Hop Blossom Fest expanding for third year

Jay Byrne, from the Espresso Bar in Winchester, serves beer during the 2013 Hop Blossom in Winchester. Courtesy photo

For the third year in a row, Old Town Winchester will play host to one of the region’s newest traditions and fundraisers — the Hop Blossom Craft Beer Festival.

The festival was the brainchild of two of the festival’s organizers, Beth and Mark Bates of Winchester.

Beth Bates is the president and founder of the one of the festival’s benefactors, www.GoodDogz.org — a nonprofit website dedicated to educating potential dog owners.

According to Mark Bates, every cent from presale and day-of ticket sales for this event goes toward benefiting www.GoodDogz.org as well as the Winchester Frederick Clarke SPCA.

Bates said that the two entities evenly split $11,000 in proceeds following last year’s festival. “We’re expecting more this year, based upon the support.”

Outside of being a fundraiser, the Hop Blossom Craft Beer Festival is, of course, designed for craft beer lovers.

“This year, we’re gonna be up to 40 breweries,” Mark Bates said, adding that they are also looking to have some ciders featured at the festival.

Bates added, “I think we might have a couple this year that are not domestic, maybe a couple of Belgians might be slipping in this year.”

“Our goal with the beer is to sample out the best beer that we can find,” Bates explained, noting that “about half” of the breweries at previous festivals have come from the state.

And although the list of breweries has not been finalized, Bates said, “Based on previous experience, that’s what we should expect.” He added that the final list of beers should be “nailed down about a week before the event.”

In terms of style, Bated said they try to attract beer that is not typically found at local retail outlets.

“We try to have at least one style from each brewery that’s not commonly available,” he said, “So, one that you would not necessarily count on going to the grocery or Total Wine and always find available.”

With the demand of craft beer on the rise, more and more retail chains seem to be carrying different craft styles from local breweries for consumers.

“We’re looking more for ones that are special and … that you might not otherwise come across,” Bates said.

To Bates, the nationwide and statewide craft beer movement has been about “offering folks that like to drink beer more choices to try and have an interest in.”

“In the time that we’ve been putting this festival on, I’ve seen in the Winchester-Frederick County area, a substantial growth in the interest in craft beer,” Bates said.

This growth, Bates added, also led to the creation of Winchester’s Craft Beer week, which runs the seven-day period prior to the Hop Blossom Festival.

The week will include several “tap takeovers” — where an outlet such as the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema carries one brewery’s beer on tap — and other craft beer-related events.

“It definitely generates a lot of enthusiasm and focus on craft beer … plus the venues, restaurants, craft beer stores and Alamo have been very generous in terms of helping to cross-promote our fundraising event,” Bates noted.

On the day of the event, Bates said anyone wishing to taste a beer will have to purchase a ticket.

“The restaurants in Old Town Winchester will be packed selling lunch to the crowd,” Bates said.

In addition to beer sampling, the festival will once again have all-day music playing on the courthouse steps. Bates said the lineup has also not yet been finalized.

Tickets are on sale now, and Bates indicated that sales are tracking better than last year.

Right now, the festival is offering an “early bird special” of $20 for a standard attendee that comes with a commemorative cup as well as general admission to tastings.

The sale ends April 15.

“I expect it to be just a fun day. The crowd has been great each of the past two years … we’ve had good weather,” Bates added. “We’re hoping that continues, of course.”

More information on ticket deals and lineup information for the festival can be found at www.HopBlossom.com.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com