Don't look now, but they moved Midwest Beerfest. The location is the same — Century II — but the 16th edition of Beerfest has been shifted from October to May.
No problem, we'll just go into training a little earlier. After all, it takes stamina — and a designated driver — to tackle even a tiny fraction of the 500 or so brews that will be poured.
Sponsored by Wichita's chapter of the American Institute of Wine & Food, Beerfest has grown in popularity along with the demand for craft beer. Increased attendance is luring more brewers to the event. A couple years ago, organizers followed the lead of other beer festivals by grouping those brewers according to region.
"Since we set it up by region, it's really taken off for us," local beer guru Rob Miller, of Goebel Liquor, said. "It's become more of a true festival event. More and more brewery employees are coming in and talking about these beers."
That's not the only tinkering that's yielded results. A food truck court lets participants take a break from the beverages and get some food in their stomachs. A chicken wing cookoff continues to raise money for a good cause each year (this year, a regional rails-to-trails initiative will be the beneficiary). An impromptu dance contest that broke out last year gets put on the official schedule this year. And the beer stein holding contest will be joined by other not-too-serious competitions in a corner of the exhibition hall.
"I think the things that have occurred the last couple years have made it even better," Guy Bower, host of “The Good Life” radio show and a longtime participant, said.
As in the past, there are three special beer dinners taking place on the Friday night before the grand tasting. The dinners, which pair a brewery and Wichita restaurant, sell out, so anybody interested in attending should call (316) 682-5502 quickly.
The festival's grand tasting on Saturday, May 21 remains the big draw. There, beer in all its many splendid variations reigns, from ales and lagers to stouts, porters, wheats, reds, saissons, IPAs and more. Tickets come with a tasting mug and program guide. Ticket sales go to the AIWF's culinary scholarship fund.
Miller said one advantage of the festival's move to May is that it will no longer conflict with the Great American Beer Festival held each fall in Denver. "Hopefully that will free up a few more to participate," Miller said. "We're hoping it grows even more."
Midwest Beerfest Grand Tasting
When: 1-4 p.m. Saturday, May 21
Where: Century II Expo Hall
Tickets: $40. Must be 21 with ID to attend
For more info, visit midwestbeerfest.com