By Mac Cerullo
---- — Beer aficionados from throughout the area will gather on Saturday at the Amesbury Sports Park for the 6th annual Brew Fest, and organizers expect this year’s festival to be the biggest yet.
Since its inception in 2007, the Brew Fest has become one of the most popular annual events in Amesbury, with more than 5,000 people attending last year’s festival and more than 7,000 expected to turn out this weekend.
Meredith Robinson, the Sports Park’s director of sales, attributed the rapid growth of the event to its accessibility and the fact that it appeals to more than just hard-core beer geeks.
“Our brew fest is a little different from some of the others,” Robinson said. “We have a lot of people that don’t consider themselves beer connoisseurs, but they come anyway because it’s a blast.”
In addition to a huge range of brews, the festival will include live music on an outdoor stage, a Beer Olympics, summer tubing and Zorb rides, in which riders climb into a large inflatable sphere and roll down a hill.
But the focus, as always, is on the beer. This year’s festival promises to offer the widest range of unique beers yet. More than 100 microbrews will be available, including past favorites like Lobster Ale, Smashed Pumpkin and Double Bag, along with new offerings like Stingy Jack Pumpkin, Backlash Groundswell and Monkey Fist IPA.
If all of those beers sound intimidating, don’t worry: A handful of mainstream beers like Coors Light will also be on hand for those who prefer sticking with the familiar.
In addition, representatives from Angry Orchard, Innis and Gunn, Fatty Bampkins, Rising Tide and Dos Equis, who is sponsoring the festival, will be in attendance to discuss the history, brewing process and subtleties of their brews.
“This is our favorite annual event,” said MaryCarol Fowler, president of the Amesbury Sports Park, in a press release. “The first year we held the Brew Fest, we had 300 people attend in the rain, but it has grown exponentially every year. It’s just a great atmosphere outside with fabulous live music, tasty cold brews and scrumptious barbecue.”
As far as the Beer Olympics are concerned, it’s not going to be what you’re probably thinking. Typically when you think of Beer Olympics, you think of a bunch of college fraternity brothers doing kegstands in their backyard, but Robinson emphasized that the Brew Fest’s Beer Olympics wouldn’t be about who could consume the most beer, but would instead focus on incorporating beer into different challenges.
Robinson wouldn’t offer specifics on what events would make up the Beer Olympics, but one beer-themed event she did confirm was the Sam Adams Stein Hoisting Competition.
An endurance challenge, the Stein Hoisting Competition will pit competitors against one another in an effort to find out who can hold up their stein of Sam Adams Octoberfest at arm’s length the longest. The winner will qualify to win a trip to Oktoberfest 2013 in Munich, Germany, and presumably will also have the reward of a really sore arm for a good couple of days.
Since the event is sponsored by Dos Equis, the possibility that The Most Interesting Man in the World from their television ads might make a surprise appearance can’t be discounted either, though Robinson wouldn’t say whether such an appearance was likely.
“I can neither confirm nor deny such speculation,” Robinson said.
The festival is scheduled to run from 2 to 8 p.m., and throughout the day there will be live performances from bands including Michael Bernier and the Uprising, Seven Mile Drive, Animals and Shapes, Strange Machines, Root 150 and Mother Ton.
The forecast for Saturday calls for partly cloudy weather with a high of 74 degrees and a 20 percent chance of rain. Entry to the Brew Fest is $12 per ticket, with tickets to the sample tents going for $1 per sample.
Guests must be 21 or older with a valid ID unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Parking will be offered at the Sports Park, with additional parking available at other sites further down South Hunt Road.
IF YOU GO
What: Amesbury Brew Fest
Where: Amesbury Sports Park, 12 South Hunt Road, Amesbury
When: Saturday, Sept. 22 from 2 to 8 p.m.
How: Tickets $12, $1 per sample. The event is 21 and older, unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.