The eighth annual Blues & Brews beer festival returns July 28 to Lock 3 park in downtown Akron.
“I think it will be one of our best beer selections ever,” said organizer John Najeway, one of the owners of Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. in Akron. “There are so many to choose from.”
The event will feature 77 brewers and more than 250 beers. It draws about 3,000 people and is one of the largest beer festivals in Northeast Ohio.
About 10 breweries will make their inaugural appearance this year, including Wooster Brewery in Wooster, Four String Brewing in Columbus, Neil House Brewery in Columbus, Market Garden Brewery in Cleveland, Frankenmuth Brewery in Frankenmuth, Mich., Hinterland Brewery in Green Bay, Wis., and Sixpoint Brewery in New York.
Blues & Brews will be the festival debut for Wooster Brewery, which is close to opening its tasting room. Owner and brewer Paul Fryman said he’s especially excited to participate because Blues & Brews was the first beer festival he ever attended as a patron back in 2006.
“It’s sort of coming full circle this year,” he said about his return as a professional brewer.
Fryman said he’s not bringing any crazy styles or high-alcohol beers. Instead, he will offer a pale ale, foreign stout, cream ale and red.
“The general beer drinking public should find them really approachable,” he said.
A full list of brewers and beers is expected to be available online Thursday at www.bluesnbrews.org.
Other festival highlights include:
• A “Gnome Garden” — a tent dedicated to Belgian beers. “Belgian beers are hot again,” Najeway said. “Well, they’ve been hot for a thousand years.”
• Just like last year, Thirsty Dog will have a full line of cask-conditioned beers, including wheat beer infused with apricot, pineapple, raspberry, cherry and mango. Thirsty Dog also will preview its first sour beer, Mixed Breed, which was aged 18 months with red cherries.
• Najeway has secured a limited amount of Brux Domesticated Wild Ale, the collaborative beer made by Sierra Nevada and Russian River. It’s an ale fermented with Belgian yeast and then fermented again in the bottle with Brettanomyces bruxellensis, another Belgian yeast.
• Lucky Penny Farm Creamery in Kent and Acme Fresh Markets will offer cheese and beer pairings.
The general admission portion of the event runs from 2 to 6 p.m. Tickets are $40 in advance and $45 at the door.
A “Brewer’s Circle” ticket allows you to get in at noon and includes lunch, bourbon barrel-aged beers and specialty beers not available to general admission patrons. Brewer’s Circle tickets are $60 in advance or $65 at the door.
Designated driver tickets are $15 and include lunch.
Blues & Brews is presented by Thirsty Dog, Acme Fresh Markets and Winking Lizard Tavern.
A portion of proceeds benefit the Akron Child Guidance Center, Stewart’s Caring Place, Summit County Guns and Hoses Fund and the Ohio Craft Brewers Association.