Cincy Beerfest celebrates craft brews, fans

Posted at 8:00 AM, Feb 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-11 13:51:39-05

CINCINNATI -- Lemon Pound Cake, Bonbonerie Opera Crème and Orange Cream Ale.

Yes, those are beers, and they are among the more than 350 varieties of craft brews that Cincy Beerfest will bring to the Duke Energy Convention Center on Friday and Saturday.

Featuring both local and national breweries, Cincy Beerfest seeks to feature something for every beer drinker, including plenty of new offerings to try.

“Cincinnati Winter Beerfest is one of my favorite local events,” said Jimmy Jackson of Fort Mitchell. “It’s a fantastic and affordable opportunity to experience a variety of beers that I might never come across otherwise. If I really like one of the beers that I sample, I can seek it out in the local retail market. If I don’t like one, then I’m only out some beer tickets.”

Beerfest has become a showcase for brewers, too.

“The winter Beerfest always has a special place in my heart. It is where the craft beer light turned on for me (with a Hopslam), and I have never been able to go back to macro beer since,” said Jason Brewer of Listermann/Triple Digit Brewing Co. “Because of this, we always bring special beers to the fest, so that maybe we can return the favor that was done for me so many years ago.”

Their special offering this year will be the aforementioned Lemon Pound Cake, a beer designed to taste just as its name would suggest.

“The Lemon Pound Cake comes out of our need to experiment and desire to push people's limits of what they think is possible,” Brewer said. “We've been doing that for a while with Nutcase (a peanut butter porter) and one-off beers in the tap room. Every once in a while, we let one out into the wild.”

Blank Slate Brewing Co. will have its Bonbonerie Opera Crème American Stout available for those with early admission tickets. (This has to be the most Cincinnati-style beer being offered this year, as opera cream is every bit as much of a Queen City original as goetta.)

"Beerfest is a great opportunity for folks to come out and try lots of different breweries and beer styles that they may not have known about previously," said Blank Slate founder Scott LaFollette. "As a vendor it's always fun to introduce someone to something they haven't tasted before and then see their reaction."

Rivertown Brewery is using Cincy Beerfest to introduce its Bruges Berry, a Belgian ale brewed with loganberry, and to further pique the public’s interest on its seasonal Nice Melons, which sold out in less than five minutes at MadTree’s Winter Bonanza event two weeks ago.

“Craft beer enthusiasts are always looking for the next thing, so you have to give locals a reason to try your booth – you have to have that Lamborghini on the floor,” said Gamal Nagi, Rivertown’s head of sales and marketing.

In addition to the local offerings, national breweries Deschutes (Oregon), Goose Island (Illinois), New Belgium (Colorado), Schlafly (Missouri), Sierra Nevada (California) and Uinta (Utah) all will have a half-dozen or more beers on tap. Sophie, a saison from Goose Island, is highly recommended, as are Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo IPA and Uinta’s Hop Nosh IPA.

What's new? This year Beerfest will feature a breakout room, sponsored by Braxton Brewing and Breakout Cincinnati. Teams that successfully escape the room will receive a complimentary pour of Twisted Bit, Braxton’s lager, and the team which breaks out in the shortest amount of time will win a kegerator.

A couple of tips: Review the beer list in advance to get an idea of what you want to try. Lines are long, so having a plan helps. But also be flexible: It will enable you to jump in shorter lines and potentially discover new styles, breweries or flavors.

If you go:
When: 7:30-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. (Doors open at 6:30 for early admission.)
Where: Duke Energy Convention Center, 525 Elm St., Downtown
Tickets: General admission: $45 advance, $55 day of; early admission: $55 advance $65 day of. Connoisseur tickets ($95 advance only), which pair certain beers with food from a variety of local restaurants, are sold out for Saturday. There are also packages that include hotel rooms downtown and for those who are designated drivers.