In fourth year, demand for R.I. Brew Fest continues to spike

In fourth year, demand for R.I. Brew Fest continues to spike

Above is the scene at the Pawtucket Armory during the first of two sold-out sessions of the 4th annual Rhode Island Brew Fest, Saturday. The Brew Fest, a celebration of American craft breweries, featured some of the best beers from Rhode Island, and nearby states. Guests had more than 175 beers from 55 breweries to sample. (Breeze photos by Bill Murphy)

PAWTUCKET – Beer enthusiasts are clamoring to get into the annual Rhode Island Brew Fest in ever-increasing numbers. The demand has become so great that organizers say they could accommodate 200 or 300 more people if they had the space.

“This is a conservative estimate based in number of phone calls, emails, social media inquiries or calls to our brewers, distributors and the Armory looking for tickets this past week,” said Matt Gray, founder of Gray Matter Marketing.

Gray told The Breeze that he and others behind the popular craft beer festival have a good problem on their hands, more demand than supply. He said there has never before been a buzz like what he saw from people looking to get tickets after Pawtucket’s main beer event sold out on Jan. 19.

Evidence of the demand for tickets was all over social media. One Twitter user asked if anyone had an extra ticket for a friend from New York so they could “see the majesty of Rhode Island beer.”

Gray said the organizers love the intimate feel associated with holding the event at the Pawtucket Armory Center for the Arts, but they’re torn about not being able to let more people in. There could come a day when they decide that a bigger hall is needed, said Gray, but the organizers don’t want to ever leave Pawtucket, a city that has quickly evolved into the epicenter of the craft beer scene.

“We love Pawtucket and we want to stay in Pawtucket,” he said.

Last Saturday’s event, like the three before it, was limited to 1,200 people, 600 in each of two sessions. More than ever, people are asking for greater capacity, but the plan for the foreseeable future is to keep the event at the Armory, said Gray.

The founder of the festival said he’s thought about other options for expanding the reach of the local event, but doesn’t see anything but moving to a bigger building as feasible. Adding a Friday night session would force dozens of vendors to stay overnight, he said, and he’s reluctant to add a third session on Saturday because he likes the event being done by early evening.

City breweries again played a central role in the 4th annual festival last Saturday. Foolproof Brewing had a hit with its “peanut butter and jelly” beer concoction, but it was Crooked Current Brewing that really stole the show with its oatmeal raisin stout, with a constant line of people at the table.

Craft beer drinkers mingled all day, sampling an assortment of brews from upstart craft breweries and old mainstays.

“We were pleased with the sell-out crowd, incredible vendors and brewers,” said Gray. “The city of Pawtucket has been tremendously supportive of the event and we are grateful for that.”

Doug Markey, left, of Cumberland, and Larry Leduc, right, of Pawtucket, decked out in pretzel necklaces, enjoy the 4th annual Rhode Island Brew Fest at the Pawtucket Armory on Saturday. The Brew Fest, a celebration of American craft breweries, featured some of the best beers from Rhode Island and nearby states. Guests had more than 175 beers from 55 breweries to sample.
Steve Sharp, of Providence, above, pours a beer at the Foolproof Brewery booth during the 4th annual Rhode Island Brew Fest. More than 55 breweries were on hand for the two, three-hour sessions at the Pawtucket Armory on Saturday.
Nate Broomfield, left, of Pawtucket, hands out samples of beer at the Bucket Brewery booth. Looking on is Drew Powers, right, of Providence.
Alyssa Branday, foreground, of Middletown, Conn., shows off her moose hat at the 4th annual Rhode Island Brew Fest. Behind Alyssa are Kendra Berardi, of Boston and Bill Berardi of Holliston, Mass.
Tom Lang, of Smithfield, tries a sample of Narragansett Beer.

Comments

This is always a great event. It showcases the local breweries very well. Good job to the coordinators and the City of Pawt.