The 4th annual Knoxville Beer Week and the 5th annual Brewfest are upon us! And 2015 is shaping up to be a banner year with easier check-in, more brewers with more beer, and more money raised for Cure Duchenne, the charity at the heart of it all.
Duchenne is a form of muscular dystrophy that’s particularly devastating for about one in every 3,500 boys. According to the Cure Duchenne website: “Historically, most boys who have it do not survive beyond their mid-twenties, and those that do will be wheelchair bound by age 12.” Brewfest’s contribution to Cure Duchenne equates to nearly half of the price of each ticket sold. As for the rest of the money, almost all of that goes to buying all the event’s beer and supplies; Brewfest 2015 will serve over 2,500 gallons of beer and go through close to $10,000 in ice.
Event coordinator Matt McMillan is a serious beer enthusiast, both personally and professionally. But as much as he gets excited about the number of beers and beer lovers that will come together over the week and, finally, descend on the site at the Historic Southern Railway Station, he’s quick to point out that the motivation for the celebration and his work with it is Cure Duchenne.
“I really want to get over the $50,000 donation mark,” he says. “We just missed it last year, and we were at almost 100 percent over our best year ever when I signed on last year. That really had me interested in coming back to do it again and get over that hump.”
Still, McMillan’s keen to provide a good experience that benefits the charity and keeps craft beer on the minds and in the mouths of consumers from one end of Knoxville to the other. A prime motivator for a week-long celebration with events across the city, Matt says, is “to spread the love and get more people involved. Especially because a lot of it became centered downtown. You have folks that, during the week, it’s hard to come from way out [in] Farragut and have drinks downtown.”
The big event, of course, is Brewfest and that happens on Saturday, June 20 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Historic Southern Railway Station on Depot Street. It’s a big beer-soaked conclave, but it’s limited to 3,000 tickets; the event has sold out every year since its inception, so make sure to buy tickets ahead of time (they’re available through the website). The early bird special has passed, so, if there are any left, tickets are $50, and designated drivers can enter for $20. Of course it’s a 21 and up event for full-grown humans only; neither children nor pets are allowed.
McMillan is optimistic about a record-breaking year for brewer participation: “I’m hoping we can crack 100 breweries this year. I’m feeling pretty good about 90-100 breweries with 300-400 different kinds of beer.”
This year’s event will be a special one, as attendees will get the chance to get acquainted with a number of new and refitted local breweries including Alliance, Cold Fusion, Crafty Bastard, Hexagon (nee Underground Brewery), and Schulz Bräu Brewing Company.
Brewfest 2015 will also feature a more efficient check-in procedure after a rocky start to last year’s festival. McMillan remembers that, “Last year was way too many fun factors in one go. First we dealt with rain and a new location… I’ll definitely admit on our end we didn’t have the people to handle the gate properly—well, we had a gate plan but that got quickly washed away.”
The rain made computer operation difficult; this year they’ve switched to Eventbrite online ticket sales and “got a ton of ticket scanners. They’re phones, so they don’t have to be plugged in; we don’t have to worry about any kind of power.” They’ve also added a second gate this year. But McMillan does advise that early arrival helps: “If you want to get in at 4, arrive at 3.”
The event features live music, and food vendors include Farm to Griddle Crepes, Brixx Wood Fired Pizza, Calhoun’s, and the Savory and Sweet Truck. But attendees are welcome to bring in outside food and non-alcoholic drinks—hydration is the watchword for a good experience of sampling beer on a June afternoon in East Tennessee. And, McMillan adds, the whole point of Brewfest is to make it a good experience by “keeping it about beer sampling, connecting with brewers and people.”
And the best part is that it’s all for an important charity: “It’s pretty easy to throw one back for a good cause.”
5th Annual Knoxville Brewfest
Saturday, June 20, 4-8 p.m.
Historic Southern Railway Station, 306 West Depot Ave.
$50 General Admission ticket holders will be provided with a tasting cup, festival map, and a unlimited beer sampling. Designated driver tickets are available for $20.
Check-in begins at 3 p.m., with gates opening at 4 p.m.. You must have a ticket and be 21 or older and present a government issued ID to be admitted. Festival is held rain or shine. No refunds will be given.
Food & Water
Water will be provided. Please drink lots of it. Food vendors will be on-site.
Children & Pets
Children and pets are not allowed. Please find a sitter for the Fest and enjoy an afternoon out.
Dennis Perkins' Home Palate is a tasty exploration of local options for eating out and eating well by way of restaurant reviews, features on fun or unusual foodstuffs, and interviews with local food purveyors and tastemakers. It’s a candid and personal look at what’s right (and sometimes what’s wrong) with eating in Knoxville and its environs. He is also the artistic director of the Knoxville Children’s Theatre, has directed and performed at the Actor’s Co-op and Black Box Theatre, and is a foodie par excellence.
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