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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A beer festival at Mercer Museum & Fonthill Castle in Doylestown

Mercer Museum & Fonthill Castle Beerfest
(link to the full gallery of pictures)

It was called Eat & Drink Local and the beer festival at the Mercer Museum/Fonthill Castle on 8/17 certainly lived up to the name. It was a celebration of local food and beer (a wine and a rye whiskey thrown in for good measure as well) for 200 ticketed attendees under a large event tent on the grounds of Henry Mercer's former home and current museum that houses items from daily life in pre-Industrial Revolution America.

In fact, it was a great venue at which not only to drink locally-produced beers, but beers that most had never heard of before that night. Even I was stumped on a couple of the new guys that were set up to pour their beers.

There were the big guys (relatively speaking, of course). Weyerbacher, McKenzie Brew House, and Victory were pouring recognizable names like Imperial Pumpkin, La Fling, and Summer Love, respectively. Keystone Homebrew was also in attendance pouring a handful of beers and a wine from members of their club.

Then there were the recently new or about to be new Bucks County breweries. Round Guys (Lansdale), Free Will (Perkasie), and Vault (Yardley) are all names that are beginning to become a bit more recognized around the area at festivals and watering holes alike.

Then there the really new guys, some of whom are still looking for that special location to call home. Outta Hand Brewing and Great Swamp Brewing were two that frankly had me stumped. Prior to heading out for the festival I'd done a bit of sleuthing around to find that Outta Hand doesn't have much info at all about them floating around online. They're a couple of home brewers (Matt Kennedy and Joe Moran) with big dreams and over at Carolyn Smagalski's site there's a reference to them and a Steve Bischoff. I cleared up that he has absolutely no relationship with the brewery. They were quite frank in saying that they actually have no clue who he is. So if anyone knows Bischoff, you might like to tell him that if anything that ever goes bump in the night at Outta Hand, it will be blamed on him. It's just easier that way!

Great Swamp, though, is a little farther along with their plans. David Johnson is in the process of securing capital and a location somewhere along Broad Street in Quakertown to open his place to serve his beers to the public.

This was a unique festival in a few ways. The representation of mostly all very local breweries was one. The demographic was another that made the festival quite unique. With rough estimates at over half of the attendees coming from the museum's membership base, the average age skewed slightly older and certainly did not resemble the typical beer geek festival. Yet, in what really should not be all too shocking, this diminished in no way the thirst for new and interestingly tasty beers.

Here is one area that many folks in the business of selling beer should learn well from in formulating marketing plans. As craft beer continues to take a greater foothold in the consciousness of beer drinkers, we may be surprised by just who the future demographic might be comprised of. For example, while chatting with the McKenzie Brew House guys (Ryan and Nate), a couple likely pushing into their late 70s approached and asked about the beers and got their samples. They were conversant enough to ask questions about the beer and brewery that they previously knew nothing about and appeared happy with what they tasted. Not exactly the young hipster demographic that often comes to mind at beer festivals, right?

Goes to prove that you never know where you'll find your next beer enthusiast — and to never judge a book by its cover. But, that lesson goes back decades doesn't it? And, applies to much more than just beer.

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