‘Strange Brewfest’ recruits record number of breweries

Posted 1/15/20

For its 16th year, Strange Brewfest is hearkening back to its namesake, the 1983 comedy film “Strange Brew,” starring Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas as Canadian beer-drinkers Bob and Doug …

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‘Strange Brewfest’ recruits record number of breweries

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For its 16th year, Strange Brewfest is hearkening back to its namesake, the 1983 comedy film “Strange Brew,” starring Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas as Canadian beer-drinkers Bob and Doug McKenzie.

“We’re telling people to leave their hockey sticks at home, but otherwise, yeah, we encourage people to dress for the occasion,” said Janet Emery, who’s been overseeing the annual event for the past 10 of its 16 years.

Emery met with The Leader in the Courtyard Cafe, co-owned by Will and Heidi Drewry, the latter of whom have been vendors for Strange Brewfest for a number of years — Will thinks four, Emery estimated at least seven — and they all shared their insights on the tradition started by Mark Barr and Nina Law, co-owners of the former Water Street Brewery.

“The goal was to get people out, supporting their local servers,” Emery said. “When the winter comes, this town can be pretty dead.”

Emery agreed that January tends to be the deadest month of the year, sales-wise, during which service workers not only frequently lose shifts for the holidays, but also see their tip wages go down with the decline in traffic to their establishments, adding up to a six-week stretch of lean living for many in the industry.

Strange Brewfest draws attention, during the quiet month of January, by making noise with lively annual themes, costumes, and unique varieties of beer each year, which are kept under wraps until the first day of each year’s event.

“A few years back, we had cotton candy beer,” Emery said. “They wound up winning for that year, but it helped that the cotton candy was delicious by itself. We’ve had geoduck stouts and donut beers, with chunks of geoduck and donuts in each one, respectively. We always have bloody mary beers, and there was a maple beer that was pretty tasty, that was served with a chunk of waffle.”

Will noted the crowd appeal of the Fruity Pebbles ale, while he personally extolled the virtues of the Port Townsend Brewing Company’s chocolate cherry stout, and Heidi confessed her fondness for both the peanut butter stout and the Seven Seas bloody mary.

“Not only did we have a Skittles beer the one year, but that was also when the Seahawks went to the Super Bowl, so there were beers made with just the blue and green Skittles, in honor of Marshawn Lynch,” said Emery, as she sat in the Courtyard Cafe wearing her Seahawks jersey and other fan paraphernalia.

The bottom line, Will said, is that Strange Brewfest serves a diverse cross-section of folks who are really into beer.

“We get all legal ages of beer-drinkers here,” Will said. “It’s not just the college crowd.”

“It’s folks from their 20s through their 60s,” Emery said. “And we get so many breweries who work on these beers as their pet projects throughout the year.”

“It’s like chefs coming up with new meals,” Will said.

Emery took pride in last year’s Strange Brewfest drawing a record 36 breweries, but this year’s event looks to top it, with 38 breweries confirmed to be represented at the Marvin G. Shields Memorial American Legion Post 26 Hall, at 209 Monroe St.

“Most of our attending breweries are returnees,” Emery said.

Emery explained that 16 breweries would be serving up brews inside the Legion hall, while 24 would be outside, with music provided by LoWire and Snug Harbor on Friday, Jan. 24, and Joy in Mudville, Babycakes and the Lucky Brown Band on Saturday, Jan. 25.

“It’s basically funky jam bands, with music you can move your feet to,” Will said.

Emery advised attendees to dress warmly — “one year, we had a toga theme, only it was 24 degrees out” — because while the inside of the Legion Hall is heated, and tents will be provided in case of inclement weather, “it’s better to dress in layers, and then peel them off if it gets too hot.”

For a $40 ticket, attendees get to take part in all the fun from 5 p.m. to midnight on Jan. 24, and from 1 p.m. to midnight on Jan. 25, and also receive their own souvenir tasting glass, plus five tasting tokens to get them started.

“As always, no dogs and no kids, but it’s amazing how well this event has gone over the years,” Emery said. “We’ve never had to call the police, and all our brewers have been great, fun people.”

Tickets are available online at strangebrewfestpt.com or at the door during the event.

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Justin Hale

Bunch of Hosers!

Saturday, January 25