Wedgestock and Brews On Buckeye Show That Beer Doesn’t Have to Be The Center of Attention

Wedgestock and Brews On Buckeye Show That Beer Doesn’t Have to Be The Center of Attention

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

Craft beer can easily be the focus of an event or gathering – it is for a good percentage of things that go on in the lives of Walter and I. But it doesn’t have to be the absolute center of attention, sometimes beer can be the lubricant that helps social events move smoothly. It might be by giving a common activity or topic of conversation, or it might be the alcohol that can loosen things up when consumed in moderation.

Then there are the rare events where beer is an afterthought in a certain activity or gathering. You’re having a great time and there just happens to be beer there. Sometimes it’s a bit hard to distinguish just how big a role craft beer plays in our adventures, but it doesn’t always have to be the first and last thing we think about….not always.

This past weekend (August 3-4) was a great example of how some social occasions with craft beer are fantastic on their own, and the beer is just there to enhance the entertainment. Walter and I drove up to Wedgestock 2019 put on by Wedgewood Brewing in Middlebury Saturday afternoon, and then we drove down to Kokomo for the Brews on Buckeye party in the evening. Then on Sunday we drove up to Fairmount and Bad Dad Brewery to meet my sister and brother-in-law for their first visit to that establishment and to hear about their recent trip to Italy.

Craft beer was present at each event and played small to large roles, but each thing we did this weekend also had components that relegated the beer, if not to a secondary role, then to role 1b. And when I say craft beer was involved in every step of the weekend, it’s true, we did beer sampling, beer buying, beer trading, and beer pairing with food. All in about 28 hours and all over the maps of Indiana and beer styles.

Wedgestock. The first beer event of the day was actually a beer trade. After Walter and I drove up to Middlebury, we texted Austin Eichhorn, the manager of Deer Park Irish Pub in Fort Wayne. He was in Middlebury for personal reasons and would attend Wedgestock later in the day, but first things first – he had a beer for me.

I’m writing a piece on blue beers, and Austin was the last guy I knew with cans of Untitled Art’s Rocket Popsicle sour. He brought one by the park where Wedgestock was being held and dropped it off for me. I had brought him money for the beer and a bonus – a bottle of Up On Cripple Kriek, the anniversary bottle release from Chilly Water Brewing. We mad our exchange in the parking lot and then Walter and I walked in to the Wedgestock grounds.

Wedgewood owners Chris and Cody Higgins have been putting on this music festival for three years now, and they have it down to a science. There was a beer tent with Wedgewood and guest beers, three different booths for local craftspeople to display their wares and make sales, and three different food trucks. We each grabbed a beer, I did the Peach milkshake IPA and Walter did the session IPA, and then she picked up a couple of bars of craft soap – Walter is a sucker for soap. If there was every a soap crisis, I’m sure we could keep the US in suds for months.

The grounds were spread out well for people in front of the large stage and there was a tent with tables so VIPs could get out of the sun for the first part of the afternoon. Around 2pm the first band took the stage, The Bumbs, from Nashville, TN. This is band lives where blues meets Grateful Dead, and while the crowd was still filling in, they were very much appreciated.

The second band was a local favorite and a band that is on its way up, waaaay up. The Tumbleweed Jumpers feature a brass section with flugelhorn, trombone and at times a tuba. The music is rock beat bluegrass or folk music with groovy funk and horns. They released their first full-length album in April, and their profile has risen to the point that they have a Tumbleweed Jumper Ale that they made with Goshen Brewing.

The crowd picked up as the Jumpers went through their sound check, and the beer was flowing and food was being dished out in large amounts by the time Walter and I had to hit the road to get to Kokomo. It was too bad we missed the last two bands of the day, The Million Reasons from Chicago and LITZ from Baltimore, but maybe next year we’ll only have one stop to make that day.. But before we departed we got some pictures of the afternoon and a last beer for the non-driver (the Stevie NE IPA), and then picked up a Wedgewood hat. We love their logo, a musical note with the flag of the note being barley and the head being a hop cone. This reflects the brewery’s commitment to music, and to their devoted followers, the Wedgeheads. Congratulations on another successful Wedgestock; we’ve already started counting down to next year’s event.

Brews on Buckeye. Our first stop of the day had featured music in addition to craft beer and a beer trade. Our second stop expanded on the music theme of the day, but added several other activities to watch as we tried dozens of great beers. We’ve said it before and we’ll continue to say it – Brews on Buckeye has to be one of the happiest places on Earth.

It didn’t take a deep investigation make this assessment, we could see the smiles on people’s faces again this year at Brews on Buckeye. The brick street in Kokomo was packed with people tasting, dancing, and having fun. New additions this year included the dunk tank and bounce house racecourse from Fade Salon, but the features that people have known and loved were still around – glitter beards for free, a skateboard park in the center of the festival, and the music and light show after the sun went down.

Kyle Gibson, the organizer snuck around all day with a water pistol, providing relief from the pleasant heat of the day and a good laugh and word for everyone. The breweries seem to enjoy this festival as much as the attendees; I saw Michele Bulington from Crasian Brewing and Erin Caitlin Foley of BrewDog dancing up a storm. And the beers flowed.

Indiana City Brewing was on hand pouring their hazy and dry hopped IPAs, and we managed to sneak a pour of the Longest Days Haze from behind the jockey box – I’ve told you before, it never hurts to ask if they brought something secret and special. If you can get to the taproom, there are a few four-packs of Longest Days Haze left; it’s undoubtedly my favorite beer of 2019 so far.

While at Brews, Walter ran into some fans of hers. It was three years ago last month that we first met Ethan and Cody, and in Kokomo Saturday we met their companion Cecelia. Cody approached and asked, “Aren’t you the lady we met at Books & Brews and introduced to UnTappd?” It’s true, Ethan and Cody were our first UnTappd friends, and apparently they have been following our travels and beers pretty closely. Cecelia commented, “So you’re the girl they’re always talking about on Untappd. You get around.”

Yep, we do get around, but Ethan and Cody do some getting around too. We talked about the different places we had been and they displayed a very deep knowledge of Indiana beer. But we talked about other things too, especially the interesting amenities at the festival. The music system was an important part of the festival, and I think that it became a bigger part of the evening as the event progressed. There were four food trucks, several artisan distilleries pouring samples and cocktails, and of course, the skateboarders. All of this was happening in and around the brewery booths, and there were some awfully good beers on hand, like the Reverse Mullet dry hopped sour and the HiiiPower milkshake DIPA with mango and pineapples – both from Elm Street Brewing in Muncie. Walter particularly liked the Night Game Dunkel from Field Brewing in Westfield and the German Alt from City Wineworks in Peru (the beer portion soon to be rebranded as Madwerks Laboratory).

Walter commented that she thought there were many more people at Brews on Buckeye this year, and I agree that attendance was up by 20% or more. But the beer lines weren’t very long because so many people were enjoying the music, the games, and each other’s company. It’s definitely true that selling tickets to beer events is getting harder because there are so many events, but apparently this doesn’t apply to Brews on Buckeye. Maybe it’s because the craft beer and spirits were just part of what make it great. Beer doesn’t have to be the beginning and end of a good beer event.

Sunday Lunch and Beers at Bad Dad. My sister and brother-in-law recently returned from a trip to Italy during which he taught a news photography and videography class and they both did a lot of travel and sightseeing. We wanted to hear about their trip, but also to pick up some beer that he brought back for us from Italy and from a long weekend he spent in Beer City USA (Grand Rapids).

Since they live in Muncie, we decided to meet at Bad Dad Brewing in Fairmount. They hadn’t visited before, and my sister doesn’t even drink beer, so we needed a place with other choices. Plus, there’s that great pizza oven. A lot of the afternoon didn’t even concern talk of beer, but we did try more of Patrick Howard’s beer, the Scottish ale called King of the Castle was a standout, as was the Red Headed Step Child, a beer we had tried on Saturday in Kokomo, but was new to Tim.

We listened to the live music, had some pizza, and looked at pictures and heard stories of Italy. We exchanged beers, including a Peroni Gran Riserva, a Brewery Vivant can of Zaison, and Sensual Bean from Pike 51 Brewing in Hudsonville, MI. I exchanged a Belgian Dubbel from an Indiana brewery that recently closed and a couple of beers that a friend brought us back from a recent trip to Nashville because they were styles that Tim particularly likes. But then we went back to talking about how all of our kids are doing and the great salumi that Bad Dad is using.

Who knew you could have such a great weekend and beer played only a secondary role? I’m sure we could have had a great time even without beer, but there is still that common activity that linked the visit together. Maybe that’s when beer is at it’s best, when it’s the glue that holds activities together. Use too much and things get messy, use too little and things fall apart. But if you use the good stuff, use the right amount, and use it on something worth keeping (like a memory) – it’ll be strong for years.

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