CORALVILLE, Iowa - About 2,000 people gathered inside a Coralville hotel to taste hundreds of different beers Saturday afternoon.
The sold out second annual Brrr Fest, was housed inside the Marriott Coralville Hotel and Conference Center just off Interstate 80. Avid craft beer lovers, or as Bryan Aull, 27, of Cedar Rapids calls them, "beer snobs," gathered to enjoy their usual most wanted beers, as well as try fresh and potential new favorites, from around 47 different breweries.
"Life's too short to drink cheap beer," Aull said. "Iowa is fortunate enough to have so many good local breweries and wineries."
Backpocket Brewing Brewmaster Jake Simmons estimates 39 different craft breweries in Iowa, and the number is growing. According to the Brewer's Association website, the craft brewing industry grew 13% in volume, and 15% in dollars in 2011. There are also about 1,989 total breweries that operated for some or all of 2011 - the highest total since the 1880s.
Aull said he has been consuming local "beer" since he was in diapers. "Millstream is as old as me," Aull said with a laugh. "I started out with their root beer, and graduated to their beer at 21."
"It's a staple of my life," Aull said. "I even had it [Millstream] at my wedding."
The love for local craft beer spurred Doug Alberhasky and others to form a new event for Brrr Fest, the Brewmaster's Hour, a time for "fervent beer lovers" to get together before the masses arrive. "Here comes the flood," Alberhasky proclaimed as the Brewmaster's Hour came to an end, and the regular admission portion of the event began.
Taylor Evans, Assistant Brewmaster at Peace Tree Brewing Company, couldn't imagine a better way to spend his 30th birthday than pouring drinks for those who love his beer. "Realistically, we spend a lot of time in the back mixing and working on beers," Evans said. "We don't always get to meet and see the people that enjoy our beer every day. You can't get this exposure anywhere else."
Evans said the event is a great time to surprise those that say they've tried every beer from a particular brewery. "No you haven't," Evans replied with a smile. In Peace Tree's case, Reddrum, was a specially brewed beer for Brrr Fest, and for breweries to craft a new beer for an event, it allows passionate craft beer lovers to attend and not be bored.
Craft beer lovers would agree, it's never too late to dive into the world of specialty beers. Alberhasky said he wouldn't be surprised if there was a brewery in every town someday.
"People want to support their brewer, it could be their neighbor," Alberhasky said. "And nowadays, you can't get away with bad beer. You have to have good quality stuff."