Iron Chile Head Cookoff at Johnson’s Garden Center
One of the biggest beer and food truck parties of the year — that happens in one of the most unlikely spots — is returning this weekend.
The seventh annual Iron ChileHead Competition, an event that keeps getting bigger each year at Johnson’s Garden Center, is set for noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday at the store at 2707 W. 13th St.
Those who purchase $25 tickets will get a sampling glass then will be invited to try beer samples provided by 23 local and regional craft breweries set up outside. Among the breweries who will be there this year are Wichita’s Central Standard Brewing Co., Hopping Gnome, River City Brewing Company, Wichita Brewing Company, Nortons Brewing Company and Limestone Brewing Co. In addition, Happy Basset Brewing Co., Norsemen Brewing Company and Blind Tiger out of Topeka and several Kansas brewers, including Stockyards Brewing Co., Free State and Radius Brewing Co., also will be serving.
No ticket is required to visit local food trucks, which will be selling food to attendees. The trucks on the roster this year are B.S. Sandwich Press, Gaga’s Grub, Homegirlz’ Kitchen, Nora’s Kitchen, Urban Skillet, Sweet Willy’s BBQ, Uno Mas and Uno Mas Burger Truck. The Drink Local Truck also will be there.
The event got started as a way to promote the annual Chile Fest at Johnson’s. Every August since 1999, owner Marty Johnson has traveled to Hatch, New Mexico, to pick up bushels and bushels of green chiles then drives them back to town to roast them to sell to his customers. The chiles were a little late this year, so Johnson just returned with the first batch a few days ago. Saturday’s attendees will be among the first to get them this year.
The brewers who attend the festival are asked to brew a special beer using the chiles, and the food trucks will each create a special dish for the day that incorporates them. A panel of judges will choose the best chile-spiked beer and food item, and People’s Choice trophies also will be awarded.
Last year’s judges’ choice beer and food winners were Happy Basset Brewing Co. and Uno Mas, who made chilaquiles with a fried egg on top. Both are back this year.
A new addition at this year’s festival will be a beer stein hoisting contest, which people can sign up for on the spot, and the raucous Bolzen Beer Band, a hip young polka trio from Nebraska that has become the life of the party, also will return.
Organizers will have extra parking available at Asbury Church at 2801 W. 15th St. There will be some seating at the event, but people are encouraged to bring their own chairs.
Tickets are available in advance at ironchilehead.com and at Johnson’s Garden Center stores. Some will be available at the door on Saturday, but people should go into the gardening center to buy them before lining up for the beer sampling.
People also can watch the green chiles being roasted then buy them by the bushel, half bushel and starter bag during the event.