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Hundreds celebrate local Lehigh Valley brews at Spring Beer Fest II

Spring Beer Fest
Jay Bradley
Attendees wander between brewery booths at the second annual Lehigh Valley Brewers Guild Spring Beer Fest at ArtsQuest

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Spring Beer Fest's second iteration took flight on Saturday, celebrating more than two dozen local breweries and the wide varieties of flavors created by them.

Hundreds of brew enthusiasts joined together and sipped samples from all sorts of stouts, IPAs, ales and more brewed right in the Lehigh Valley.

ArtsQuest held the festival, partnering with the Lehigh Valley Brewers Guild.

"The best part about this is you're gonna get like the best of what everybody makes," Chris McCall, of McCall Collective Brewing and president of the brewers guild, said.

He said the event was emblematic of the collaboration that often takes part among local breweries, which often share resources, knowledge and equipment.

"The best part about this is you're gonna get, like, the best of what everybody makes,"
Chris McCall

"The best part about this industry is the cohesion amongst it," McCall said.

"It kind of all culminates in this amazing event where you have members here, just all pouring beer, trying each other's beer, chit chatting and talking about styles and recipes.

"It's pretty unique. I don't know of another industry that has as much collaboration as beer."

Jay Bradley
McCall Collective Brewin co-founders Katilin and Chris McCall at Spring Beer Fest II
"We want to celebrate the area that's around us. We want to celebrate the Lehigh Valley and the culture of beer-making, brewing, everything in general,"
Ryan Hill

ArtsQuest officials said the partnership with the guild has been great, noting the focal point beers often have at the organization's events, such as MusikFest.

"We want to celebrate the area that's around us," ArtsQuest Senior Programming Director Ryan Hill said. "We want to celebrate the Lehigh Valley and the culture of beer-making, brewing, everything in general.

"We're always trying to celebrate different facets of culture within the Lehigh Valley. And this is obviously a big one."

The event featured many recognizable local microbreweries, such as Funk Brewing Company, Five Maidens Hard Cider, The Colony Meadery, Fegley's Brew Works and Yergey Brewing.

Many of these breweries have been featured on 91.3 WLVR Flight Club, hosted by Lehigh Valley Public Media's Christine Dempsey.

At the event, attendees were able to sample the wide variety of flavors available in two sessions for a ticket price of $35-$40.

Spring Beer Fest Funk
Jay Bradley
Attendees et samples from Funk Brewing at the festival

"The stouts, the hazy IPA, the sours, every piece of this experience is amazing," attendee Carrie Ferlick said.

"It's just a good time. We got a good group of friends," attendee Ryan Denny said. "It's cool trying all the different breweries around the area, so I enjoyed it a lot."

Hill said planning has started for next year's event.

Homebrewers bring hobbyist spin

Attendees who made it to the second-floor balcony of ArtsQuest Center were treated to the experimentalists of the bunch — the homebrewers.

The group of non-commercial, hobbyist Lehigh Valley Homebrewers Club meets monthly to share knowledge and progress on their personal brews, and it had a big presence at the festival with its unusual flavors.

"We have everything from very traditional styles that you wouldn't necessarily find" elsewhere, club President Steve Anthony said.

Homebrewers Lehigh Valley
Jay Bradlley
Lehigh Valley Homebrewers (left to right) John Litak, Ginger Bowles, Seven Bowles, Steven Bowles, Scott Burdux and Steve Anthony

"Like an Irish Red Ale, or very traditional porter. I have a cask porter here, which is served in the manner it would have been served 200 years ago before CO2 was an available solution at a bar — all the way to the other end where we have brewing with Fruity Pebbles syrup and Cadbury Cream Eggs. So you have to like the whole gamut."

He said such experimentation and freedom comes from the lack of financial obligations and smaller scale of production.

"We're not concerned if our beer's gonna sell, or we're not worried about sitting on 100 gallons of beer," Anthony said.

"So we have a lot more ability to experiment and produce a lot of things that tend to be very interesting, especially in a festival context."

Homebrewers there said festivals are a great opportunity to expose the craft to new people and work with the established breweries in the region.

"It's good to collaborate with a lot of the commercial brewers, get some ideas off of them, and then also give them other ideas to make the next beer," Joe Eberhardt of Twisted Grains Brewing said.

"It's pretty much just whatever you can imagine. We try to figure out how to get it in a beer. My next one is going to be a wheat beer that's gonna taste like a margarita."

Jay Bradley
Joe Eberhardt with a glass of his award-winning stout

Eberhardt recently won an award at the Garden State Homebrew Competition for his "Toucan Stout" in the dark British and Irish beer category.

Homebrewers encouraged those interested to connect with the club, saying it does not cost much to get into the hobby.