Published on April 15th, 2014 | by TLV News0
Oxford Craft Beer Festival Is April 19 – Festival Expands in Second Year
It’s finally Spring, and that means festival season here in Mississippi. The inaugural Oxford Craft Beer Festival was a smash hit last April. Organizer Darryl Parker says there were over 900 attendees, far more than anticipated. The festival will once again be held at the Colonel’s Quarters at Castle Hill Resort on Highway 6 (about 4.5 miles from the intersection of Highway 7) in Oxford.
There’s more going on this year than just beer. Recently I sat down with event organizer Darryl Parker to see what he had planned for this year’s festival. In addition to more than 140 beer selections from over 40 breweries available at this year’s festival, attendees can look forward to food samples at the festival’s “Food Show” and the new “South Eastern Pizza Classic.” Also new to the festival this year are a number of food vendors.
Parker also organizes the annual Oxford Blues Festival, which will celebrate its fifth anniversary this July. When asked what made him want to start a beer festival, he said, “Beer is a food. I love food, and I like the fact that you’ve got these people who can make these incredible flavors that are just fantastic. I also like festivals. I like being around that festive atmosphere. Good food, entertainment, music, people coming together, having fun.” Parker admits that he may not know as much about beer as some folks, but he has a passion for beer, food, and the fellowship experienced when you share the two. It all comes together at Oxford Craft Beer Festival.
Local musicians will perform all day to keep the crowd energized and entertained. A jazz band will perform in the morning, and for the rest of the day music sets will alternate between Morgan Pennington and Silas Reed ‘N’ Da Books (SRB will be playing longer sets—he’s bringing the whole band).
The Home Brewers Tent is new to this year’s festival. In addition to sampling brews by Mississippi and Memphis home brewers, festival-goers will have the opportunity to witness brewing demonstrations and learn about the brewing process. Lovejoy Boteler from Jackson, Miss. will be bringing three of his home brews, and Oxford’s own Capel Howorth will also be bringing his brew and his setup for a demonstration. If you dabble in beer-making, this is the perfect opportunity to learn from and network with other home brewers (not to mention all the master brewers who will be in attendance).
This year’s festival will feature a number of art vendors, including members of the Oxford Artist’s Guild and Maker’s Market, as well as other independent artists. Parker says spaces for art vendors will be available until near the beginning of the festival, but that spaces are first come, first served. Vendors, I should add, make 100% of sales. When I mentioned to Parker the fact that art vendors don’t have to give a portion of their profits up, he said, “I’m trying to give an incentive to have beautiful things there.” In addition, the art vendor fees are reasonable—heck, even affordable; there are different pricing options based on whether or not you’d like to drink, have a +1, or are a member of Maker’s Market or Oxford Artist’s Guild. You can visit http://oxfordbeerfest.com/arts-crafts-vendor/ for art vendor prices and guidelines if you’re interested in selling your wares.
There will be hula hoop games located near the music; there will also be handmade hoops for sale. Look forward to more fun activities nearby. Additionally, there will be several panel discussions this year. As of press time, panels are still being organized. One confirmed panel will be led by Oxford’s own Amberlyn Lyles, who will be discussing the challenges of breweries to recycle in the craft beer industry. A good introduction to this discussion is Tallgrass Brewing Company’s “canifesto” (www.tallgrassbeer.com/about/canifesto). Parker says, “This isn’t to point fingers at any of the breweries—they’re small business owners.” The point of this particular panel discussion is to discuss new trends and options for packaging and repurposing in the industry.
Your ticket, should you accept your mission to attend Oxford Craft Beer Festival, includes all the beer you can sample, access to samples from the South Eastern Pizza Conference bake-off (first come, first served), access to food and beer pairings, and a souvenir 5 oz. sampling mug (first 1000 ticket holders). And, maybe most importantly, attendees get the opportunity to meet and mingle with other beer enthusiasts, master brewers, and homebrewers. Free parking is included with every ticket, and there will be attendants who can help direct traffic and pedestrians. To be clear, there is no shuttle this year; last year’s shuttle service left a lot to be desired, and left a lot of people angry. Angel Taxi is the official taxi service of Oxford Craft Beer Festival.
There’s also a V.I.P. Ticket option with extra perks and an Early Bird event—keep reading for details.
Oxford Craft Beer Festival begins at 10 am with an Early Bird event which will last until 11:30 am. VIP ticket-holders may also enter the festival at 10 am. When asked why he added an Early Bird event this year Parker responded, “The idea is twofold. One, I was taking into account that there is an Ole Miss vs. LSU baseball game that weekend. Some people are going to the game, but I wanted to give them a chance to kind of slip in there, because it’s a one o’clock game. But I think, with the VIPs, that it could end up being kind of a casual, relaxed atmosphere where you can have personalized attention without big crowds.”
Maybe there are some who won’t be able to stay all afternoon or can’t afford the $45 regular ticket price. Early Bird is a good way to experience the festival and still have most of your Saturday free to do other things. Parker doesn’t know what kind of Early Bird turnout to expect but he says, “For those people who do get there early, I want them to feel special.”
The main festival begins at 12 pm and will end at 6 pm (with the last beer poured at 5:45 pm, the Beer Festival’s “last call”). The festival will be utilizing more space at Colonel’s Quarters this year, with food and art vendors lining one side of the festival. The food and beer pairing tent will be located in the grassy area in front of the main house. In the courtyard will be a tent for the pizza bake-off, and the main beer sampling tent is behind everything else. Expect beer for sampling in all these areas, though the majority of selections will be poured in the main tent. Of this year’s set-up Parker said, “I want there to be a natural flow. I don’t want people to feel like they’re stuck back here. I want them to think, ‘The beer’s not going anywhere—let me go look at some of these arts and crafts, let me enjoy the space.” If one area gets crowded, festival-goers have other things to do and other areas to visit.
In addition to being able to enter the festival two hours early, there are many advantages to being a VIP ticket-holder. VIPs have access to the VIP lounge; taking into account the crowd anticipated at this year’s festival, it’s nice to know you have somewhere to sit down and chill. VIPs will be given priority with samples from the food and beer pairing, and will have many opportunities to meet the chefs participating in this year’s event. VIPs can also expect a complimentary catered meal mid-afternoon, plus complimentary soda and water all day. VIPs get closer parking than regular ticket-holders. Last but certainly not least, VIPs will have the chance to sample specialty brews not available to general admission ticket holders.
South Eastern Pizza Classic:
This is the highlight of the Food Show at this year’s festival. All festival-goers will get the chance to sample pizzas tossed by some of the nation’s top pie-makers (again, samples will be ‘first come, first served). The idea is to have one chef representing the location of each of the schools in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). There will be three different ovens for chefs to choose from: electric deck, wood-burning, and electric conveyor. The winner of the pizza bake-off will have the opportunity to join the U.S. Pizza Team, and an all-expenses-paid trip to the World Pizza Championship with PMQ Pizza Magazine (sponsor of Oxford Craft Beer Festival).
When talking about the bake-off portion of the Beer Festival, Parker said, “I can see myself moving this South Eastern Pizza Classic away from the Craft Beer Festival next year. I can see six-year-olds with tattoos on their faces having fun—a family-type event versus 21 and up. Fourteen-year-olds can’t enjoy [the Beer Festival]. I can see this being a fun thing for everybody. You’ve got your lemonade, ice tea, Coca-Cola—and yeah, you’ve got your Yalobusha [Brewing Co.] and New Belgium.”
We’d be happy to see another festival in Oxford!
Participating Pizza Chefs:
•University of Florida – Satchel’s Pizza (Chef Satchel Raye – Gainesville, Florida)
•Vanderbilt University – Nashville Pizza (Franklin, Tennessee) and 5 Points Pizza (Nashville, Tennessee)
•University of Alabama – Little Italy (Tuscaloosa, Alabama)
•Auburn University – Brick Oven Pizza Co. (Opelika, Alabama)
•Louisiana State University – Fleur de Lis (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
•University of Mississippi – Tre Amici (Oxford, Miss.) and Tribecca Allie Café (Sardis, Miss.)
•Mississippi State University – Lost Pizza Company (Starkville, Miss.)
Food and Beer Pairings:
Local chefs have been invited to be part of the Oxford Craft Beer Festival once again this year, to pair different dishes with different brews. Food pairings are not limited to VIPs; however, VIPs are guaranteed seating and guaranteed samples for the food and beer pairings. During the times listed below, festival-goers can expect to walk into the demonstration tent and receive a sample of the dish they’re about to watch the chef prepare.
•11–11:30 am: Chef Allen Sanders (Owner and Executive Chef at Delta Steak Co. in Oxford): Spicy Mississippi Delta Tamales paired with River Ale (Yalobusha Brewing Co., APA, 4.8% ABV)
•12:45–1:15 pm: Chef Josh Belenchia (chef at Buon Ciba in Hernando, Miss.): Fried Bratwurst Spring Roll with Spicy Mustard paired with Sly Rye Porter (Yazoo Brewing Co., 5.7% ABV)
•1:45–2:15 pm: Chef Richard Traylor (Executive Chef at Tre Amici in Oxford): Prince Edward Island Beer Steamed Mussels paired with White Ale (Samuel Adams, 5.2% ABV)
•2:45–3:15 pm: Chef John Stokes (Oxford native and chef at Unalakeet River Lodge in Alaska): Mississippi Chili with Cheddar and Chive Ale Cornbread paired with Blue Fin Stout (Shipyard Brewing Co., Irish Dry Stout, 4.7% ABV)
•4–4:30 pm: Luisa Arico (writes food column for Oxford Eagle, originally from Milan, Italy): Tiramisu paired with Onward Stout (Yazoo Brewing Co., Dry Stout, 3.8% ABV)
Complimentary steak cuts, provided by Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association, will be handed out all day to all festival-goers.
In addition to the samples available from the food pairings and the pizza bake-off, there will be food vendors with a variety of items to choose from. A local crawfish vendor will be on-site selling mudbugs, plus there will be a vendor selling bratwurst sausages and hot dogs. Mat Wymer of Deep-Fried T-Shirt Co. in Oxford will also be selling giant soft pretzels.
Speaking of pretzels: be sure to make a pretzel necklace for your journey to beerfest. Other things you might want to bring: an umbrella for walking between tents in case it rains, thirst for beer!
Friday Night “Welcome Party” and Pub Crawl “On Your Own”:
There will be a “Welcome Party” at Irie on the Square from 5 – 7 pm the evening before the festival. Parker says, “This party is to show my appreciation to the people coming in from out of town.” Invitation-holders will be provided beer, and there will be live music for all to enjoy. This is an opportunity for festival-goers to pick up their pre-ordered tickets or to buy tickets for the next day’s festival.
Beginning at 7:15 that same Friday night, there will be a Pub Crawl “On Your Own.” Expect to spend about 45 minutes at each stop, with 15 minutes allotted between stops to pay out bar tabs and walk to the next spot. The venues participating in the Pub Crawl will have drink specials for Beer Festival ticket holders. More stops may be added closer to the festival, but for now the Pub Crawl schedule is as follows:
7:15 – 8 pm – Round Table on the Square ($3 craft beer)
8:15 – 8:45 pm – Blind Pig Pub ($3 Mississippi pints)
9 – 9:45 pm – Frank & Marlee’s
10 – 10:45 pm – Irie on the Square
Beer Festival Needs Volunteers:
The festival wouldn’t have run as smoothly as it did last year without the volunteers who helped out; the same goes for most small festivals: they’re ‘labors of love.’ Various volunteer duties at Oxford Craft Beer Festival include distributing sample mugs and festival guides to guests, helping with set-up and tear-down tasks, and serving beer.
There is a mandatory “Brew Crew Info Session” at 9 am on the day of the festival (at the main entrance); this will be a quick presentation and volunteers are required to sign a Volunteer Agreement.
Joey Vaughan and Robert Farley of Joe’s Craft Beer will hold an informational session at Irie on the Square the Wednesday before the event (April 16) for volunteers. Feedback from last year’s festival indicated that volunteers didn’t know enough about the beer they were pouring; this info session is only mandatory for volunteers who would like the chance to pour beer at the festival, but Parker encourages all volunteers to attend. “It’s fun,” he says. “You get to learn something, and you get to sample beer at training. Who wouldn’t want that who likes beer?”
When Parker was asked about volunteers being allowed to sample beer at the festival, his response was: “Of course. A lot of craft beer festivals are very strict—I’m not. Last year everyone was professional. But you need to sample what you’re serving so you can know about it, too.”
The benefits of volunteering include sampling beers, learning about craft beer, meeting fellow beer enthusiasts and brewery representatives, getting an invitation to exclusive “Volunteer Appreciation Party” with complimentary food, supporting and helping to build the local beer community, and getting a free “Brew Crew” t-shirt.