Nothing breeds success like success. That’s certainly been true for South Bend BrewFest, whose fifth year promises to be its biggest yet – with more than 30 vendors are expected to showcase the area’s latest, greatest locally brewed offerings.
That’s why this year’s event is moving upstairs, to the Convention Hall and Discovery Ballroom – so patrons get more room to eat, mingle or try out brands like Clown Shoes, Evil Twin, and Jolly Pumpkin, notes Crista Tompson, SMG/Century Center director of sales and marketing.
“We’ve expanded the floor plan so that there is more room,” said Tompson. “We’ve moved to a larger area where we can be more spread out – and we’re doubling concessions, so the food lines are separate, or shorter.”
That change is a response to last year’s event, which quickly sold out its 1,500-ticket allotment. For this reason, Tompson – whose goal is 2,200 people this year – suggests not waiting too long to buy tickets.
That’s why the event’s website includes a bar graph showing how ticket sales are going.
“All we can do is learn from each year -- and this year, we’ve prepared the general public to know prior to us selling out, and I think that’s huge,” she said.
As in the past, your BrewFest experience will depend on the type of ticket that you buy. Topping the list is the VIP Experience, which is only offered on a pre-sale basis, not at the door.
VIP Experience ticketholders get early admission at noon, “which is the bomb -- because you’re not standing in line -- and you get to talk directly to the (vendors’) representatives,” said Tompson.
This year’s vendor lineup features several new faces -- including Cavalier Distributing, Granite City Foods and Starlight Distribution – who’ll be “representing several brands that were not available last year,” said Tompson.
VIP Experience tickets will also include a free glass and special gourmet food pairing.
“This year’s pairing will follow an ‘Eggs & Kegs’ theme of French toast, Scottish eggs, and a plethora of brunch-themed foods,” said Tompson.
General Admission tickets allow patrons to sample the range of craft beers on hand – for which they’ll receive a free glass and a lanyard, according to Tompson.
“That was big three or four years ago. It actually clips onto your beer sample mug, so you can wear it around your neck – or when you’re not sampling, your hands are free to talk,” she said.
A limited number of Designated Driver tickets are available, too. As its name implies, Designated Driver is geared towards buyers who don’t plan on drinking -- and is good for unlimited soft drinks and water, plus one food ticket.
Designated Driver lines will also be separated from the food lines, “so we make the lines half as long,” said Tompson. “Everybody who’s hungry should be able to eat – and everyone who’s a Designated Driver should be able to get their freebies in half the time.”
The same attention has gone into making vendors feel comfortable with their own lounge area.
“In the past, they worked the whole four hours, and couldn’t go get a soda. This year, we’re geared to take care of them, so they have an enjoyable experience,” said Tompson.
Transpo will again offer free rides for attendees who don’t wish to drive, “and I’m (also) working with Uber this year,” said Tompson. (Be sure to show your wristband or ticket purchase confirmation.)
All patrons get access to a charity auction, food and live music by DJ Chuck Fry – another new addition who’ll help set the atmosphere for the event.
“If you go back to what hip-hop is, a DJ controls the mood of the audience,” said Tompson. “When things are really quiet on the floor, he can pump it up. When people are really talking, he can mellow them out – and so, the focus is really on the event, as opposed to, ‘everybody stop and listen to the band.”
Whatever change occurs, it’s always done with one goal in mind –boosting the experience that makes or breaks any live event, Tompson observes.
“Really, it’s about the interaction between the breweries and the participants. The main point is the representatives being able to interact with the people who are interested in learning more,” she said.
1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, January 23
Century Center, 120 S. St. Joseph St., South Bend, IN. (574) 235-9711.
Tickets: $15 (Designated Driver), $45 (General Admission: includes commemorative mug and samples), or $75 (VIP Experience).
All prices include handling/processing fees. Cash or credit cards only (no personal checks). 21+ Only
Leftover tickets, if any, will be offered at the Century Center (General Admission, Designated Driver only).
More Information: http://www.southbendbrewfest.com/