Brewfest taps into local beer scene

Inaugural event will also feature national brewers, music, food

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 

If you go

• What: Vancouver Brewfest, a festival featuring several local, regional and national brewers, live music and area food vendors to benefit local charities.

• Where: Esther Short Park, West Eighth and Columbia streets, Vancouver.

• When: 3 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 10, and noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11.

• Cost: $21 at the gate each day, includes eight tickets for 4 ounce samples and a commemorative glass. Extra tickets are $1 each. Cash payments are strongly encouraged; there will be ATMs on-site.

• Info: Vancouver Brewfest

Vancouver Brewfest Brewers

• 10 Barrel Brewing Co. (Bend, Ore.)

• Burnside Brewing (Portland)

• Dick's Brewing Co. (Centralia)

• Double Mountain Brewing (Hood River, Ore.)

• Elysian Brewing (Seattle)

• Everybody's Brewing (White Salmon)

• Firestone Walker Brewing Co. (California)

• Heathen Brewing (Vancouver)

• Hopworks Brewing (Portland)

• Laurelwood Brewing (Portland and Battle Ground)

• Lompoc Brewing (Portland)

• Loowit Brewing (Vancouver)

• McMenamins Brewing (Vancouver)

• Mt. Tabor Brewing (Vancouver)

• Ninkasi Brewing (Eugene, Ore.)

• Oakshire Brewing (Eugene, Ore.)

• Pale Horse Brewing (Salem, Ore.)

• Salmon Creek Brewing (Vancouver)

• Seven Brides Brewing (Silverton, Ore.)

• Snoqualmie Brewing (Snoqualmie)

• Stone Brewing (California)

• Vermont Hard Cider (Vermont)

• Walking Man Brewing (Stevenson)

• West Highland Brewing (Vancouver)

• Westport Brewing Co. (Westport)

• Widmer Brothers Brewing (Portland)

Cody Gray and Andy Stromberg leaned back and grinned as they sat together across a long wooden table upstairs at Brewed, a new downtown coffee and beer bar.

After 15 months preparing the first Vancouver Brewfest, you'd think the pair of local entrepreneurs would be completely exhausted, but instead they both seem — to use a beer keg term — pumped.

"The enthusiasm from the brewers we're working with has been really high," Stromberg said. "That helps keep our spirits up."

The friends, both military veterans (Gray was in the Army and Stromberg the Air Force), are avid beer enthusiasts and were eager to help Vancouver's young beer brewing scene grow. And it has.

Even in the months since they started putting the event together, at least two breweries have opened, and more are on the way.

"The local stuff is fun to promote, and this brewfest will give people a heads-up on what's out there in our own backyards," Stromberg said. "The smaller guys, a lot of them will be there pouring their own beers for people for the first time."

Heathen Brewing, Loowit Brewing, Mt. Tabor Brewing, West Highland Brewing and Salmon Creek Brewing are just a few small Vancouver-based brewers planning to pour at the event, which will include some special announcements about various beer releases and openings.

"We're still brewing nano-batches, one barrel at a time, but we go to our 10-barrel system on Sunday," said Sunny Parsons, owner of Heathen Brewing. "That will let us ramp up production, and we plan to announce our grand opening at the brewfest."

If the event is successful, it will help Parsons grow his company's customer base and introduce new people to his beers.

"I'm hoping this thing gets some legs and keeps going — it's a great way to get our name out there." Parsons said.

Heathen Brewing will pour an Imperial IPA called Malice and a wheat beer called Wicked Wheat at the event. Other brewers are planning to serve things such as mango ale, grapefruit wheat, lemongrass wheat, Marionberry hibiscus, chile ale, IPA, stout and porter beers.

"We also have a cidery and a winery for folks that don't like beer," Gray said, looking a bit disturbed at the notion of people not liking beer.

Brewers are also looking forward to checking out each other's products, said Eric Surface, owner of Mt. Tabor Brewing. Surface wasn't sure which beer he'd pour at the event, other than "something dark."

Those pouring the beer can't legally drink for several hours before they work, but when he's finished his shift and a volunteer takes over, Surface said he plans to do some tasting.

"It will be interesting to check out," Surface said,. "I've only tried one of Sunny's beers so far, and I'm looking forward to trying more and trying other beers from around the area."

During the planning stages, Gray and Stromberg went to other festivals in the region to do "research," Stromberg said.

One festival was billed as a dog-friendly event, and so the pair announced on their Facebook page that people are welcome to bring their dogs, so long as they have leashes on.

As they sat at the coffee and beer bar last week, the topic of holding a people's choice beer contest at the festival popped up.

"Can we do that?" Gray said, raising an eyebrow at Stromberg.

"We can do that," Stromberg said, looking determined. "We're going to do that."

So visitors to the festival will be able to vote for gold, silver and bronze winners.

People will also get to choose from several local food vendors, including Woody's Tacos, Vinny's Pizza, Main Event Sports Grill burgers, Foody Blues barbecue and Jake's Catering.

And there will be live music throughout with Mental Hygiene headlining from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday and Richie & The Catillacs headlining from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday.

The main objective of the festival is to raise money for four charities: Disabled American Veterans, Fish First, Second Chance Companions and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Portland.

"Our goal is to get each one of them a minimum of $2,500, and we hope to get them more," Gray said.

The two said they were expecting about 8,000 people to attend, although they can handle up to 20,000 over the two days if that many show up.

"We've got a couple class reunions coming in, and we're hoping to lure some chess players over from the U.S. Open, which is going on at the Hilton," Stromberg said.

Stromberg and Gray were also planning some options to prevent drinking and driving, including some special hotel rates and shuttles, taxis and free entry to designated drivers. Details will be on their website at http://vancouverbrewfest.com.

After the Vancouver Brewfest is over, Stromberg and Gray plan to start working on next year's event.

And brewers said they hope to see it grow into a signature summer festival for the city.

"I'm looking as it progresses over the next few years to see how big we can make this," Surface said. "We need more of this kind of thing downtown. It's good for the beer scene and it's good for downtown businesses."