Bigger. Bolder. Better. Brewfest is back!7/16/2014
Cityview’s Brewfest has become a well-known and highly anticipated event in central Iowa. And while similar beer-tasting festivals have sprung up in Des Moines and across the Midwest, the thousands of Brewfest participants each summer are a testament that this event continues to set the standard. In other words, it’s top-shelf.
Cityview’s Brewfest has had a growing attendance each year for a reason. Held in the comfy confines of Principal Park — home of the Iowa Cubs — it offers a spacious venue in a central location, and it won’t be stopped by rainy weather or sweltering sunshine. (Saturday’s forecast shows a high of 81°F, partly cloudy — perfect weather!) But why do people keep coming back? If you’re brewing your own beers in the basement and looking for some ideas or even some help, Brewfest distributors are there to educate you. If you want the chance to try hundreds of craft beers without a hefty price tag, you can do that, too. And not least of all is the array of new beers that haven’t been introduced to the market yet. For those wanting that extra-special sneak peak, a new addition to this year’s event — VIP tickets — will be sold for just that purpose.
New this year
Some of the biggest changes to this year’s Cityview Brewfest are the people behind the event. Sarah Cattoor and Ryan Greening, owners of The Keg Stand bar and restaurant in West Des Moines, became the new sponsors and co-partners of the beer-sampling event.
Although it is their first time participating in Cityview’s Brewfest, Cattoor and Greening are familiar faces to Cityview events. The couple previously had a part in hosting the Des Moines’ Sexiest People Party 2013, an annual contest and event held by Cityview. Greening said it was after that event that they wanted to be a part of Brewfest this year.
Greening said the primary challenges they faced during preparation for Brewfest were managing the event and getting everyone on the same page.
“It is just the sheer volume of putting it all together. There are so many beers and so many people — and so many logistics,” Greening said.
The couple started planning for the event in March, and the response has been great throughout the process.
“It has been going on for so long now that everyone wants to be a part of it or is already planning on being part of it every year,” said Greening.
Also new this year is the addition of Brewmaster VIP tickets. Recommended by Greening and Cattoor, beer enthusiasts who are willing to pay a bit more to get a taste of rare and limited beers are given the chance to do so before the event by purchasing the VIP ticket.
The special private tasting will be held in an air-conditioned space on the concourse of the stadium with private seating from 3-4 p.m. VIP tickets are $100 and also allow access to the ballpark for the regular tasting, which runs from 4-7 p.m. Tickets for the regular event are $30 in advance and $35 at the door.
VIP ticketholders will also receive a commemorative tasting glass and a ticket for four different food samples during the event. Those tickets are limited, so make sure to purchase them in advance if you want to enjoy the private tasting with one-of-a-kind beers and a chance to talk one-on-one with the brewers.
“We can have beers that are much more expensive and much more limited,” Cattoor explained. “Maybe you will only get two bombers in 22-ounce bottles, but then you can have just a smaller amount of people who are actually very interested in (specialty beers) and willing to pay a little more to go and try those beers since they are so limited. You can only buy a small quantity, but we are able to find those and buy those — but we can’t buy them for 3,000 people.”
Speaking of buying beer, one more change to Cityview’s Brewfest this year is giving back to local businesses. In the past, samples were donated to the festival, but this year event organizers will be paying distributors for their products.
“It’s the right thing to do,” said Greening. “They’re dedicating their time to come to this event. They deserve to get paid for their product as well.”
Distributors will no longer be pouring samples, either. Instead, employees and volunteers will serve drinks while distributors have the chance to talk with visitors and promote their business. Since networking has always been a large part of the event, this allows just one more way for the public to meet the creators behind their favorite brews.
Attendees will also be able to enjoy food pairings provided by Baru 66 and the Cheese Shop while hanging out with brewers and other beer enthusiasts.
The additional rare beers provided in the Brewmaster’s exclusive section include limited releases by Boulevard, Stone, Schlafly, Cascade Brewing and Confluence Brewing Company, as well as two other surprise firkins.
More than 100 breweries are participating this year — from more than 20 local breweries — with about 400 types of beers available for tasting, including imports, ciders, fruit beers and malt beverages.
But don’t think you’re going to miss out on all the new stuff if you don’t purchase the VIP ticket. All participants will be given the opportunity to sample a few new beers released by Left Hand, Surly and Lagunitas. These beers have yet to enter the Iowa market and will not be distributed until later this year.
And what’s better than munching on good food to complement the diverse assortment of new beers?
In previous years, Principal Park’s concession stands sold standard ballpark snacks. This year, Gusto Pizza will have a food truck available to satiate your appetite. Food is not included with the admission ticket, so guests will have to purchase items from the vendors.
While everyone is gearing up for this long-awaited beer festival, Cattoor and Greening provided some advice for the uninitiated.
“Make sure you try all the local craft,” Cattoor said, while Greening suggested trying everything available instead of going for beers that are already familiar to you.
“Ulitmately, the purpose of this event is to have people try beers they haven’t tried before and then go out and buy them,” Greening said. “And that’s what we people to do in a fun, relaxed Saturday afternoon at the ballpark.
Cityview’s Brewfest highlights craft beers, which have been exploding in popularity across the country. The $14.3 billion market has seen a growth of 17.2 percent in sales and an 18 percent rise in production, according to the Brewers Association.
Iowa alone has 40 craft breweries, up from 27 in 2011. Those breweries produce 29,417 barrels per year.
People like their beer — that’s nothing new. But why is craft beer doing so well? First, let’s start by defining what a craft brewer actually is.
Craft breweries, according to the Brewers Association’s definition, possess three key qualities: they are small, producing no more than 6 million barrels each year; they are independent, meaning less than 25 percent is owned or controlled “by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer;” and finally, they are traditional in flavoring, which must be derived from tradition or innovative ingredients and fermentation.
Four ingredients make up a craft beer: malt, which contributes the flavor, aroma, color and body of the beer; hops, which are bitter to balance the sweetness of the malt; yeast, which turns sugars into alcohol; and water, whose different minerals vary depending on geography and bring out the flavors of malt or hops.
The perceived quality of this specialty beer is measured by appearance, mouthfeel, aroma and flavor.
Cattoor and Greening agree that the wide variety of craft beers available to people is part of the reason behind its rising popularity among consumers.
“Growing up, you had beers that didn’t appeal to everyone, and now there are all these options,” Greening said. “There is a flavor for everyone.”
The wide variety of craft beers currently in the market is changing the perception of non-beer drinkers, explained Cattoor, which is why it’s becoming more possible to cater to everyone’s palate.
“It’s the ability to create all these,” she said. “Like vodka, there are hundreds of different tastes for everyone. Now we have people to do that with beer, and they have done it.”
Cityview’s Brewfest has been able to capitalize on that soaring popularity thanks to the large market for it in Iowa.
“Craft beer is something that’s really up-and-coming in the state of Iowa,” Nate Teut said, vice president and assistant general manager of the Iowa Cubs. “There (are) so many new craft breweries that are opening up, not just in central Iowa, but all across the state.”
Cityview’s Brewfest is a great way for those brewers to showcase their product and educate people about it, he added.
“Brewfest sees considerable growth year after year,” said Shane Goodman, publisher of Cityview, owner of the event. “It’s a big event (that) just keeps getting bigger.”
“I think people now start to look for it, and they definitely recognize the Cityview nametag under Brewfest. And they certainly look forward to coming down to a place like Principal Park,” said Teut.
Cityview’s Brewfest has been held at Principal Park since 2009, and as it keeps growing — about 3,000 people attended last year — event planners have been finding ways to utilize more and more of the space to accommodate everyone.
Another advantage to holding Brewfest at the ballpark is its location. Principal Park offers coverage from any adverse weather, so the event will go on rain or shine.
“It’s sort of at the epicenter of downtown Court Avenue,” Teut said. There is also free parking next to the stadium, so guests don’t have to worry about walking a long way or searching for a spot downtown.
The way it’s set up, Cityview’s Brewfest is almost like a farmers market, with samples, food and music. Teut described it as a laid-back, leisurely activity to enjoy time with friends in the afternoon.
Guests can venture through the entire ballpark — except on the field — and sit in the stands to enjoy the event and the atmosphere.
“Brewfest is sort of… it’s more of an event that kind of stands on its own,” Teut said. “Brewfest is something that’s really caught on, and we like where it is, and we encourage everyone to come down.”
Laws and licenses
Cityview’s Brewfest began in 2007 as a beer tasting and sampling event to promote local businesses and craft breweries. But it’s not the only festival of that nature. Several others have followed suit across the state, but not all have followed the rules of alcoholic tastings.
There have been problems in the past with other beer festivals handing out full glasses of beer as “samples.” That’s when the State of Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division (ABD) decided to step in.
Though the laws for beer sampling festivals have been consistent, the ABD did enact new guidelines for owners and license holders, including a 1-ounce tasting recommendation for alcoholic beverages. Because the rule is somewhat undefined, most tastings have samples ranging from 1 to 3 ounces.
The ABD also clarified that participants of a tasting event must be 21 years or older and not intoxicated. That leads to another question: How many samples can an individual consume at such an event? Just like a bar, it depends on the person, and it’s up to the licensee to not over-serve its customers, according to ABD guidelines.
Cityview’s Brewfest showcases a wide variety of local beers, and it has stayed within the 1- to 3-ounce limits in order to give consumers the opportunity to try as many as they’d like.
“There are a lot of guidelines that we have to follow through the Iowa (ABD),” explained Teut. “We talk to people and make sure that we’re not over-serving.”
Teut said because Cityview’s Brewfest is a relatively short event and a laid-back atmosphere, people tend to move from vendor to vendor, and there haven’t been any problems with guests drinking too much in the past.
“We recognize there have been problems at similar events, and we want to make sure everyone has fun and abides by the law,” said Teut.
“It’s going to be another great celebration of beer,” said Goodman. “There are some wonderful and talented people behind this event, and we will work to ensure that it’s the best Cityview Brewfest yet.” CV