The first International Beer Fest proved so successful last year with beer drinkers and brewers alike, it’s back this year.
The two-day event — billed as the Midwest’s largest showcase and awards competition involving beer from around the world — returns May 11 and 12 to the I-X Center in Cleveland.
The festival features about 800 beers from more than 200 breweries. About 8,500 people attended last year’s inaugural event.
“We were very pleased with the attendance last year, and are looking to build on the excitement and enthusiasm the event generated,” said I-X Center President Robert Peterson.
And while there may be an international flavor, the event offers an excellent opportunity to sample Ohio-made beer, said John Najeway, president of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association and co-owner of Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. in Akron.
Along with the state’s biggest craft brewers, several smaller Ohio breweries will be there, including Sugar Ridge Brewery from Perrysburg, Black Box Brewing from Westlake, J.F. Walleye’s Microbrewery from Middle Bass Island, Four String Brewing from Columbus and Neil House Brewery from Columbus.
The International Beer Fest is more than just tasting beer. There are plenty of talks and demonstrations on three separate stages. Highlights include:
• Patrick Noone, business development manager for D.G. Yuengling & Son who led the brewery’s move into Ohio last year, will present the opening address at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
• Pat Conway, co-owner of Great Lakes Brewing Co. in Cleveland, will deliver the keynote address at 2 p.m. Saturday.
• Judges rate the beer and medals are handed out to the top breweries. The awards ceremony begins at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The Brew Kettle in Strongsville won “Best of Show” last year for its White Rajah.
• LD Carlson Co., a homebrewing and winemaking company in Kent, will highlight three breweries during special presentations: Great Black Swamp Brewing of Toledo at 7:45 p.m. Friday; Four String at 3:15 p.m. Saturday; and Rockmill Brewery of Lancaster at 8:45 p.m. Saturday.
• A “Real Bar” area will feature cask-conditioned beer from more than a dozen breweries. New features include a pavilion devoted to meads and ciders, and a “Silent Disco.”
Three tasting sessions are available: 7 to 11 p.m. Friday, 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday. Single-session tickets are $45, $120 for all three sessions. VIP tickets are $75 for a single session or $200 for all three. Designated driver tickets are $10.
The general admission tickets include 36 tasting tickets and a tasting cup. The VIP tickets also include a T-shirt, and access to an area with rare and limited edition beers and complementary hors d’oeuvres.
For more details, go to: www. ixbeerfest.com or call 216-265-7468.