Nancy and Walter Stock are self-proclaimed “beer evangelists” who came to Lititz to gain converts to two Sly Fox Brewing Company beers, a Phoenix pale ale and an award-winning Oktoberfest, during today’s inaugural Lititz Craft Beer Fest.
Over 2,000 beer lovers and 47 breweries from around the country converged on Lititz for the first-ever festival sponsored by the Lititz AMBUCS as a frothy fundraiser.
The festival featured taps flowing with a wide variety of beers under tents that stretched several blocks along the north side of East Main St. A home brew contest drew over 100 entries.
Nancy Stock grew up with the family that owns Sly Fox, and it’s her mission to court the faithful at festivals.
“We turn down more festivals than we attend,” she said. On the heels of her brewery’s big Can Jam Live Music Festival, they came to Lititz, she believes, because the Lititz Craft Beer Fest featured a contest for home brewers, who tend to favor their brand.
For breweries, it was a chance to showcase their beers and build a following as they together served up over 70 different kinds of beers.
“We came today to tap into a new market,” said Andrew Nebel, the marketing director at Turkey Hill Brewing Company in Bloomsburg. Nebel found out about the event through a newsletter for brewers, and decided to make the trip to Lititz, the furthest the brewery has traveled to a festival.
Beer lovers Kelsey Croasdale and Clayton Dietrich of Collegeville didn’t just drive down for the beer fest, they spent the whole weekend in Lititz. Their reason for making the trip was pretty straightforward.
“It’s the first one, and it’s a beer fest,” said Croasdale, who used to work at Starr Hill, one of the companies at the event.
Former Lititz resident Mike Palangio was back from his new home in North Carolina to attend the wedding of his sister-in-law. Fortunate for him, the timing was perfect. He met up at the festival with friends on national Drink Beer Day not for one beer, but many.
“I’m just here to try everything,” said Palangio.
It didn’t take long for the inaugural event to be declared a success.
“This is great,” said Tim Kravatz of Bernville.“I’m definitely coming back and I’m going to bring my son,” he said. He was pleased that event organizers capped the attendance. “It’s not overcrowded,” he said, “they were wise to limit it.”
For Nicole Brown of Rheemstown, the Lititz Craft Beer Fest was a special way to celebrate her 30th birthday with husband Jason, the designated driver, and friends Lisa Hinnershitz and Matt Bailey. She even found a favorite beer—the porter from Dock Street Brewery in Philadelphia.
“It’s nice and smooth and you can drink the whole glass,” said Brown. “It’s drinkable.” Designated drivers were admitted for free to the event.
Meanwhile, Dock Street Brewery’s Sasha Certo-Ware was enjoying Lititz and serving beer fest attendees during his first visit to the town.
“What a great day!” he said while drawing out Man Full of Trouble Porter and Rye IPA for attendees.
Brittany Burkhart and Derek Ciccocioppo drove down from Bloomfield in Perry County to sample the beer fest offerings.
“It’s our third one this year,” said Burkhart of the beer fest. “It’s a nice little day trip.” The couple especially enjoyed the home brew tent.
While some traveled great distances to attend, Lititz residents had a craft beer festival in their own backyard.
“I walked here, and I’m going to stumble home,” said Mark Pennell. Wearing his “early Bavarian necklace” of pretzels, Pennell sampled a taste of Oregon brewery Deschutes craft beer.
Anna and Joel Horst were proud that their hometown hosted the event.
“We are the coolest small town,” said Anna Horst, “this raises it up a notch.” Horst enjoyed the Duke Double Rye Porter, which “tastes like chocolate.”
While there are rumored to be ghosts in historic buildings in Lititz, the one ghost everyone was talking about today on the street was a mysterious “ghost pepper,” a home brew which most drinkers said was very spicy.
“It was a good spicy,” Odenwelder said.
Lititz’ Jordan Vance convinced friends Sam Rizzo and Elizabeth Jackson to visit from Bucks County for the three-hour brew fest. He was also a fan of the ghost pepper.
“That was fun,” Vance said. “The ghost pepper was pretty cool.”
Lancastrians were also drawn to the taps in Lititz today, including Mike McCarty, who was keen on Columbia Kettle Works and Sly Fox brews. His wife, Vicki, who doesn’t really care for beer, was happy with the event as a whole.
The top prize at the Home Brew festival, the Judge’s Vote, went to the Chipotle Porter, and brewers Brian Thomas, Jason Clement, and Will Meiser will have the privilege of brewing their beer with St. Boniface Brewery.
First place in the People’s Vote of the home brew competition was awarded to the Scottish Ale by Kathy Yellets and Kelly Fedin.
All top ten beers were on tap at the festival, and Yellets’ and Fedin’s Scottish ale will be available on tap at Jo Boy’s as part of their prize.
Lititz resident Allen Arslanian took second place in the home brew competition for his Smashed Wolf, and went home with a brand new fermenter.
“It’s awesome,” he said when asked how he felt the outcome of the contest. A transplant to Lititz from Connecticut who works as a Registered Nurse at Ephrata Community Hospital, he has brewed at home for 10 years. The Lititz Craft Beer Fest was his first competition.
Third-place finisher Harold Ford of Ephrata was recognized for his Bride of Zombie, an American pale ale citra hop that he said “has a smooth finish for a hoppy beer.”
Lancaster band The Heavy Push rocked the festival stage during the event, featuring lead guitarist Joey Dougherty, bass player Mike Dinse, and drummer Jeff Herb. Watch the video of them in action and exclusive beer fest video below this article.
After the event, Patrick Moulds, one of the three members of the Lititz AMBUCS Executive Committee that oversaw the event, was pleased with the outcome.
“We worked really hard to keep things under control, working for over a year on this,” Moulds said.
According to Moulds, funds raised during the event will go to the service club for distribution at the end of the year to other non-profit organizations, including the Warwick Community Ambulance Association, to pay for recent facility renovations.
Based on this year’s success, it looks like Lititz craft beer lovers, as well as those around the country, can look forward to next year’s event. York resident Cathy Braun is hoping that the hops will be back in Lititz next year.
“There were a lot of different beers compared to other festivals,” said Braun, noting that she would have liked to see the event run an extra hour because of the number of brewers present. Similar sentiments were expressed on the festival’s Facebook page following the event.
“Other than that,” Braun said, “it was one of the best [beer fests] I’ve been to.”
Lynn Rebuck covers special events and businesses in for LititzDailyNews.com. She welcomes your emails at editor@LititzDailyNews.com. (c) 2014 Lynn Rebuck