The successful Beerfest brand is moving into Cleveland. The organizers behind the Cincinnati, Columbus and Pittsburgh Beerfest events will launch a similar two-day festival Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 at the new Cleveland Convention Center in Cleveland.
"We always wanted to get to Cleveland," Festivals Unlimited Director of Events Craig Johnson said today (Nov. 21) over lunch at Arnold's Bar and Grill in Cincinnati. "It's such a strong market and if we're going to be in Cincinnati and Columbus, we should be trying to be in Cleveland, as well. We just think we have a winning formula in terms of putting on an event.
"You hear the [beer] reps always talking about the Cleveland market being the strongest in the state," he added. "It's the largest sales for them. It just seems that we should be there. It makes perfect sense."
The Cleveland Winter Beerfest will follow the same format as the events in other cities, Johnson said. The events feature more than 350 craft beers. The Cincy Winter Beerfest -- which will celebrate its seventh anniversary next year -- is the largest attended beer festival in Ohio, attracting about 13,000 people to the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati.
"Why mess with it when it's not broken," Johnson said.
Details about ticket prices and hours will be released soon, he said. The event hasn't exactly been a secret. The organizers have a Twitter account @CLEBeerfest, but they haven't talked publicly about it before.
The Columbus Winter Beerfest is set for Jan. 17-18, followed two weeks later by the Cleveland event, which will be followed two weeks later by the Cincy Winter Beerfest and then the Pittsburgh Winter Beerfest two weeks after that.
Festivals Unlimited is partnering with the Ohio Craft Brewers Association on the Cleveland event. Proceeds help the Big Joe Duskin Music Education Foundation, which provides money for music education programs. The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra will benefit from the event, Johnson said.
"There's a lot of pride in Cleveland," he said. "Hopefully they will embrace the event. It's going for a good cause. It's a new venue. And if they talk to anybody in Cincinnati and Columbus who's gone, hopefully they'll hear good reviews."
[Editor's note: I attended the Cincy Winter Beerfest this year. It was a phenomenal event and, for me, came the closest to replicating the feel of the Great American Beer Festival in terms of passionate and sometimes goofy beer drinkers. Not to mention the sheer size of the beer selection and crowds. The Beerfest organizers also hand out the best tasting glass that I've ever seen -- a snifter for VIP tickets-holders.]