CT Beer Trail

Eli Cannon's Beer Godz Week Fest 2014: A Remarkable Event for CT Beer

Re-posted from my blog: Malted Musings.
This past Monday Eli Cannon's Taproom held their 4th annual Beer Godz Week Kick-Off Beer Fest. The weather was perfect, the crowds were excited, the reps were on point, and the beer was plentiful. Add that all up and you have (what I consider to be) a darned fine beer fest that no longer merely "rivals" other big fests in the area, but now stands toe-to-toe with every big CT beer fest, and easily makes its way to the top of my "must visit" fests for the year.
Lots of reps and lots of thirsty fest-goers! Courtesy: Charlotte Panke
"But waitaminute Brian," I hear you yell from the other side of the screen, "You do a ton of stuff at Eli's, doesn't this make you a bit biased?"
Well, I suppose so. I'm blessed enough to live almost within spitting distance to one of the best beer bars in CT, so obviously I darken their doorsteps more often than not. But on the other hand I've done beer pourings myself, attended loads of fests, and I like to think I tell the truth (or my pure opinion), even if it may not be too popular. As such I want you not to downplay my words when I tell you that this fest was something amazing.
An aerial view of the fest! Courtesy: Charlotte Panke
To break it down, there were 59 breweries up this year (up from the 30 or so last year) and four food trucks parked out back supplying a variety of food (from tacos to grilled cheese, to cupcakes). The place was packed, as all 400 pre-buy tickets sold out. This packed crowd, however, all served just to enhance the cool atmosphere. Rather than being a rat race, the atmosphere was completely relaxed with the venue seeming to play host to 400 of the closest friends I never knew I had. Compounded with the extremely close proximity of all the tasting stations this was close to beer fest nirvana; I barely had to walk one foot away to try the next brewery's beer! And as if this weren't enough, Eli Cannon's went out of their way to try and invite every CT brewery. Yup -- every brewery. As it turns out around a dozen or so CT guys & gals showed up to pour, and it's this local aspect that made the event truly stand out in my mind.
Only a few basic rules. Courtesy: Charlotte Panke
I got a chance to talk to bar manager/key event planner/ Eli's beer guru Rocco LaMonica about his role in this fest and he was more than excited to share all the info he could about the evening. Overall for this event, says Rocco, he wanted to go bigger than last year, with more beer, more vendors, all while running smoother. All in all he viewed this as a stellar success; the fest went astronomically better than when it first started four years ago. The main goal of this event, Rocco pointed out, was to have CT breweries be the true stars of the fest. Some breweries apparently showed up the day of the fest ready to pour (without much prior announcement than that) and Rocco simply made room on a table and told them to hop to it. Rocco said he felt very comfortable with the event and would love to just maintain the intensity and fun of the event for future years, maybe just throwing in a few surprises here and there. 
A few people turned out. Courtesy: Charlotte Panke
Rocco was quick to point out that this event wouldn't have worked without the city of Middletown's help; Eli's had to take over a municipal parking lot to house the vast amount of vendors, people, and facilities that they moved in to make the event a success. In addition to that the Middletown police were present to ease traffic along, so it truly was a joint Eli's/town event. This cooperation didn't stop with just parking; the whole event was for charity! This year Eli's went with the Middlesex Y as the recipient of proceeds from the event. This is because the vast amounts of good that the local Y does for peoples of all ages, says Rocco. This sentiments was echoed and fully supported by Eli Cannon's co-owner Phil Ouellette. Catching up to Phil later, he couldn't have been more enthusiastic about the way the day went. Phil said that the Y does amazing things for Middletown and they were an obvious choice for this years proceeds. Phil also gave a shout out to the city of Middletown, Middletown PD, and Eli Cannon's crew Rocco, Lee, and Mike who planned the entire thing themselves. Phil was proud to say that he did zero of the work and was left to park cars for the duration of the event. Laughing, he said that it's a testament to the Eli's guys that all he has to do is sit out back parking cars, because all of the in-depth logistics have been taken care of already. 
The reps were as excited as the fest-goers! Courtesy: Charlotte Panke

My takeaway after talking to the Eli's guys, is that this is a group that actually cares about the local area and about local beer. This isn't just some bumper-sticker sentiment that they parade out in public, but proven by the way they just showcased all the local CT breweries in one amazing day, even giving little nano-breweries the opportunities to pour elbow-to-elbow next to giants like Sierra Nevada and Samuel Adams. Beyond all that, Eli Cannon's continued this idea by having a 30+ CT beer tap takeover with a homebrew contest a mere few days later! As far as I'm concerned for ticket price, featured breweries, and just massive volumes of beer per square foot, the Eli Cannon's Beer Godz Week Fest is one to mark on your calendars. 

 During this event I had tons of juicy leads on the future of CT's most interesting breweries such as Firefly Hollow, Overshores, Hartford Better Beer Co., Black Hog, Duvig, and Witchdoctor Brewing Co. . . . which I'll bring you all next time! Stay tuned and follow me on TwitterFacebook, and G+ for more local beer news and updates. 

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Comment by Wally Pocius on August 12, 2014 at 7:20am

I gotta make this next year...sounded awesome, also sounds like a bigger venue may be needed

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