Sample brews at Berkshire Craft Beer Festival

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PITTSFIELD &— Wondering how to prepare your palate for this Saturday's second annual Berkshire Craft Beer Festival?

"The big flavor this year is grapefruit. IPAs are still really hot, but there will be no fewer than seven grapefruit shandies to sample," said Jim Bronson, who co-founded and co-manages the charitable festival with Matt Mottor, both local food and beverage industry professionals.

The festival opens at noon for VIP ticket ($50) holders, and runs from 1 to 5 p.m. for general admission ($30) attendees of the event, which will return to The Common on First Street in downtown Pittsfield.

Mottor said they've got some 50 vendors representing breweries from Kona, Hawaii, to right here in the Berkshires, and each plans to pour samples from two to five of their staple and seasonal beers, hard ciders and malt beverages like the beer-grapefruit shandies.

Among the beer festival newcomers are Amherst Brewing, Element Brewing Company from Millers Falls, North Adams' new Bright Ideas Brewing, Fort Hill Brewery out of Easthampton, Ludlow's new Iron Duke Brewing, and Two Roads Brewing Co. from Stratford, Conn.

Household favorites, like The Boston Beer Company, best known for its Samuel Adams brand brews, promises to bring some limited release recipes for festival fans to try.

Returning this year will be a "Hydration Station" for designated drivers and other folks. It will feature Pepsi products, samples of the local herbal tonic with a kick, Fire Cider by Shire City Herbals, and another festival newcomer, The Murph's Famous Bloody Mary Mix out of Long Island, N.Y.

The festival has scaled back this year to three main food vendors: Neighboring Rainbow Restaurant will have a pop-up site on the park, serving wood-fired pizzas and flatbreads. Hinsdale's Ozzie's Steak & Eggs will send its food truck, bearing grilled standards of hot dogs, burgers and fries, along with BBQ pulled pork. And as an alternative, there will be the Holyoke Hummus Company, offering variations on falafel, pita, hummus, veggies, grape leaves and tahini.

Also paired in threes with the festival are this year's bands: The Berkshires' own T-Bone Daddy blues, the Rev Tor Band playing rock and funk, and Boston's Americana outfit Cask Mouse.

Prior to the general admission opening of the festival will be the 12:15 p.m. start of the tandem festival event, the Charity Chug Run 5K, sponsored by MountainOne and operated by Berkshire Running Center. Soft drinks and snacks will be provided to runners, followed by a complimentary cold beer at the end of the race.

Ultimately, Bronson and Motto said, the events aim to attract close to 1,500 attendees, up from last year's turnout of 1,200. Both events raise funds for the food pantries and youth programs of the Fenn Street Community Development Corporation. Funds will also be designated to seed a community service-based scholarship fund for students of Wahconah Regional High School in Dalton, and will also support a local Boy Scouts of America project, said Bronson.

"We need the community support," he said, "and hopefully the people in the community will come out to show their support and help us make this an annual event."

Tickets and info: www.berkshirebeerfest.com or find them on Facebook.


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