BrewFest 2015 posterIn 2009, when the inaugural Louisville Brewfest took place in the basement of the Clifton Center, the organizers at Louisville Independent Business Alliance were a little taken aback at the response.

“We bought 1,000 mugs,” says LIBA director Jennifer Rubenstein. “We figured, ‘We can keep (leftovers) for next year.’ We ran through all those mugs and had to go out and get more cups. We were shocked.”

To say the place was packed that first year is an understatement, but that led to the festival being an annual event held at Slugger Field, which has a bit more wiggle room. Of course, these days, it gets pretty packed at the baseball stadium as well. That’s why there will be a few new wrinkles this year, such as having attendees line up at brewery booths along the outside walls rather than in the concourse where lines can block foot traffic.

“Every year we look more toward traffic control,” Rubenstein says.

In addition, the rotating taps have been split into two areas instead of one to help avoid congestion. That also means more beers can be featured, which is a good thing, too. Because, hey, it’s all about the beer.

This year, Brewfest attendees can enjoy a pair of special beers, one of which was brewed by Goodwood Brewing with a little help from Mayor Greg Fischer. It’s an Irish stout to celebrate his Irish roots, which he dubbed “5-0-Brew.” The other is an Oktoberfest-style beer brewed at Apocalypse Brew Works with some help from local musician Ben Sollee. “Kaytoberfest” is named after his cello.

The latter, in fact, will be available after Brewfest at Apocalypse and a few Brewfest sponsors’ establishments for a couple of weeks, thanks to a larger production run.

The Brewseum, a look back at Louisville’s brewing history with artifacts and other educational features, returns this year. Another feature of every Louisville Brewfest is the ongoing addition of new breweries.

“There are new breweries opening all the time,” Rubenstein says. “It’s been fun to watch the craft beer scene grow and to be supportive of that. I remember Against the Grain, their first year at Brewfest, was selling sodas because they didn’t have any beer ready.”

Brewfest 2015. Photo courtesy of LIBA.
Brewfest 2014 | Courtesy of LIBA

Akasha Brewing is one of the new breweries that will be on hand this year. Co-owner Rick Stidham says the plan is to offer samples of the brewery’s American pale ale, gose and saison-style beers. Stidham and his partners have been working hard to get the brewery’s taproom, located at 909 E. Market St., open this year. Brewfest will be a coming-out party of sorts.

“The logistics of juggling brewing, packaging and distribution schedules, and festivals and events and opening the taproom and more, are anxiety-inducing,” Stidham says, “but we’re determined to have fun with it all.”

Stidham says he plans to open the brewery and taproom by later this fall. Also, Rubenstein says to look for Monnik Beer Co. (formerly Beer Engine) to have a booth with samples of its products. Co-owner Brian Holton says Brewfest-goers will get a taste of Monnik’s IPA, ginger saison and Hauck’s American Pils.

In all, 19 local and regional breweries will be on hand, including Against the Grain, Apocalypse Brew Works, Bluegrass Brewing Company, Cumberland Brewery, Falls City Beer, Goodwood Brewing Company, New Albanian Brewing Company and Sterling Beer. Pre-parties will be held by primary sponsor BoomBozz Pizza & Taphouse at all locations, including Joella’s Hot Chicken and Manny & Merle’s, on Tuesday, Sept. 22, featuring $2 Goodwood pints and chances to win ticket packages to Brewfest.

The 2015 Brewfest takes place Friday, Sept. 25, from 4-10 p.m. General admission is $5, with $1 pours. VIP tickets are $45.

There is also an after party planned starting at 10 p.m. at Haymarket Whiskey Bar, located at 331 E. Market St.

“That,” Rubenstein says, “is when I get to relax.”

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Kevin Gibson
Kevin Gibson tackles the 3Rs — retail, restaurants, real estate — plus, economic development. He loves bacon, loathes cucumbers and once interviewed Yoko Ono. Check out his books, “Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft” and “100 Things to do in Louisville Before You Die.” He has won numerous awards for his work but doesn’t know where most of them are now. In his spare time, he plays in a band called the Uncommon Houseflies.Email Kevin at [email protected]