PITTSFIELD — It's the most wonderful time of year for beer, in many fans' opinions.
And in the Berkshires, there's no better way to sample all the fall brews in one place than stopping by the annual Berktoberfest, a charitable beer tasting celebration located in the heart of the city.
Now in its ninth year, this year's event has a new nonprofit at the helm.
Hoppy Times Unlimited was certified in February and is comprised of Pittsfield couple Nate and Tisha and their good friend and fellow craft beer lover, Leo Yantovsky. For the past several years, the trio has increased their involvement as volunteers under the tutelage of previous organizers, Colleen Nixon and Lynn Wallace. Nixon and Wallace took over organizational duties in 2010 from the founding organizer, the former Pittsfield Brew Works located at 34 Depot St.
This year's Berktoberfest will take place from 1 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1, at the same venue, the McKay Street parking lot, located at the intersection of Depot and McKay streets. Admission for VIP ticket holders will begin an hour earlier, at noon. Admissions include all samples; designated drivers are encouraged to join their drinking friends.
"We've loved going to the festival since the beginning, and have been working for it for the past few years," said Nate Giles. "When Lynn and Colleen said they were going to retire from it, so to speak, we felt the concept of this going away was unthinkable. So when they asked us if we wanted to take it on, we immediately said yes."
The baton was passed between the two organizations in January, and the heavy lifting for this year's event began in the spring. The event will also continue to benefit its longtime featured charities — the Elizabeth Freeman Center, which supports victims of sexual assault, abuse and gender violence; and Moments House, which supports people living with and caring for people with cancer.
"We're honored to continue supporting them this year," said Yantovsky, who noted that the organizations together have received donations totaling some $12,000 over the past eight years.
"We love this event and love the idea of people coming together from the Berkshires and outside of the area to have fun and support a good cause. We're also trying to keep everything as local as possible," Tisha Giles said.
This year's food vendors include an all-Berkshire lineup of Flavours of Malaysia, Otto's Breakfast and Deli, On a Roll Cafe, Lucia's Latin Kitchen, Hot Tomatoes Pizza and sweet treats by Berkshire Bakes.
New-to-the-fest taps to try will come from: von Trapp Brewing of Stowe, Vt.; White Lion Brewery of Springfield; Landmark Beer; New City Brewery of Easthampton; and the Berkshires' latest brewery, Bright Ideas Brewing of North Adams.
Returning local faves will include Wandering Star Craft Brewery of Pittsfield; Big Elm Brewing of Sheffield; Barrington Brewery of Great Barrington; and Glass Bottom Brewery of Lee. Additional confirmed beer vendors include Yuengling Brewery of Pottsville, Pa.; selections from Samuel Adams out of Boston Brewery; Iron Duke Brewing of Ludlow; Paper City Brewery of Holyoke; Lefty's Brewing Company of Greenfield; Newburyport Brewing Co.; and Westfield River Brewing Co. of Southwick.
Also new to the event will be some product vendors, including art and objects by Stephan "Lefty" Lanphear of Pittsfield (and Lefty's Tattoo Shop), and Topper Sunglasses, which boast designer looks and the ability to pop open a bottle.
Additional event sponsors include Berkshire Bank, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Thistle & Mirth, Otto's Breakfast and Deli, Pittsfield Co-Op, Lee Bank, and Classical Tents.
The festival will take place, rain or shine, under tents, with live music by Rev Tor & Friends. Also returning will be the Berktoberfest games, including the mug holding competition, schnitzel toss and keg bowling, which has entertained participants and spectators alike.
Tisha Giles said there will also be some new games in store. In the coming years, she said, Hoppy Times Unlimited hopes to bring in other forms of live entertainment. As parents, she and Nate also hope to grow Berktoberfest into a more family friendly event, with a kids' activity area. The only thing they ask henceforth is for folks to leave their pets at home.
The organizers are also looking to continue to fundraise for the event and local charities year-round. New fundraising efforts this year include a paint-and-sip and trivia hosted by Double Entendre (aka the dynamic duo of Steve Rogers and Kevin Pink) at Thistle & Mirth. The Hoppy Times crew also participated in the recent Elizabeth Freeman Center benefit "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" event.
When not working on the festival, the Hoppy Times founders and friends get together monthly to build friendships over home brewing.
"Pittsfield and the Berkshires pride themselves of having many cultures and brewing and beer have a local culture of its own here," said Yantovsky. "We want to be a part of that while helping the community."
If you go ...
What: The ninth annual Berktoberfest, a charitable beer tasting event to benefit Moments House and the Elizabeth Freeman Center.
When: Saturday, Oct. 1. VIP admission begins at noon and general admission begins at 1 p.m.; festival runs until 6.
Cost: $10 for designated drivers; $30 for admission with souvenir sampling cup and all samples; $50 VIP, includes souvenir sampling cup, T-shirt and samples. Food and other merchandise will be available for purchase.
Tickets: Available online at berktoberfest.com; on in advance at Thistle & Mirth, Wandering Star Craft Brewery and Methuselah Bar + Lounge in Pittsfield.
More info: facebook.com/pittsfield.berktoberfest