Huntington’s new winter beer fest turns sour, wild and funky

winter beer festFebruary 9 promises to be one sour, wild and funky night in Huntington, West Virginia. The newly announced Wild & Wonderful Winter Beer Fest will bring out some leading examples of the brewer’s mad art. 

Sponsored by Huntington’s Better Beer Coalition, the same group that puts on Rails & Ales Craft Beer Festival, this one should be a doozy.

Brilliant Stream talked with Jeff McKay, one of the festival organizers, to get the scoop on this celebration of sour, wild, and funky beer.

“We’ve had people asking for another seasonal fest,” McKay said. “This is something that’s been in the back of our minds for a while to throw a winter festival because we don’t see too many festivals in West Virginia outside of festival season (May–October). We thought that it would be a natural fit to come up with a niche or boutique festival.”

Why not here?

He says it  kind of harkens back to why they started Rails & Ales in the first place: “We see these niche and style-ized festivals in other states all around us, and we thought, why not here?”

winter beer fest

The Wild & Wonderful Winter festival will be different from, and much more intimate than Rails & Ales. Attendance will be limited to about 1,000 people, and the beer selections will be much more focused.

McKay expects 100 different beers, from across the globe, with something like 35 brewery tables. Sours, wild brews and funky farmhouse ales from West Virginia will be poured along side the best examples from Belgium and elsewhere.  Expect a solid representation of Belgian ales from Global Beer Network, Artisanal Imports, Duvel Moortgat, and possibly Shelton Brothers, which is rumored to be entering the state in January.

Expect beer from WV brewers Mike Vance of Abolitionist; Sam Fonda of Weathered Ground; Ross Williams at Bad Shepherd; Ken, Nate & Adam of Bridge Brew; Jay Fox of The Peddler;, and possibly a few others, to provide some special Wild & Wonderful funk.

Pullman Square parking garage selected as venue

Of the venue choice, McKay says they had to get creative. Not only challenged to find a day that wasn’t already full of other events, but WV state alcohol laws and regs make it near impossible to get approval for an indoor beer festival site. Since you are not allowed to put an independent festival on top of an existing retail liquor/beer license, that immediately ruled out obvious places such as the Big Sandy Arena (Huntington civic center), which has its own retail alcohol license. They had to find a large, unlicensed space.

Their solution was renting the second floor of the Pullman Square parking garage in downtown Huntington (directly behind the Holiday Inn). Although the space is unheated and open to the outside air, the second floor does has a roof over it and the festival will provide portable space heaters and some warm space. With the average temperatures for this time of year typically running in the 30s and 40s, McKay doesn’t see this posing a problem for the type of seasoned festival goers that he hopes to attract. Their choice of the Friday evening, February 9th date gives them a clear date away from other local events.

Glass please. No plastic mugs

McKay says the festival will splurge on some nice glassware. Instead of the common tiny plastic festival mug, he hopes to offer a nice little glass snifter branded with the festival logo.

“I think that goes hand in hand with serving wild and sour beers,” he said.

For anyone concerned about the acid reflux that may be caused by an evening of sour beers, McKay says he’ll have a tub of Tums and Rolaids. This is actually something pretty common at sour beer fests across the country.

The festival will have food served up by several local food vendors. Deejay Charlie Brown, who also appeared at Rails & Ales, will provide the music.

Ticket cost is $50. No VIP tickets will be offered.

Tickets go on sale 6:00 p.m. Wednesday, December 20 through Eventbrite. A ticket link will be on the festival’s facebook page. Those without Facebook can go right to the festival ticket page on Eventbrite.com.

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