The beer festival schedule is becoming almost as crowded as the craft beer market itself; it behooves a fledgling fest to specialize. In the case of Jeff Wharton and Devon Regan, the team behind the Drink Craft Beer website, they decided to focus on saison and farmhouse-style beers for Summerfest.
"The idea behind Drink Craft Beer is craft beer education," Wharton explains. "It's about making craft beer fun, getting people out to learn and try some new stuff, but to do it in fun ways."
There's a lot to learn and talk about when it comes to craft beer, but at its heart it's still beer, meant for socializing. The high-level connoisseur market was being served well online when they started the site six years ago, but it was harder for people to learn in a more casual way. That's where events like this come in. Over the years, Wharton has seen the potential audience for their event grow steadily. This will be the largest, with 1,200 people over three weekend sessions.
"There are tons of beer fests around Boston, and lots of good ones," he says. "But how do we put our own spin on it? The idea at the heart of Summerfest is a summer barbecue with everything kicked up a few notches."
Helping to kick it up will be New Englanders like Cambridge Brewing Company, Mystic Brewery and Jack's Abby. And brewers like Harpoon and High and Mighty will showcase brews they've made for the event. All of the 25 brewers will focus on saisons.
Saisons were the traditional beer of choice for Belgian farm-hands to drink for hydration while working. While the category is broad, Wharton says they have a spicy yeast profile, are dry and thirst-quenching.
"That said, it's one of those styles where it's more of a way of thought almost than a specific style, which is what we're so stoked about."
Saison, the gateway craft beer
Saisons are a good place to start for craft beer drinking novices, Wharton says.
"The person who likes Sam Adams Summer, most of them are going to like a saison."
It makes sense for the craft beer enthusiast as well, because of the potential for complexity and nuance.
"It's one of those styles that satiates the person who thinks they know everything about beer, but people new to beer are going to find it accessible and enjoy it a lot."
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