The shift from fall to spring of Midwest Beerfest seemed to give Wichita’s annual craft beer sampling event a boost.
Guy Bower, who founded the event 16 years ago, liked what he saw midway through the three-hour-long event Saturday afternoon at Century II Expo Hall.
“I think the turnout today will be the biggest ever,” said Bower, who through the American Institute of Wine and Food Wichita Chapter has put on the event since 2001.
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Event-goers could choose to sample from more than 500 beers at this year’s event.
The beers came from breweries in 21 states, including 15 Kansas breweries — six of which were from the Wichita area: Central Standard Brewing, Hank Is Wiser, Hopping Gnome Brewing, River City Brewing Co., Wichita Brewing Co. and Walnut Brewing Co.
Just a few years ago, there were maybe nine Kansas-based breweries at Beerfest, said Rob Miller, beer expert at Goebel Liquor, a Beerfest sponsor.
Miller, who’s also been involved with Beerfest from the beginning, said holding the event in May enables brewers to offer a broader variety of beer because the date falls at the same time brewers are making their spring and summer beers. When past Beerfests were held in the fall, breweries typically were limited to providing samples from their fall selections.
“The beer guys, who we couldn’t do this without, want to start the beer season (sooner),” Bower said. “… For them this was a better marketing tool. And they helped us get over 500 beers this year.”
Although specific attendance figures weren’t available Saturday, Bower’s wife and AIWF program chair, Beth Bower, said that by Friday evening Beerfest had sold nearly 1,000 tickets.
She said the event typically draws between 1,500 and 2,000 people.
Money raised from admission to Beerfest goes to AIWF-Wichita Chapter’s 15th Anniversary Terry Palmer Memorial Culinary Scholarship Fund. The fund provides tuition assistance for area students pursuing an education in the food and beverage industry, chefs, or continuing education for food and beverage professionals.
Money raised from a silent auction held in conjunction with Beerfest was earmarked for Prairie Travelers/Andover Augusta Rail Trail Initiative, a group that’s working to expand the Redbud Trail between the two cities.