From The Calendar

Central New York Brewfest to hold 21st Beer Festival

Lucy Naland | Presentation Director

Central New York Brewfest will feature 250 different beers, with many of them being of the craft variety.

Students may flock to Hungry Chuck’s this weekend to watch the Syracuse University men’s basketball team play the University of Virginia. But there’s another way to watch the game, all while enjoying a selection encompassing over 100 breweries: the Central New York Brewfest.

Celebrating its 21st year, the CNY Brewfest is the longest-running beer festival in the region. This one-day celebration takes place at the New York State Fairgrounds on Saturday, the day before the Super Bowl.

With 30 new breweries on the lineup this year, the festival also welcomes its new owner, Jason Purdy.

Purdy owns and operates Now & Later, a bar in Tipperary Hill. He took over as the Brewfest’s owner when previous owners Mick Wysochanski and Bill Newman left after a 20-year run. This year’s Brewfest will be Purdy’s first year as owner.

Purdy, whose bar specializes in craft beer, is bringing in breweries that specialize in those rare, sought-after types of beer as well.

“This year is going to be a lot more craft, ‘hard to find’ kind of beer in addition to the breweries they’ve always had in the past,” Purdy said. “So it should appeal to both the craft beer drinker and what we call the ‘craft-curious beer drinker.’”

New breweries added to the list of vendors include SingleCut Beersmith from Queens, Evil Twin Brewing from Brooklyn, Crooked Stave Brewing from Denver and Grimm Artisan Ales from Brooklyn, one of the breweries that’s “hard to get,” said Purdy. Past favorites like Lagunitas, Bell’s, Sierra Nevada, and Ommegang will also participate this year. The festival will showcase over 120 breweries and 250 different beers.

Purdy also hopes to bring in the Big Yellow Fellow, Syracuse’s first pedal-powered bar, to the festival.

Event tickets run at $40, which gives visitors access to unlimited samplings to the Brewfest’s wide beer selection. There’s also a $60 ticket available, which gives visitors the Brewfest’s first limited edition screen print in addition to access to either of the two sessions.

With two sessions to choose from, visitors will get to enjoy a cold brew indoors while watching the SU-Virginia basketball game on the big screen starting noon. The festival will end with live performances from soul grass group Soul Risin’ during the second session from 5 to 8 p.m. Tickets are valid for either session.

The festival takes pride in bringing in breweries that have never participated in beer festivals in Syracuse. With breweries in states like Louisiana, California and Kentucky, Purdy said she hopes to educate people with these diverse breweries.

“I’m looking forward to how people will react and how the Brewfest is received, and try to build the craft beer community, as well as educating people in the process,” said Purdy. “The volunteers pouring the beer will be brewery representatives, distributors and just beer lovers in the area that loves those breweries.”

Purdy is also bringing in two new distributors to the festival, one of which is Rhino Beverage Distributing, a woman-owned distributor specializing in craft breweries. They are based in Rochester.

“This festival not only brings out a lot of vendor and beers, but some amazing one-off brews and specialties no one has ever seen,” said Kristy Miner, a sales executive for Rhino Distributing. “It truly is a great showcase.”

In addition to its indoor location and varied choices of beer, Miner also likes the educational aspect of the festival.

“Many of these breweries will have actual brewers on hand to answer your questions,” said Miner. “This is the arena to learn, to educate yourself with styles, tastes and trends.”

Miner also said she plans to try Wagner Brewing Companies’ Chocolate Wasted and Roc Brewing Companies’ Imperial Stout in particular. She also looks forward to the new distributors this year and the festival’s “focus on new craft.”

With limited options of bars on campus, Purdy said the Brewfest is ideal for college students looking for a different experience to drink while sticking to a budget. Visitors must be 21 or older to attend.

“This allows you to pay a flat rate so you’ll know exactly what you’re going to spend and you can dictate what you want to do,” said Purdy. “You can use those three hours to try a bunch of beers you’ve never had, test your palate and see what you might like.”

On average, the Brewfest attracts 2,000 to 2500 visitors each year. This year, Purdy hopes the new breweries will “pique more people’s interest” and draw in even bigger crowds of beer enthusiasts.

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