Fourth annual Hop Blossom Festival is Saturday

The fourth annual Hop Blossom Festival will be held from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday in Winchester.

The festival will include beer tasting opportunities from roughly 40 breweries from all over the nation, including several local offerings.

The event is open to all ages, but attendants must be 21 for suds sampling, said Mark Bates, co-founder of the festival.

“It’s a craft beer festival to introduce folks to craft beer who are not familiar with it,” he said. “It’s a fundraiser.”

The event is free to attend, but the fee for tasting is $30 in advance and $40 at the gate. All proceeds from the festival will benefit, a website that advocates responsible dog ownership, and the Frederick, Clarke, Winchester SPCA.

The festival will also feature live music from the Richmond-based Corey Harris Band, offering their funky take on blues, reggae and world music, and Staunton’s The Judy Chops, which plays “mountain swing.”

In an effort to increase traffic to local eateries, food will not be sold at the event, but Old Town’s many restaurants will be open. Exhibitors will be present at the festival as well, said Bates.

“(There will be) 20 or so other exhibitors selling things like barbecue hot sauce, nuts and other beer-related and non-beer related things,” he said. “We expect to have 3,000 people participate in the beer tasting.”

Ryan Hall, president of the Old Town Winchester Business Association, said the Hop Blossom is good for local business because of the scope of the festival.

“We have a lot of events downtown,” he said. “And Hop Blossom is great because it spans the entire length of the mall. Visitors see every storefront from Cork (Street) to (Picadilly) Street and everything in between.”

“(It’s beneficial for) not just restaurants and bars, but retail shops; anybody downtown,” he said. “This allows them to gain some exposure through the event and participate in something that really is a community-run function.”

Hall said that some residents may have apprehensions, as tends to happen with alcohol-related festivities, but that they needn’t worry.

“The majority of the people love Hop Blossom,” he said. “It’s a great, well-done event. This particular event obviously has alcohol involved so that can be a concern sometimes. However, the way its run is very effective, safe and welcoming and it’s a great community event all around.”

Bates said that they are still looking for volunteers. Anybody interested should email Volunteers will receive a T-shirt and lunch.

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or