Beer festivals can get stale.
Same location. Same breweries. Same beers. Year after year.
But the seventh annual Blues & Brews — one of the largest beer festivals in Northeast Ohio — will have plenty of “firsts” this year.
For starters, the location is new. The event will be held Aug. 6 at Lock 3 Park in downtown Akron. It’s the first time the festival hasn’t been at the picturesque Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens.
“It should be a fun venue,” said John Najeway, organizer and co-owner of Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. in Akron. “It’s right in the heart of the city.”
Then there’s the beer itself.
Najeway, a major supporter of Ohio breweries, has lured some brewers who haven’t been at the event before.
Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery in Athens, Columbus Brewing Co. in Columbus, Great Black Swamp Brewing Co. in Toledo, Gordon Biersch Restaurant and Brewery in Columbus, and Weasel Boy Brewing Co. in Zanesville will make their Blues & Brews debuts, he said.
Columbus and Weasel Boy both won medals at last year’s Great American Beer Festival. Gordon Biersch focuses on traditional German-style beers, while Great Black Swamp opened within the last year. And Jackie O’s is rated as one of the best breweries in the state by hardcore beer geeks.
Jackie O’s is bringing a beer called Hogwash that’s made with lavender and smells like breakfast sausage, Najeway said.
“I can’t wait to try it,” he said.
Gordon Biersch brewer Chris Alltmont said he’s bringing two beers: Marzen, the brewpub’s flagship beer, and SommerBrau, a kolsch.
“It’ll be a great opportunity [for Akron-area beer drinkers] to taste some traditionally brewed German-style beers,” he said.
Blues & Brews will have another first: a retro beer area featuring Genesee, Old Milwaukee, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Red Stripe, Schlitz and Stroh’s. Many craft drinkers have never tried those brands or maybe they’d like to try them again, Najeway said.
Thirsty Dog also will offer a line of hefeweizens cask-conditioned with different fresh fruits: mango, pineapple, strawberry, raspberry and peaches.
Overall, the event will feature more than 75 breweries, including about 30 from Ohio, and more than 200 beers.
The Frankie Starr Band will provide live blues music and a silent auction featuring breweriana will be open for bidding the entire day. Both Mayfield and Lucky Penny Creameries will offer cheeses that pair well with craft beer. The Winking Lizard Tavern also will offer food for a separate fee.
General admission tickets are $35 in advance or $55 for the Brewer’s Circle, which includes 21 limited edition beers. (Tickets jump $5 the day of the event.) Tickets include a commemorative tasting glass and 25 tasting tickets.
The Brewer’s Circle runs from noon to 2 p.m., and the general admission portion is from 2 to 6 p.m.
Proceeds benefit Akron’s Guns and Hoses and the Ohio Craft Brewers Association, with additional support provided to other Akron-area charities including Child Guidance & Family Solutions, One of a Kind Pets and the Humane Society of Greater Akron.
The festival is sponsored by Thirsty Dog, Winking Lizard, Acme Fresh Market, Tramonte Distributing Co., Premium Beverage Supply, Superior Beverage Group, Cavalier Distributing, Heidelberg Distributing, Red Hook, Goose Island, Widmer Brothers, Austin Tape and Label Inc., BuzzBin Magazine, The Art Factory and South Paw Graphics Inc.
For more details, including a list of participating breweries and to purchase tickets, see http://www.bluesnbrews.org/.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or email@example.com. Read his blog at http://beer.ohio.com.