When it comes to opportunities to taste the best beers and brews from the Northwestern United States, few festivals compare to the craft beer selection of Snohomish Brewfest. Now in its fifth year, the brewfest continually gains momentum and attracts people from the surrounding communities and all over the northwest. The festival features at least 20 different brewers who show up to compete for the prestigious Brewdude Award. The festival has gained so much notoriety that they even turn down some brewers because the festival is already full. They take pride in showcasing new and upcoming breweries that are looking to be unique and not the next big brand. If you're not a huge craft beer fan they also offer a selection of ciders and wines to enjoy.
While all the beer, food, and friendly faces make for a great experience, the real benefactors of the festival are the residents of the Snohomish Senior Center. This festival is one of the main ways that they fund their operational expenses. Many of the center’s 500 senior members make their way to the festival to enjoy the festivities and the friendly faces. When you visit the Snohomish Brewfest you can rest assured the proceeds are heading to a great cause.
Come and experience this unique town and friendly community. Snohomish is rated as one of the top small town experiences in America and it's loaded with great shopping, dining and activities. Snohomish is a friendly community and they welcome new faces looking to experience the brewfest and their great town. We interviewed Bob Dvorak, the Executive Director of the Snohomish Senior Center, about the festival.
RAL: How long has the event been running?
BD: This is our 5th annual Brewfest which is held during the last weekend in October. It has grown every year (we outgrew the original venue after year 2). It was created as a fundraiser to help the operations of the Snohomish Senior Center. However, it has become so popular with breweries, we have to limit and turn some down. They also come for a very special trophy, the Brewdude Award, given to the brewery who has the most “People's Choice Votes”. The breweries fight hard for this trophy pretty and proudly showcase it in their shops after winning. It is a badge of honor, and total bragging rights! It includes a working beer tap, and in the past, has included an ammo box, a full size motorcycle gas tank, and miniature real wood beer cask. This year’s Brewdude Award is still a secret, although more than one brewer has tried to bribe the info out of us.
RAL: How many participants do you draw and who are they?
BD: It has grown every year from a planned attendance of 200 in 2011, to over 1,200 last year. We have people predominantly from Snohomish, King and Skagit counties, but have people that travel from Vancouver BC, Portland, and eastern Washington.
There is a age requirement of 21 or older, so no children, young couples, middle aged, or groups of friends. Every age group shows up, but they are mostly 25-60 years old. It’s not uncommon to see many seniors here too. All ages of people enjoy craft specialty beers. It isn’t a male dominated group; we have a 50-50 split of men and women.
RAL: What makes the Brewfest unique?
BD: We are indoors, in a great venue, and it benefits a true 501c3 nonprofit to enhance the programs offered at the Snohomish Senior Center. We also look for new small breweries, anxious to show the new products, and ones that are not trying to be the next national brand. This year we have four brewers that are less than 6 months old, so the attendees can try something new, not offered anywhere else before.
RAL: What can an attendee expect for activities and food?
BD: Guests get the opportunity to speak one-on-one with the actual brewers, sampling approximately 70 flavors of beer, cider, and a couple of wines, for those who don’t enjoy craft beer. Choices abound for tastings, we also have caricature artists who entertain people being drawn and those watching others. People watching is a great activity to take part it here. You will have time to speak to your favorite brewers, get insider tips, shake hands, and hug friends you haven’t seen in awhile.
For food we offer the famous Snohomish BrewFest Sausage Dinner, single brats, ribs, sliders, desserts and more. Plan your time accordingly for the food lineup. People love food and beer!
RAL: What can travelers expect for local lodging? Do they fill up during the event?
BD: We have several bed and breakfasts in the area which exude that “Small Town Feel” we strive so hard to maintain.. You can take advantage of lodging specials at the Snohomish Inn and Countryman Bed and Breakfast. We don't have a full-sized hotel, so our accommodations are usually full during the event.
RAL: Is there a place that people tend to flock to during the event?
BD: After the session(s) they attend, they like to go to the local watering holes (and restaurants if wanting different food) such as Fred’s, Trails End, Stewarts, Blanc and Rouge, The Oxford, Cabbage Patch, Jakes, (all long time fixtures in the city), and Sports bars. All of them within local distance of the venue. They also like to shop at all the eclectic shops on 1st street, before the event, or between Saturday’s sessions. Many come back on Sunday just for the shopping. We are known as the Antique Capital of the Northwest. They also enjoy many of the farms locally during the month, with the Festival of Pumpkins which have corn mazes, events, and paintball to shoot zombies. All of those FOP events are family friendly.
RAL: Does the event drive business to the local economy?
BD: Absolutely, from bars to accommodations, to food, to shopping, many of the people who attend return at a later date to enjoy the city. Our local service organizations, non-profits, chamber of commerce, the Festival of Pumpkins and Wedding Guild bring people in all year round to enjoy the city. We are ranked as one of the best small towns in America.
RAL: Does the festival support any special causes?
BD: All profits go to the programs of the Snohomish Senior Center, a true 501c3 organization. The senior center also doubles as the “community center” of the city, and benefits the 750 members of the center, and the 9,000 residents of the city.
RAL: Why should people come to the Snohomish Brewfest?
BD: They come for the comradery, to spend time with family and friends, and browse the interesting shops. They see a historic small town, that maintains its historic small town image, and it just allows people to get away from the megaplexes. These people enjoy close knit groups, not attending a 10,000-person concert. They also get to speak beer lingo with the people who make it, and who enjoy sharing their knowledge and product. The people who come to SnohoBrewFest, feel everyone is family.
Visit their website for more information.
Photo Courtsey of MattoPhoto