The Midwest Beerfest experiment worked last year, so it’s being repeated this year.
Organizers of the annual event, which will culminate on Saturday afternoon with a giant beer tasting, made a big change last year when they moved the event from Century II’s cramped Exhibition Hall to the much larger Expo Hall next door.
The move gave vendors more room to display and serve their beers – and samplers more elbow room for sipping.
It also provided an unexpected benefit: Freed from the cramped conditions of years’ past, some attendees started an impromptu dance party in the middle of the beer tasting action, adding to the party atmosphere.
“Everybody was out there line dancing, and it was so much fun to watch,” said Beth Bower, the co-chair of the event.
The Midwest Beerfest, a beer sampling and fundraiser put on by the local chapter of the American Institute of Wine and Food, will again feature more than 350 beers to sample, from basic bar beers to complex and hoppy microbrews. It also will offer samples from many Kansas-based breweries, including Wichita’s River City Brewery and Wichita Brewing Co. and El Dorado’s brand new Walnut River Brewing.
Several specialty beers and beer-like beverages also will be on the list of offerings, including gluten-free beer, beer flavored with Hatch green chilis, hard lemonades and ciders and more.
This year, organizers have access to even more room inside Expo Hall, meaning that the dance floor will be even bigger and the personal space will be even more plentiful. They’re also sticking with another change from last year – replacing glass tasting mugs with plastic ones. The switch resulted in less broken glass as attendees grew clumsier throughout the afternoon.
“We didn’t hear any complaints, and we didn’t have any breakage,” Bower said.
Holders of the tasting’s $40 admission ticket will get a plastic mug plus a commemorative bag and a guide to the beers inside. They take their glasses from table to table, sampling 1.5-ounce pours of beer. In between, they can purchase inexpensive food items from local restaurants the Anchor, T.G.I. Friday’s and Old Chicago. Douglas Avenue Chop Shop, which is Anchor owner Schane Gross’ about-to-open butcher shop, also will be distributing free samples of food.
And for the fourth consecutive year, the beerfest also will include the Midwest Chickenfest, an event-within-an-event that offers a sampling of chicken wings prepared by local restaurants. For an extra $5, attendees can get a plate of chicken wings made by cooks from Buffalo Wild Wings, Larry Bud’s, the Anchor and more. The Anchor is the defending chicken wing champ from 2012.
A panel of judges will pick a winning wing again this year, and Miss Kansas Theresa Vail, the tattooed contestant who on Sunday made it to the semifinal round of the Miss American pageant in Atlantic City, N.J., is scheduled to be one of the chicken wing judges.
Beerfest organizers are also bringing back an idea they launched last year – the reserve beer room. Admission to the room is an extra $30 above the price of admission, and it will offer people access to 20 high-end beers plus food by the DoubleTree by Hilton Wichita and a souvenir Riedel Spiegelau glass. Those interested in visiting the reserve room may call 316-682-5502 to reserve a spot in advance.
Organizers also are offering a $15 designated driver ticket for people who want to attend but not drink.