Bigger. Better. Brewfest.

Bigger. Better. Brewfest.

Thousands flock to Fitchburg tasting event for charity

Sentinel and Enterprise 06/28/2015

By Anna Burgess 


FITCHBURG — Thousands of beer lovers flocked to Riverfront Park on Saturday to raise their glasses for charity. The Nashua River Brewers Festival, in its seventh year, is a community event hosted by charitable organization Beers for Good and by the City of Fitchburg. It brings together dozens of local and national craft brewers, local restaurants, and live music for a day of beer tasting, which this year ran from 1-6 p.m. at Riverfront Park. 

Food was provided by Happy Jack’s, Kabob ELicious, Legends Bar and Grille, and Zeda’s Pizza, and music was provided by local Zack Slik, Worcester County band Elemental, Northampton band Sun Parade, and Boston-based band halfsour. The music and food, plus 41 craft brewers representing everywhere from Westminster to Kona, Hawaii, brought in the biggest crowd the festival has ever seen. 

“I want to say it’s the best turnout of the seven years we’ve done the event,” said Robin Streb, one of the founders of Beers for Good. “My glass is completely dry, I haven’t had anything to drink yet because we’re so busy!” 

Regina Connerty, the outreach coordinator for Growing Places Teaching Gardens, said she was excited about the busy day. She was volunteering at the event on behalf of Growing Places, which, along with LUK Crisis Center’s Peers 4 Prevention Program and Red Raiders Lending Library, will benefit from the 2015 festival fundraising. “We couldn’t be more excited to be here, to be involved,” Connerty said. “Not only is it a fun day, talking to residents, but we also get to talk about what we do. It’s definitely a win for Fitchburg, and for us.” Connerty said she had met a lot of people from out of state, like Brad and Amanda Parsons, who came down from Jaffrey, N.H., to check out the festival for the first time. 

“We’ve been here since 1 p.m.,” Brad Parsons said. “They wouldn’t let us in, we were so early.” 

Apart from tasting dozens of beer varieties, Parsons and his wife were at the festival to hear the results of the Fitchburg Order of Ale Makers’ homebrew competition. Brad Parsons ended up taking second place overall, and first place in the IPA category, for his home-brewed beer. He said the couple definitely planned on coming back next year. 

Their friend Knatasha Milliken, of Fitchburg, said this is her third year at the brewers’ festival. 

“It’s very relaxed this year, more spread out, more mellow, and it’s gotten a bit bigger,” she said. 

Her favorite beer at the festival this year was not technically a beer--Bantam Wunderkind cider, she said, was the best one she’d had all day. Milliken said she typically attends some other community events, such as Fourth of July fireworks and the Civic Days Block Party, but this one has a slightly different vibe that she likes. “Because I don’t have kids, this one is nice with the adult atmosphere,” she said. “A 21-plus event is relaxed, with no little kids running around, which is nice sometimes.” 

She and the Parsons agreed brewers at the festival were very friendly and informative, especially considering the hectic nature of the day. 

“All the different stands have been super polite,” Amanda Parsons said. “They’ve given us lots of information about the beer.” Mike Makoski, an assistant brewer at Gardner Ale House, said he was having a great day. 

“It’s really by doing events like this that we get our name out there,” Makoski said. “We can’t distribute, we do everything in-house, so we go to events like this, talk to people, and that’s how we get them in the door.” 

Brad Dufour, director of operations at Wachusett Brewery, said the brewery attends hundreds of events like this throughout the year. 

“This is the most local event that we do,” he said. 

Dufour had come down from the Westminster brewery to replenish the beer supply at the festival. The volunteers at Wachusett’s booth were running out of Larry IPA and Blueberry Ale, their two top sellers, he said. 

Dufour planned to stick around and try some beers from other breweries, as well as say hello to fellow brewers. “The craft business is a pretty small world still,” he said. “It’s pretty friendly. We try to help each other out.” 

The brewers, by participating in the event, were not only getting their names — and beers — out there, but were also contributing to a worthy cause. 

“This is a great opportunity for the local communities to come together for a great cause,” Makoski said. 

Streb said last year’s brewers’ festival raised more than $10,000, and Beers for Good was shooting for something similar this year. “We’re hoping it will be over $10,000,” she said, “but there’s no way to know until the day is over.”

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