The South Charleston Community Center was rocking last Saturday evening as it hosted Rhythm & Brews, an event organized by Fund for the Arts. It was the region’s first-ever craft beer, music, and food festival held indoors.
Charleston-area arts organizations had reason to celebrate the strong turnout at the event. The large crowd meant thousands of much-needed dollars will be generated to help out the local arts groups supported by Fund for the Arts.
Rhythm & Brews was led by Alan Kuhlman, a volunteer who took on that responsibility to help raise money for Fund for the Arts. It was a complicated task, but it came off well.
“The potential for this is huge,” said Kuhlman. “The goal is to raise money for 12 area arts organizations.”
His concept for the festival was to create a package that included some great craft beers, three excellent bands, and several exciting restaurants — something he hoped would be attractive to a lot of people. He would then offer it all indoors so bad weather couldn’t interfere. The night’s big turnout certainly proved his concept.
Craft breweries make festival possible
Sixteen breweries were represented at the festival, including six from West Virginia. The crowd loved seeing their favorite West Virginia breweries at the event.
The folks from Fayetteville’s Bridge Brew Works, which walked away with the top two People’s Choice awards — Favorite Brewery and Favorite Beer — couldn’t have been happier.
“We’ve had a warm response here this evening,” said Nate Herrold, founder/brewer at Bridge Brew Works. “It’s important for us as a company to support the arts.”
Herrold feels there is a definite affinity between craft brewers and traditional visual and performance artists.
“We craft liquid art,” he said about craft brewers.
Herrold brought two beers in kegs that, in the past, have only been available in bottles. Both the Mama Rye IPA and Goliath Double IPA were delicious on draft. Releasing these beers, and also the upcoming Blunt, on draft helps make them more affordable and is a great vehicle for tasting the rich hop flavors at their freshest.
At the Big Timber Brewing table, brewery representative Erin Young could be seen keeping the conversation going all evening. Festival attendees seemed very interested in learning more about the beers she had.
Young feels that in a small state like West Virginia, getting both the arts and craft beer out there in front of folks is very important. As a performing musician and a brewery rep, she speaks with some authority on the subject.
“Beer and music go together better than pretty much anything else on the planet,” she said enthusiastically.
Elkins-based Big Timber featured fan favorites including their Double Bit IPA and Pale Ale, and also brought a Wet Hop Ale featuring West Virginia-grown hops.
Charleston’s own brewery, Bad Shepherd Beer, had a long line all evening as they poured some of their popular IPAs and more. Another hit was the food they served from their Black Sheep restaurant side.
The area’s newest beer distributor, Spriggs Distributing, made its first appearance at a beer festival here. They brought beers from six breweries including ones from WV brewers Big Timber and Mountain State. Sprigg’s sales representative Josh Holland says it’s good to give back to the community, and Spriggs plans to be involved.
“We think it’s important to support the community,” Holland said about the 80 year-old family-owned distributor, “and anytime you can get beer lovers out with good food and good music, you’re going to have a good time.”
Robbie Cline, on-premise manager for Capitol Beverage thinks that it’s important for his business to get its craft products out in front of the consumer, and an arts festival is the perfect place to do it. Cline brought WV-made beers from Morgantown Brewing and Greenbrier Valley Brewing among others.
“It’s good to come out and let people try the new beers,” Cline said, who added that Capitol Beverage has a long track record of supporting community events in the Charleston area.
Coordinating Mountain State Beverage’s involvement at Rhythm & Brews was on-premise manager Todd Moore. He said the distributor has a strong track record of supporting community events. Moore brought local brewer Bridge Brew Works and several regional brands.
Ron Stenger WV market manager for New Belgium Brewing Company represented his company at the festival.
“New Belgium loves to be a part of arts activities,” he said. “More than anything, being a part of the community is important to us.”
Stenger brought stalwarts such as Fat Tire Amber Ale and Citradellic, but also showed off some newer releases to the market in Voodoo Ranger IPA and Day Blazer Easygoing Ale.
“Many people haven’t had the chance to try all our stuff yet,” he said, “so we’re just trying to sample out some beers.”
Regional sales rep Tucker Hudson of Devils Backbone Brewing in Lexington, VA, featured some of his brewery’s best sellers. Devils Backbone seems always to be one of the first breweries to step up and support West Virginia community festivals and events.
People’s Choice Awards at Rhythm & Brews
Bridge Brew Works won 1st place Beer and 1st place brewery….. and by a landslide in both.
Morgantown won 2nd place brewery and 3rd place beer.
Bad Shepherd took 3rd place brewery.
New Belgium won 2nd place beer.
Arts organizations provide the volunteers
Supporters of local arts groups came out to volunteer and pour beer. The bulk of the evenings volunteers came from the arts organizations supported by the festival. The groups provided somewhere north of 80 volunteers.
Norma Miller, a board member of River City Youth Ballet Ensemble, said her organization sent eight volunteers to help take up tickets and pour beer.
“When you are a non-profit in West Virginia, every dime you get is important,” Miller said of the funding the festival will provide.
Mary Dooley, another volunteer, said she was there because “we need everything the Fund for the Arts supports.”
Charleston craft beer enthusiast David Mincer helped organize the beer side of the festival.
“We’re in a situation where there’s not a whole lot of money out there, and we’ve got to find alternate streams,” he said. “A lot of people from a lot of organizations came together to put this event on. My kids and family are probably involved in five of the organizations that Fund for the Arts supports. It’s important to us.”
Fund for the Arts supports a dozen Charleston area arts organizations. The group hopes to hold a second Rhythm & Brews festival next year.