Brew crews turn out for craft beer tasting

ROANOKE – This year’s Microfestivus, held on Saturday August 13 in Elmwood Park, was another sold-out success with an estimated crowd of 3500 – 4000 people in attendance.

 The annual event, hosted by the Square Society and now in its 14th year, featured roughly 150 micro & craft breweries for people to try.  Samples were available in 4oz or 8oz sizes, with the 8oz servings counting as “two” servings on attendees’ wristbands.

Sampling cups, with beer caps to be used for voting 'Crowd Favorite', are lined up and ready at the 14th Annual Microfestivus. - photo by Carrie E. Cox
Sampling cups, with beer caps to be used for voting 'Crowd Favorite', are lined up and ready at the 14th Annual Microfestivus. - photo by Carrie E. Cox

For those who wanted to get a more involved experience, the event allowed people to volunteer for two hours in exchange for free admission.  “You are able to specify which volunteer task you would like to sign up for, such as pouring beer, checking I.D.’s, cleanup, etc. They try to accommodate requests to pour for specific brewers but there are no guarantees” said Jimmy Lyon of Roanoke.  He and his wife Melody chose to pour beer for Left Hand Brewery, a brewery located in Longmont, Colorado. “We chose Left Hand precisely because I was not familiar with their beer but had heard good things. I’m always excited to learn about new beer I’ve never had.”  A representative from the brewery was on hand to talk with attendees in more detail about each beer.

This was the fifth year that Jimmy and Melody Lyon have attended the event, and the third that they’ve volunteered.  Microfestivus exposed them to the craft beer scene, a scene that is growing in leaps and bounds both nationally and locally, and also spurred Jimmy’s interest in homebrewing.  

Melody Lyon pours a tasting of Left Hand's Milk Stout for an attendee while her husband Jimmy prepares to mark his wristband. - photo by Carrie E. Cox
Melody Lyon pours a tasting of Left Hand's Milk Stout for an attendee while her husband Jimmy prepares to mark his wristband. - photo by Carrie E. Cox

Sharing his thoughts about how the day went Jimmy said “I thought the festival was great this year. Good weather, good music, and great beer. I think that the sampling cups were a good idea in theory, but rinsing stations became too hard to locate once it got crowded. The crowd is always an issue at Microfestivus, but this year I never encountered any lines that were unbearably long. I just love seeing such a successful and well attended event for the Roanoke Valley.”

Other people had similar thoughts.  Several members of Roanoke’s Star City Brewers Guild volunteered at the event, both under the tents and as judges.  For Justin Cox of Salem, the experience was a pleasant one.  “I thought the layout was a lot better than it had been in years past” he said, noting that he hadn’t been able to attend in several years.  “I definitely was impressed by the selection of breweries present, but I think the event may have outgrown Elmwood Park.  The only thing I would’ve liked to have seen would’ve been more food and drink options, particularly non-alcoholic drink options.  The beer can leave you dehydrated and it would’ve been nice to be able to re-charge after judging.”

Judges were given a list of 20 beers to sample and rank at the beginning of Microfestivus.  At 3pm the winners were announced by Harry Montoro, of Roanoke County, a Guild member who acted as the liaison between the Guild and the Square Society leading up to the event.

There were five overall winners chosen.  Victory Brewing Company’s ‘Golden Monkey’ won in the Light category, ‘Hoopla’ by Boulder Brewing won in the Pale category, Legend Brewing’s ‘Belgian Quad’ won in the Amber category, Breckenridge Brewery’s ‘471 Double IPA’ won in the IPA category, and Weeping Radish’s Schwartz beer ‘Black Radish’ won in the Dark/Brown category.  Every attendee was also given a couple beer caps with which to vote for their personal favorite.  Boulder Brewing Company, out of Boulder Colorado, came in as the overall crowd favorite.  The beer that is chosen as the ‘Crowd Favorite’ will be served on tap at Blue 5 in celebration of the award.

Proceeds from the event go to support Center in the Square.

Story by Carrie E. Cox

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