Virginia craft brews take spotlight at festival

Craft beer enthusiasts will be able to sample an even larger variety of porters, IPAs and everything in between at the Brew & Blues Festival in Front Royal from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

This year’s tasting and buying list boasts more than 40 brews of both domestic and craft varieties, an increase of 12 varieties over last year.

Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce president Niki Foster said one important feature of the 2015 selection is that around 75 percent of the selections are brewed in Virginia.

“People want local and they want to try the things they can’t necessarily purchase in the grocery store,” she said. “It’s definitely a reason for people to get here early.”

To give a sample of some local favorite brews, owner Billie Clifton will bring out three varieties from Backroom Brewery. Tasters can sample the herbs incorporated into the Chili Pepper Red Ale and the Lemon Basil Wheat or go for the fresh Hop Party Harvest Ale.

Foster said she’s anticipating 3,000 to 4,000 attendees for the festival’s seventh year. Although she said the festival continues to grow over the years, the venue and organization will stay tried and true.

“People travel from far distances to taste beers and go to breweries and try out these different infusions,” she said. “Very much like the wine industry, it’s opened up a whole new avenue for everybody.”

With the huge boom in craft beer businesses and new breweries opening up every year, the festival will have plenty of room to grow on both the attendee and business end. Requests from attendees will bring the festival’s first cigar vendor to the 2015 event, and attendees can eat their fill from vendors’ booths or choose to sit down at a nearby restaurant.

On the blues end, two bands will return to play for the duration of the festival. Brandy Stills Band will perform again this year from noon to 3 p.m., while Moondog Medicine Show will return after a year on break when it plays from 3:30 to 6:30.

Kids will be able to try their hand at the popular GolfZilla setup, and attendees will be able to take part in a game or two of cornhole in the middle of historic downtown Front Royal.

“It’s a great opportunity to come downtown, enjoy some quality time with your family, and experience the town and all that it has to offer,” Foster said.

IF YOU GO: Beer sample tickets are $15 until 5 p.m. today online and at the Chamber of Commerce or Front Royal Visitor Center. Admission at the door will be $20, and all those who pay for the 10 sampling tickets will receive a commemorative 16-ounce pilsner glass. General admission is free.

Information:  http://brewandblues.com.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com