ELKINS, W.Va. — Fun was on tap Saturday as the newest Mountain State Forest Festival event drew a crowd – and plenty of praise and appreciation.
The 2015 Craft Beer Fest welcomed more than 200 attendees during its premiere at the former National Guard Armory in Elkins.
“The selection of craft beer was phenomenal and the atmosphere of the event was relaxed and friendly,” Elkins resident Carrie Shupp said. “A good time was had by all. How fun to catch up with old friends and to make a few new friends, too. Thank you, Forest Festival, for hosting such a cool event and to the city of Elkins for lending the space.”
Although those organizing the event planned for rain, not a drop spoiled the outdoor event.
“This is a new event for the MSFF,” Assistant Director Ben Shaffer said. “MSFF Director General Lydia Wagner Jones decided to add this event. With Big Timber opening up, Lynn’s in Elkins selling growlers and the explosion of craft beer in the whole state, and especially in this area, it was a no-brainer. She thought it would be very successful and added it to the 79th MSFF lineup.”
Shaffer said eight craft brewers were on hand Saturday for participants to meet and taste their offerings. He said one of the hopes of the event is to cater to the younger crowd.
“It seems like the younger crowd is more into the craft beers and they appreciate them more,” Shaffer said. “We are trying to get them more involved, get folks out and spread the word about craft beer establishments and have a good time. We are so glad the weather has held out for the event.”
Shaffer said the good thing about the event is that it is built to grow.
“It’s always hard when you start a new event, but we have had tons of positive feedback about the event. In a few years, the MSFF Craft Beer Fest will be a huge event.”
Jones said she thought the event was a success.
“This is our inaugural Craft Beer Fest,” Jones said. “We have eight breweries in for our first year, and I think that is a great start.”
Jones said the Craft Beer Fest fits in with the theme of the 79th MSFF.
“It definitely ‘sparks the senses’ when you taste all of the delicious food and beers that are offered here today,” Jones said. “We have a lot of local West Virginians and we have a lot of music and a good vibe.”
Craft breweries participating in Saturday’s MSFF Craft Beer Fest, include Big Timber of Elkins, Blackwater Brewing of Davis, Chestnut Brew Works of Morgantown, Greenbrier Valley Brewing of Lewisburg, Morgantown Brewing, Mountain State Brewing of Thomas, Wheeling Brewing and Terrapin Brewing of Athens, Ga.
“We love bringing people to Elkins and this is another activity to bring folks out,” Amber Kwasniewski, of Big Timber, said. “We hope this will make people aware of the area as well as let folks know about the other regional craft brewers. We appreciate the other breweries in the region and hope it will give them a taste of our area.”
Kwasniewski said she enjoyed the MSFF Craft Beer Fest and hopes it will become an annual event.
“We hope word gets out and people enjoy the event,” Kwasniewski said. “We hope it comes back year after year, and that people enjoy it and it grows larger each year.”
Jessica Wamsley from Mountain State Brewing in Thomas said the company brought four flagship beers to the Fest.
“They all kind of have a little piece of West Virginia attached to them,” Wamsley said. “We are really proud of our state. This is our 10th anniversary. Ten years in this industry in this state is a big deal. When we entered the game, it wasn’t cool to be a craft beer distributor. We are now in a place where we keep good company. All of the craft beers in West Virginia are good and we like coming to these craft beer festivals.”
Dale Kittle of Blackwater Brewing of Davis said the brewery could only pick and choose festivals because their product is in such demand.
“That is good news for us,” Kittle said. “We like to stay local, so we chose Elkins. We brought along four of our craft beers to showcase. Most folks chose our pilsner, because it is great on a warm summer day.”
Tate Nestor Summerfield offered some of “Not Your Father’s Root Beer,” which is made by Terrapin Brewing of Athens, Ga. and distributed by Tygart Valley Distributor Inc. of Elkins.
“It is a hard root beer,” Summerfield said. “It is brand new in the state and has been distributed for the last week or week and a half. It is very popular.”
Neotronic provided live music during the event. Food vendors included Beander’s, El Gran Sabor and Gino’s.
A complete schedule for the 79th MSFF is available online atwww.forestfestival.com . Additional information is available by calling the MSFF office at 304-636-1824.