For the past decade, Winterfest, put on by the Brewers of Indiana Guild, has been enlivening the doldrums between Christmas and Mardi Gras with a Saturday of Indiana craft brewers sharing exclusive beer.
Early bird admission offered an extra hour with shorter lines and real time to chat with brewers before GA ticket holder arrived. However, you had to hustle to nab tickets before the cut off. General admission still gave the best of tastes, but it got crowded.
This year, the format is different. No Saturday early bird entry. It’s strictly general admission, and face it, crowded will still be part of the fun.
New is a Friday eve session for an expanded early bird concept.
Rob Caputo, Brewers of Indiana Guild executive director, shared with NUVO why the Brewers Guild thinks it’s timely to shake things up as Winterfest enters its second decade.
“The reason for moving "early bird" to a Friday opportunity is that we are continuing to look for ways to differentiate our events, keep them fresh, and to keep up with the trends going on nationally,” said Caputo. “Those trends are geared toward offering unique experiences and creating exclusivity for passionate craft beer fans.”
Coming back on Saturday is still an option.
Caputo ticked off a handful of reasons to attend Friday:
“Essentially, three hours instead of one for an "early bird" experience, meaning three hours of shorter lines, and better access to the beers, ciders and meads being poured.
Furthermore, he pointed out, it’s being “a part history as an attendee of the first night time event for the Guild.”
That echoed back to the promo for Winterfest’s premiere appearance on Jan. 24, 2009. Penn Jensen, who at that time was Brewers Guild’s executive director, touted the ‘be part of an historic event’ line. In 2018, numbers of us gathered to toast, “ten years, still part of history.”
Caputo continued the lure for attending Friday, Feb. 1. “Sixty-four breweries, cideries and meaderies are bringing two brews each that they won't be pouring on Saturday. Which means that there will be 128 specialty beers, ciders and meads that will be be available exclusively to those attending Friday's session. None of these will be available to Saturday attendees,” he underscored.
In addition, expect an additional 100+ brews being poured as a preview of what's to come on Saturday.
Then came Caputo’s trump point for Friday. “No timed tappings for specialty beers as they will be on tap at the start of the evening until they are gone. We have requested a large quantity of each of the specialty beers from each brewery so they should be available to sample for most of the session.”
And finally, there’s “Winterfest logo'd special glassware for Friday night only.”
Yet, there’s plenty reasons to come on Saturday, cites Caputo:
100+ breweries, cideries and meaderies bring 500+ beers to sample.
10 exclusive specialty beers pouring at the HopCat booth that won't be available anywhere else at the festival.
Exclusive brews at the legendary cask tent.
- Opportunity to get banded prior to Saturday; just flash your wrist and pass right in.
“It's the dead of winter and you need to get out of the house and do something,” he says.
He continues, “Plenty of games and activities for the competitive set, you’re supporting the official charity partner Joy’s House as well as the other local charities who will be running some of the activity areas.”
Of course, we can add on some special toasts: 20th anniversary for Barley Island, 10th anniversary for LIL'Charlies, New Albanian, People's and Sun King. And, if memory serves, opening in 2014, for their 5th anniversary in 2019: Devil’s Trumpet, Function, Red Yeti, South Bend Brew Werks, Taxman, TwoDEEP.
And then there’s that original compelling reason Penn Jensen mentioned. “What we’re doing is positioning ourselves to capture the high end of the winter sports fever with high-quality Indiana brewed beers and other Hoosier products.”
Jensen, of course, was referring to the Super Bowl. The 53rd event is Feb. 3, 2019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga.
A few us are equally into celebrating Feb. 2 as Groundhog Day and International Gruit Day. Expect special libations for all three events on Saturday.
Find tickets and more at Brewers of Indiana Guild 11th Winterfest