DALTON -- Hundreds of craft beer connoisseurs from around the Northeast are expected to descend on Dalton on Saturday afternoon, putting their taste buds to the test for a good cause.
Based on advanced ticket sales, organizers of the annual Western MA Beer Fest estimate between 800 and 1,000 people of legal drinking age will sip and savor -- no chugging please -- more than 200 craft brews produced by over 60 brewmasters from as far away as Kentucky.
The beer festival runs from 2 to 6 p.m. at Holiday Brook Farm on Holiday Brook Road, off Route 9 just east of Orchard Road. All net proceeds benefit the Dalton Community Recreation Association, which last year received $5,000, according to the owners of Kelly's Package Store, sponsor of the largest beer festival between Springfield and Albany, N.Y., since it's inception nine years ago.
John Kelly believes this year's crowd could be the largest ever, in part, because more beer drinkers with discriminating tastes are discovering the event is about pleasing the palate with 1-to-2 ounce samples of unique brews.
"We bring in true beer lovers from every state in New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania," he said. "We have a tremendous number of beers not available in other states."
Big Elm Brewing of Sheffield will be among the local breweries bringing a menu of core beers and seasonal favorites in hopes of expanding its customer base.
"It's all about ‘meet and greet,' that's the No. 1 marketing you can do as a small brewery," said Big Elm co-owner Bill Heaton whose wife Christine is the brewmaster.
Many brewmasters use the festival to try out new beers, with those infused with fruit juice gaining in popularity, according to Andrew Kelly, Kelly's Package Store craft beer manager.
The son of John Kelly also pointed out craft beer is best sold in a can over a bottle.
"A can has a 100 percent air tight seal, blocks ultraviolet rays and can stay fresh up to three months" he said. "But a craft beer should still be poured into a glass to allow it to breathe."
While craft beer is the star, the Western MA Beer Fest includes vendors serving up samples of chocolate, cheese, sauces, live music, cigar making and farming demonstrations. The Kellys said they have developed a well-rounded event designed to inform and entertain the beer lovers, without them becoming inebriated.
"That's why we don't want to create an all-day event," John noted. "We want people to sample fantastic beers, but leave the event without being a hindrance to the community."
For those attending as designated drivers, organizers reward them with free admission, provided they wear a wristband alerting beer vendors they aren't to be served.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233
Brewed to perfection
What: 9th annual Western MA Beer Fest
When: Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m.
Where: Holiday Brook Farm, 100 Holiday Cottage Road, off Route 9, Dalton
Cost: Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at event. For advanced tickets, visit www.kellyspackagestore.com, call (413)-684-0870, or go to Kelly's Package Store, 653 Main St. Dalton.