hard Seltzer) made an impression with it’s striking, but all natural, color.

The weather was perfect for the evening, and after we finished at the festival we decided to prolong our day in Fort Wayne just a bit and made the very short drive to Deer Park Irish Pub to see Jeremy Weiks – we got the idea from his brother Tristan who was pouring for Bad Dad Brewery at the festival. Deer Park had some great new beers in, including some 3 Fonteinen lambics and krieks and a couple barrel aged baltic porters, from all places, Estonia (a Baltic country). Jeremy – our new best friend – even brought out a Monkish West Coast IPA (West Coast Heaven) just for Walter because she was lamenting the lack of West Coasts on peoples’ boards nowadays.

The music/light show at Brews on Buckeye is legendary. image credit: The Coterie

Brews on Buckeye. I took Walter to the airport MUCH too early on Saturday, but then hit up Kyle Gibson’s block party late in the afternoon in Kokomo. The public salon chairs for hair coloring and glitter beards were replaced with mechanical bull riding this year, and if those things doesn’t tell you just about everything you need to know about this festival, then there’s just no reaching you.

The breweries/distilleries came from far and wide when Kyle and The Coterie beckoned. I might have been without Walter, but I wasn’t alone for long. Sean Webster of Hoosier Brewing ran up for a quick picture of the two of us (I just LOVE taking pictures), and I soon spotted Amanda and JD. from Sun King Kokomo and Amanda’s husband Chad who’s a big wig with Toppling Goliath.

Amongst the breweries that came from a distance were Westwind Brewery from Elkhart, Four Fathers Brewing from Valparaiso, Off Square Brewing from Crown Point, and Misbeehavin’ Meads from Valpo. I had a good talk with Jason Fruits of Old 55 Distillery in Newtown (we have to get over to their tasting room); look for them to do more events in 2022. I also met the folks that just opened 7 Pillars Brewing in Peru. With any luck, we’ll make a trip up there for beer and pizza in the next couple of weeks.

Brews on Buckeye was the first event (that I know of) for Russ Kinzie of Logan Beerwerks. His booth was positioned next to Jason McKeever at City Wineworks (Circus City Brews). They’ll be next to each other as well at Hops & Coaster Drops next month, along with 90 other breweries, with a few distilleries and wineries thrown in to make the day even greater.

The beers poured fast and smooth for the 800 or so attendees at Brews on Buckeye, the most I’ve seen in the many years I’ve been attending. The music/light show later in the evening was again something to behold (see image above). I spent some time in Sun King Kokomo talking to friends, but my time at Brews on Buckeye was, as always, worthwhile – even if the question I had to answer most often was, “Where’s Walter?”


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