Billtown Brewfest

Brickyard expands well-attended Beer Fest

For the past five years, the Brickyard Restaurant & Ale House, 343 Pine St., Suite 3, has been bringing in hundreds of guests for its Brickyard Beer Fest. It had grown so big, in fact, that without extra support, the event would need to be scaled back. Fortunately, the Brickyard has partnered with the Lycoming County Visitors Bureau to present the Billtown Brewfest, an expanded version of the craft beer sampling event guests have come to love, from noon to 7 p.m. July 22. The beer festival will be held in the Midtown Landing, a new space located behind Trade and Transit 2 Centre.

The partnership has allowed the Brewfest to expand from the 16 breweries that attended the event last year to the more than 30 that have signed up this year.

“It’s the added support from volunteers and the extra help orchestrating an event this size that allowed us to make it bigger,” said Tony Ecker, manager at the Brickyard. “It’s one thing to manage a restaurant and another to put on a big event. It started to get a little overwhelming.”

Thanks to the expanded space and additional manpower, the event will run a bit differently this year for those who are familiar with it. There will be two tastings — one from noon to 3 p.m. and a second from 4 to 7 p.m. Each guest will receive a tasting glass to sample two to four different beers at each of the more than 30 participating breweries.

According to the Brewers Association — a group that promotes small and independent American brewers, their craft beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts — breweries have been on a steady incline over the past 10 years or more. And Pennsylvania, Ecker said, is one of the top 10 states in terms of number of breweries.

“When we opened the Brickyard five years ago, we wanted to have microbrews and we’ve seen that explode with new breweries and new bars,” he said. “The days of having domestic beers on draft isn’t the case anymore– everyone’s putting unique beers on.”

Craft beers have become so popular that Pennsylvania College of Technology now offers a two-year degree in brewing and fermentation science, which will allow the student to pursue a career as a brewmaster, pasteurizer or fermentation operator.

The Brickyard has paired up with the new brewing and fermentation department at the college to create the “Best of Billtown” competition.

“The college will set up a competition for the best beer and will help with orchestrating judging to name the winner,” Ecker said.

No brewfest would be complete without a sampling of the area’s musical talents. Two bands will provide entertainment throughout the day. The No Maddz, a local reggae band, will take the stage for the first three-hour tasting, while Family Ties will finish out the day for the second set.

The Family Ties have played at every Brickyard Beer Fest and now will return for this year’s event.

“He (Michael Caschera) is a fan favorite of our restaurant and has a great following around here,” Ecker said.

Ecker anticipates that the Brewfest will continue to grow. While 40 breweries will be the capacity for the expanded venue, a goal of 30 was set for this year. With 32 signed up to attend, he is pleased with the results and said there is a little bit of room to grow. With Penn College and Wegmans as sponsors, he is hoping more will want to get on board in support of a fantastic event.

The Visitors Bureau has also partnered with local hotels to offer special Beerfest rates just for the event. Participating hotels and rates can be found on the event’s website.

Tickets are available at the door or in advance at www.billtownbrewfest.eventbrite.com. Each ticket will allow entrance to one of the three-hour tastings. Attendees must be 21 or older to enter. A walking map will be distributed to ticketholders upon arrival, which will help out-of-town folks find their way around the area to visit some of the local restaurants and sites.

For more information about the Billtown Brewfest, visit www.billtownbrewfest.com or call the Lycoming County Visitors Bureau at 570-327-7700. Follow the event at facebook.com/billtownbrewfest.

COMMENTS