A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.
Earlier in 2016, it was revealed that the annual Keg Liquors Fest of Ale will relocate to New Albany’s Riverfront Amphitheater. For the past decade, Fest of Ale has been held in Clarksville.
The 2016 date for Keg Liquors Fest of Ale is Saturday, June 4, and the event is sure to attract around 1,500 craft beer devotees, with room for future growth. As in the past, proceeds are to be donated to the Crusade for Children, and if experience is any indication, there will be stellar selection of craft beer samples.
Another riverside festival dominated local headlines earlier this week, as the city of Jeffersonville announced it would be hosting Abbey Road on the River (an important Beatles-themed music festival) in 2017. Next year it will shift to Indiana from its current home on the Belvedere in downtown Louisville.
My guess is that many readers would rank Abbey Road on the River above Keg Liquors Fest of Ale in approximate order of importance. I don’t think so, and although I’m as much of a Beatles fan as anyone, it is my opinion that New Albany comes out ahead with craft beer.
That’s because there’s quite a lot of craft beer in New Albany these days, which in itself is a statement of fact once deemed unlikely, even by me.
Fest of Ale exists because of craft beer’s explosive growth. Ratings regularly confirm Keg Liquors as a major regional retail player when it comes to craft beer. Craft beer market penetration in Indiana is in the top twenty, nationwide, and there are 120 operational Hoosier breweries – three of them in New Albany.
Taken together, these factors combine to create considerable potential synergy for New Albany. Especially downtown, we’re already is a craft beer hotbed, far more so than Jeffersonville.
Fest of Ale’s presence in New Albany provides the reinforcement of an exclamation mark for what has become a formidable daily craft beer presence.
Just look at a map of downtown New Albany. Draw a line from Floyd County Brewing to Dragon King’s Daughter, then from DKD to Gospel Bird, and finally from Gospel Bird back to FCBC. There are somewhere between 75 and 100 draft spouts inside this triangle – to be sure, not all pouring craft beers, but perhaps as many as 80% are.
That’s big. If you were here ten years ago, you understand how big -- and I’m purposefully excluding the remainder of the city: NABC Pizzeria & Public House, Donum Dei Brewery, Bridge Liquors, Sunset Spirits … the list is large, indeed.
As to why this matters – why the existence of small, independently owned breweries constitutes hopeful and helpful tends – consider these words from an instructive essay in All About Beer magazine.
Breweries aren’t like the average industrial plant. They are people magnets, bringing folks in who are curious to try a pint of locally made IPA. In fairly short order, breweries can create little pockets of prosperity in cities that can (and often do) radiate out into the neighborhood. Pretty soon, other businesses see the bustle and consider moving in, too. It doesn’t hurt that breweries often find run-down parts of towns that have great buildings. Once a brewery moves in and refurbishes an old building, it reveals the innate promise of adjacent buildings to prospective renters.
In New Albany, we can extend this analogy to any number of eateries and bars that have opened during the past decade. They cannot achieve economic development miracles all by themselves, but when community pillars are unable to muster more compelling strategies, food and drink mark a good place to start.
The advent of Keg Liquors Fest of Ale in New Albany provides an intriguing opportunity to expand our daily municipal celebration of craft beer by incorporating a powerful promotional tool.
It’s called New Albany Craft Beer Week.
|Provisional graphic. Mr. Thrasher, we need you.|
Many such weeks are honored across America. They vary in size and scope, and range across districts, cities and states, but conceptually, there is relative uniformity.
The idea is to educate and disseminate craft beer consciousness, with an ulterior motive of letting consumers know more about the establishments and people who make it all possible.
In 2016, the New Albany Restaurant & Bar Association (NARBA) already is planning a New Albany Restaurant & Bar Week to bridge the days between Indie Fest (Saturday, September 24) with the Harvest Homecoming Parade and NARBA’s pop-up food and beer garden (Biers on Parade) at the Farmers Market (Saturday, October 1).
New Albany Restaurant & Bar Week in autumn is intended to emphasize food, and now we have a natural linkage in springtime to do the same for craft beer, hence New Albany Craft Beer Week.
At some point down the road, perhaps Gary can organize a wine fest in summer, or Matt something to do with cider in winter. The pairing possibilities are endless.
Though as yet unconfirmed, the city of New Albany’s third annual Boomtown Ball should fall on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, which is May 29. As noted, Keg Liquors Fest of Ale will be on June 4. Consequently, we’ll aim for a New Albany Craft Beer Week kickoff on Friday, May 27.
From May 27 through June 4, there will be numerous opportunities for restaurants, breweries, bars and retailers to build events and promotions around craft beer -- tastings, special releases and beer dinners, perhaps involving wholesale and brewer representatives, who’ll be in town for Fest of Ale, anyway.
Obviously, both Boomtown Ball and Keg Liquors Fest of Ale are stand-alone entities, each with its own playbook for participation. I’m speaking here of weaving complementary craft beer showcases in and around these bigger ticket draws.
This entire idea has risen spontaneously, and NARBA doesn’t have a comprehensive plan for it. However, several of us have been involved with similar undertakings in the past, as I was with Louisville Craft Beer Week’s launch in 2010.
NARBA’s basic task for New Albany Craft Beer Week will be to collect information, direct traffic, coordinate and do the best we can to spread the word. In the coming days, we’ll get to work designing a poster (I’m looking at you, Dave Thrasher) and some rudimentary semblance of a web site or Facebook page.
Owners and operators: Merely plan your event to interest the clientele you already have. This needn’t be nuclear physics. If Bell’s is your big seller, mention New Albany Craft Beer Week to your Bell’s sales rep, and ask for suggestions. They’re eager to serve you.
Take them up on it.
A tremendous opportunity awaits. We can expand New Albany’s footprint on the metropolitan beer map, spread the word about our incredible local food and drink community, and have some fun.
Your ideas are critical, so let me have ‘em.
March 17: ON THE AVENUES: Erin Go Blagh -- a timeless classic for a green-hued holiday.
March 10: ON THE AVENUES: A funny thing happened on the way to a city council nightcap.
March 3: ON THE AVENUES: Since 1960, outside looking in.
February 29: ON THE AVENUES REPRISE: Die hard the Hunter, or the political "impossibility" of rental property registration in New Albany (2015).