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Friday, April 18, 2014

Midwest Beerfest attendees can sample chicken wings, too

Attendees can sample chicken wings at the new "Chickenfest."

BY DENISE NEIL
The Wichita Eagle

This weekend's 10th annual Midwest Beerfest will include a festival within a festival.

The event's grand tasting, which is from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday in Century II's Exhibition Hall, will allow ticketholders to sample one-ounce pours of some of the more than 350 beers, including lots of Kansas-made microbrews.

Those who bring along an extra $5 can also opt to participate in "Chickenfest" — a chicken wing contest featuring creations by local chefs and foodies. Attendees will sample seven different chicken wings and then vote for a "People's Choice" award.

"Obviously, chicken wings and beer go together," said Guy Bower, the festival's founder. "It's kind of a fun idea."

Chicken wings aren't the only new component at this year's festival, which attracts around 2,000 beer enthusiasts.

Organizers have found a new charity to benefit — the Via Christi Children's Miracle Network, which will receive all the proceeds not only from the Chickenfest but also from a silent auction, which is bigger and better than previous years' auctions, Bower said. (Other money raised goes toward a culinary scholarship, which in the past has benefited local chefs such as the Wichita Country Club's Damian Lehman.)

Festival organizers also have added a new beer sampling area, put together by Rob Miller, Goebel Liquor's beer expert. Miller has selected about 150 beers that likely would not have been chosen for the festival by participating distributors but are unique and worth a taste, Bower said.

"Rob has picked some pretty cool stuff and unusual stuff that hasn't had the representation at previous beer fests," he said.

The festival also will feature a lineup of inexpensive, beer-absorbing food items prepared and sold by local restaurants, including Old Chicago, The Anchor and When Pigs Fly, a new barbecue restaurant in town.

A cooking demonstration by chef Rick Martin of Lawrence's popular Free State Brewing Company will give instruction on food and beer pairings, and the seminar will include food samples.

Bower stresses that the event is a beerfest, not a drinkfest, and he encourages all attendees to keep it classy. Wichita police officers will be in attendance to help drive home Bower's point, and Safe Riders will be on site for those who accidentally drink too much. Designated drivers also can get a less-expensive entry fee.

"It's a great opportunity to taste a lot of beers you might not go buy on your own and have a lot of fun," Bower said.

If you go

10th Annual Midwest Beerfest

What: A tasting event by the American Institute of Wine and Food

Where: Century II Exhibition Hall

When: 1-4 p.m. Saturday

How much: Tickets are $35 at Century II's WichitaTix box office, at www.wichitatix.com, by calling 316-219-4TIX or at the door. Designated driver tickets are $12 and don't include beer.

Chickenfest tickets are $5 on-site.

For more information, visit midwestbeerfest.com.

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