The Spokane Brewers Festival has made changes to its model, but the beer is still what's important

Drink Local

click to enlarge Last year, the Spokane Brewers 
Festival brought the party indoors.
Last year, the Spokane Brewers Festival brought the party indoors.

Over the last three years, the Spokane Brewers Festival has been slinging suds from the Spokane Arena, with dozens of local and regional breweries and cideries participating. The day-long event, which this year takes place on the same night as the nearby Torchlight Parade, is basically a one-stop shop for beer aficionados.

Matt Gibson, the arena's general manager, and Becca Watters, the assistant GM, spearheaded the event, modeling it on the Oregon Brewers Festival, a downtown Portland institution. Now, as it heads into its fourth go-around, the festival has worked out some kinks.

It started in August 2016 in the parking lot, and while it was a success right out of the gate, there were a few obvious issues to be ironed out: The sweltering late summer heat was a major factor, not to mention the imminent threat of seasonally smoky air.

"We learned an awful lot about what to do, but really what not to do," Gibson says.

Last year, the organizers moved the Brewers Festival inside, and this year they've shifted it to spring to coincide with Spokane Craft Beer Week.

"When we brought it inside, the entire vibe changed," Gibson says. "I was proud to see the positive response on social media. The brewers themselves really appreciated being inside, and it's easier on everyone."

Thirty-four breweries have signed up for this year's festival — four more than last year — and several are providing hard ciders and seltzers. A trio of food trucks — the Farmer's Daughter, One Night Stand BBQ and Tacos Tumbras — will be on hand, and there will be live music throughout the day, including the Lamb Band, LazyLove and Mountains in the Sea. You can find a complete list of participating breweries and entertainment and buy tickets at spokanebrewfest.com.

And if you're only there to ferry about your imbibing friends, you're in luck: Designated drivers only have to pay $5 to get in, and they will be provided free water and soda.

Gibson says turnout for the festival has been increasing every year: 2,300 people attended in 2018, and this year's ticket sales are already outpacing last year's.

"Whatever we're doing, it seems to be right," he says.

"The response we've received online is more enthusiastic than it's been in the past few years," Watters says. "I think there's a lot of great traction going into year four." ♦


WHAT'S A CROWLER?

It's a growing trend. You may not be familiar with the term crowler, but odds are you've encountered bartenders filling what looks like an oversized beer can.

The single-use aluminum can is a convenient alternative to the common glass growler, and it's becoming widely popular. Here's why:

Crowlers are more cost effective. Growlers typically cost about $10 for just the glass. Once purchased, you need to remember to pack it with you for the next brewery visit. With crowlers provided by the brewery, you don't have to worry about an additional cost or forgetting that clunky glassware at home.

Cans are better for beer than glass. Crowlers closely resemble a keg. Unlike glass, they don't let light through, which can hinder carbonation and affect the flavor.

Crowlers are better for the environment. Aluminum production has a significantly smaller environmental impact than glass. Though growlers are reusable, it would take many refills to even the footprint of a one-time-use crowler.

In the last year, many Inland Northwest bars and breweries have added the option of crowlers. At this point, it's likely you can find them at your favorite watering hole.

Spokane Brewers Festival • Sat, May 18 at noon • $25 advance, $30 day of • Spokane Arena • 720 W. Mallon Ave. • spokanebrewfest.com • 279-7000

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About The Author

Nathan Weinbender is the Inlander's Music & Film editor. He is also a film critic for Spokane Public Radio, where he has co-hosted the weekly film review show Movies 101 since 2011.