BY CHRIS CAMPBELL
Here’s an outlandish scenario for you. It’s Saturday. You wake up, eat breakfast and tell your significant other (or roommate, cat, xBox360 etc) that you’re going out for beers….at 11:30am. The response: “okay have fun!” (please fill in an unlikely response here should you not currently have a significant other). Impossible, right? Wrong. It happened to many of us this past weekend. The explanation: we all had a legitimate reason. It was Craft Beer Week in Lexington.
Lexington’s Craft Beer Week coincided with American Craft Beer Week, a celebration of small and independent craft breweries across the country sponsored by the Brewer’s Association. 2013’s event marked the first for Lexington, and it’s little wonder as both Country Boy and West Sixth breweries were in their infancy at this time last year. For locals who currently live and die by brews such as West Sixth IPA and Amos Moses Porter, we have to think back to a time way back in 2012 when we were just establishing a craft beer identity. My, how times have changed.
As buying local beer has become an instant norm in the region, so too has the concept of putting our beers up against the nation’s most celebrated craft brews. A sense of regional pride has immediately struck a chord in the hearts of locals, and a nearly tangible ‘scene’ has emerged. We’re proud of our beers, and we want to celebrate that pride by drinking good stuff from the local places while exploring what else may be out there that we just don’t get a chance to drink regularly. If only there was a weeklong collaborative event that would allow this to happen!
This year, Chris Vandergrift, local home brewer and beer…uh…guy, spearheaded the event, getting nearly every local craft beer purveyor on board immediately, and putting together a series of events that ranged from a home brew competition to a parking lot party. What Vandergrift didn’t know was that his event was not only becoming Lexington’s first outlet for showcasing Kentucky-brewed beer as well as giving locals a taste of rare and hard-to-find offerings, but he was also giving us all an excuse…a reason even…to go out and drink consecutive nights during the week; even before noon on a weekend. Our hero.
This past Saturday was the finale of the week, and one event in particular gave patrons the opportunity to try a variety of Kentucky offerings right next to some of the Nation’s finest breweries’ best recipes. The nearly-ridiculously perfectly named owners of Wine+Market, Seth and Renee Brewer hosted the “Brewer Bonanza” in the parking lot between W+M and Grey Goose. Was this event named for its hosts? Did they legally change their names to reflect their commitment to the Brewer Bonanza? Or was the Brewer Bonanza named because this was a bonanza of brewers? We’ll let someone else do the legwork.
Beers from the three current Lexington breweries were poured all day long, from when the doors opened at 11am until the volunteer pourers reluctantly disassembled their taps not long after 5pm. Other taps rotated as the supply dictated, but depending on the length of your stay, you could have sampled brews from Michigan, Ohio, Colorado, California, Missouri and Maryland. Most celebrated, however, was the Stone Vertical Epic 06.06.06. Because of its high demand, it was tapped at a specific time and it went fast (and with good reason – it’s good!). The unfortunate thing about beers with somewhat of a cult following is that they run out quickly. A few patrons paid their $15 entry fee (proceeds were generously donated to the Historic Western Suburb Neighborhood Association) only to find out that the Vertical Epic had been exhausted. After about 2 seconds of complaining, they realized that there were still around 14 other beers on tap, ready to be consumed. Everyone left happy.
Despite an occasional downpour – which sent a few people scampering to hide under the tents provided around the lot – the Brewer Bonanza went on without a hitch. An unceremonious looking parking lot was transformed into a haven for tasting excellent beer from a variety of regions, while highlighting our own city’s outstanding products side-by-side some craft brew heavyweights. And, an unassuming town with a fledgling beer scene wound down its first annual Craft Beer Week in style. Those who thirsted for more could stumble north four blocks to West Sixth’s Saturday night finale to the week, their “Think Local, Drink Local” event. Lexington’s Craft Beer Week will go down in the history books as a success, as it provided an excellent platform for showcasing what Lexingtonians can do when we get thirsty. It also gave us a damn good excuse to get out and have a pint – before noon.