LORAIN — From Alaskan Brewing Juneau to Worthington’s Zaftig Brewing Co., more than 50 brewers from across North America are flocking to Lorain’s popular BrewFest Waterfront District.
The fifth annual sudsy affair, which takes place all day Saturday at Black River Landing, includes a few new features.
“For the first year ever, we’re also doing a VIP ticket, which is $65, but that includes an American Apparel T-shirt with the Brewfest logo,” said BrewFest Waterfront District Chairman Howard Ross, who is also the Franklin Brewing Company sales and marketing director.
“The VIPs will be in the Train Station, which is that little side building that will be air conditioned and has its own restrooms. VIP ticket holders are going to get a Cubano sandwich from Smash, the World’s Greatest Food Truck. We’re also going to have an exclusive sampling of beer from Franklin Brewing Company in there.”
This year’s $25 admission includes 15 4-ounce samples and a souvenir glass. In addition to live performances by Michelle Romary, Tony Lang and The Ohio Weather Band, BrewFest Waterfront District features food trucks and lawn games such as cornhole and giant Jenga.
The BrewFest Waterfront District’s growth over the last five years has mirrored Ohio’s craft beer zeitgeist. The Brewers Association reported in 2016 the Ohio craft beer industry was a $2.67 billion business.
“The very first year was started as an experiment to see if it could work, if people would come and if we could pull it off,” Ross said. “We ended up with 10 brewers, a couple of food trucks and three live bands.
“We had that event on Seventh Street off Broadway with about 350 patrons. That basically told us that yes, it will work. People will come out and support such an event.”
The BrewFest Waterfront District moved to Broadway before its growing attendance required an obviously more logistical site like Black River Landing. Ross said attendance last year was in the 2,500 to 3,000-person range.
“It’s the perfect venue for what we do, and last year was our most successful year in the history of the event,” Ross said. “More people came, we had more brewers and it’s just a great setup and a beautiful venue.”
Looking ahead to this year’s BrewFest Waterfront District, Ross said expectations are high with the word getting out about the event, as well as downtown Lorain’s revitalization efforts.
“The goal has always been to grow this thing as large as we can and get as many people out,” Ross said. “We’re nowhere near the ceiling. We’re only taking up a small portion of Black River Landing and not using the larger stage.
“We’d like to grow it, use the whole facility and have some bigger-name acts, but we’re not at that point yet. We’ll keep working towards that goal. If we can get 5,000, 10,000, 15,000 in the near future, that’s definitely our goal.”