Blues and Brews
We know what you are thinking – there are a ridiculous amount of craft beer festivals throughout the year and it is painfully hard to figure out which ones may be worth your time and which are complete duds.
With close to 30 celebrations of the almighty brew from January to October each year, beer aficionados struggle to find where to play their cards within the calendar year. And trust us, we feel your pain. So we are here to make things simple for you. Hands down one of the best of the year is Akron’s Blues & Brews.
“Blues & Brews is a celebration of craft beer among friends,” said John Lane, Vice President of Operations at Winking Lizard. “Beer festivals are meant to be fun, lively and not always about what is new and great but about just enjoying craft beer among friends that share the same passion.”
Originally established on the grounds of Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, Blues & Brews moved to Lock 3 in 2011 and formed as its own not-for-profit organization.
Co-headed by Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. and Winking Lizard Tavern, Blues & Brews has become the city’s most esteemed and beloved celebration of craft beer and has gained strong supported by area businesses, the City of Akron, the Ohio Craft Brewers Association and breweries around the country.
More than 200 craft beers will be on hand from over 75 renowned breweries including the best of Ohio. According to Lane, the festival is expected to have a lot of great beers from the locals this year as well as some very cool vintage items. The Bluestones will also be on hand to deliver some amazing blues for all to enjoy.
“I like the local element the most with Blues and Brews,” Lane said. “John Najeway (of Thirsty Dog) does a great job getting all of the Ohio breweries represented which is really cool.”
According to Najeway, attendees are in for some exciting new changes this year. The additions of a gnome garden featuring the finest beers that Belgium has to offer will make its first appearance this year.
Najeway is also excited to unveil a brand new sour ale the crew at Thirsty Dog have been aging in oak barrels for the last two years.
As with most beer festival’s attendees can choose between VIP passes, known as the Brewer’s Circle and General Admission tickets.
The Brewer’s Circle includes early admission from 12-2 pm, samples of 21 limited edition and barrel-aged beers, lunch courtesy of Winking Lizard, a commemorative 3 oz. tasting glass and 25 tasting tickets to use during official hours that run from 2-6 pm. Brewer's Circle tickets are $60 in advance or $65 at the door, if available.
General Admission includes a commemorative 3 oz. tasting glass and 25 tasting tickets. Tickets are $40 in advance or $45 at the door, if available. For all us drunkard’s sake, designated driver tickets are available for only $15.
Brad Clark of Athen's fantastic Jackie O's will once again be on board to offer beer aficiandos a few of his brews, including a new Black IPA called Meigs County Black and their rye IPA Hop Ryot. Wooster Brewery, the latest additions to the Ohio beer scene, will debut their first four beers.First timers to the festival this year will be Market Garden, from our own Ohio City and Brooklyn's Sixpoint Brewery - two breweries that have been gaining notoriety over the past year.
Unlike some beer festivals where volunteers know next to nothing about the beer in which they are pouring, Blues & Brews will have knowledgeable beer drinkers behind the counter.
“We are so lucky to have two very strong homebrew clubs in SAAZ (Society of Akron Area Zymurgists) and SNOBS (Society of Northeast Ohio Brewers) helping us pour the beers,” Lane said. “This makes for good educated people behind the table. If guests have questions, they are usually able to answer them.”
Lock 3 is located at 200 South Main Street in Akron, OH. Free parking is available on both sides of Lock 3 in parking garages.
With the change of venue these last two years, the organizers have been able to use the larger space more efficiently. This year they hope to spread things out a bit more and be a bit more resourceful with the add breathing room.
“This is only the second year at Lock 3 so we are going to utilize the space much better and add two more large tents,” he said. “We learn every year how to execute better.”
For those too drunk to drive or visiting from out of town, there are several hotels in walking distance including Akron Ramada Plaza and Quaker Square Inn.
Plain and simple, Lane loves what Ohio has to offer and is glad to be a part of such a budding beer scene.
“We are so lucky to be in Ohio and be able to enjoy the craft scene,” he said. “I have traveled all over, and except for the cities that are twice our size, I think we have the best selection out there.”