In a few short days Labor Day Weekend will be here and you might not have plans yet. Whether you’re a craft beer aficionado or just like to have a great time in a beautiful setting, then the Key West Brewfest is for you! Celebrating its 8th year, the Key West Brewfest is an event like no other for so many reasons. For starters, it’s the country’s southernmost beer festival that takes place over five days. This year’s festivities run from August 31 to September 4. I recently spoke with Matt Babich, the ‘Father of the Brewfest’ and General Manager of the Southernmost Beach Resort, who told me how it all got started and what festival goers can expect.
How did the idea come about for starting a brewfest in Key West?
In 2009 I was watching the news about Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and his arrest at his own home and the events that followed which included a “beer summit” with President Obama and the arresting officer. Since the Southernmost Resorts hold weekly beer schools, I thought it would be a great idea to have a beer summit of sorts.
What did you have to do to make it happen?
I knew I had to jump on it in 2009. My goal was to have 50 different beers available for locals and visitors to enjoy. Since I already knew local beer suppliers and vendors, it was easy to get their help. With the approval of the city fathers, I was ready to make it happen. Not only was our first event a huge local party, it raised funds for the Key West Sunrise Rotary and continues to do so.
How is the brewfest celebrated?
The main tasting festival is Saturday each year over Labor Day weekend. There are many events leading up to it like beer pairing dinners, tap takeovers at local bars, pool parties and more. This is a five day event for locals who want to be seen and get together with other locals, for visitors who have participated in the festivities by attending and celebrating their bridal and bachelorette parties! The best part of the tasting festival besides the beer is the backdrop of the ocean and dipping your feet in the sand while sampling.
How are the breweries who participate chosen?
We work with the main distribution companies who provide the breweries’ beer; we also have a handful of local brew clubs join.
How many breweries will be participating this year?
This year 55 breweries will be pouring over 170 different types of beers.
What can a fest-goer expect for the whole event?
The entire five day event is filled with fun. You meet new friends at the tables you sit at during the beer dinners; try new foods and sample beers you may have never thought you would like. The grand tasting event will leave both a beer enthusiast and new beer lover with new favorites to look for the next time they are looking for a six-pack.
About how many people are you expecting? 1750
What’s your favorite part of the event?
The tasting event is a great time, and when it ends the festivities continue with Second Line March led by New Orleans band Water Seed leaving South Beach down Duval Street to the Green Parrot! What’s also great is that the Key West community participates by hosting events, and the money we raise for the Rotary provides college scholarships for local high school students.
For more information and to buy tickets, visit http://www.keywestbrewfest.com/
See you there! Cheers!