Brewers pleased at festival turnout

Attendance fell from first year; organizers plan more promotion in 2014

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

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Attendance dropped a bit at the second Vancouver Winter Brewfest, but local brewers still have a lot to toast to.

About 2,000 people attended over the festival's extended three-day run from Dec. 13-15, compared to 2012's attendance of 2,500 over two days, organizer Brian Davis said.

But that said, in the area where seven Vancouver breweries were set up next to each other, things were booming, Devon Bray, co-owner of Loowit Brewing, said.

"I felt like it went really well, I know we went through at least two kegs, probably three," Bray said. "The Vancouver breweries had a really good showing. There was always a good crowd around all of us."

The beer event was at Propstra Square in downtown Vancouver's Esther Short Park.

Davis blamed the attendance problem on not doing enough to promote the event. Next year, he may shift the dates a bit and increase his marketing budget, he said.

"We appreciate everybody coming down," Davis said. "Everybody just really liked the vibe and that the area was so open."

Over the three-day event, participants went through between 80 and 100 kegs of beer from the nearly 40 breweries that participated, he said.

And as far as he's heard, there were no police issues with the crowd, Davis added.

Another popular part of the festival was an area with four regional cidermakers. There aren't any

cider producers up and running in Clark County yet, but Davis said he may expand that part of the festival next year and would love to see a local company join in.

"We blew through their kegs fast," Davis said. "That was great to see."

Bray said the layout and management of the festival was more polished and streamlined in the second year. He added that the festival beer, a collaborative effort between Loowit, Mt. Tabor and McMenamins on the Columbia called "Wilbur's Longest Kilt," could lead to more jointly made beers from Clark County in the future.

"It was really well-received," Bray said. "We've all expressed interest in continuing to do collaborations, and we want to do that. We had a great time working on the recipe, and we all enjoy each other's company."