Sunday, August 11, 2013


Microfestivus beer event gets downtown Roanoke hopping

More than 100 craft beers were available to sample at the event, plus beverages including wine and cider.

Here are the names of some of the nearly 130 craft beers that were available for guzzling at the 16th annual Microfestivus in Roanoke on Saturday:

The Love
Golden Monkey
 Holy Sheet
Red Roostarr
Son of a Peach
Turbo Cougar
Urban Legend
Peg Leg

One of the thousands of people who sampled the products from 49 breweries and one winery was Stephen Biscotte, whose first taste of the afternoon was an India pale ale called Rocket Dog Rye from Laughing Dog Brewery in Ponderay, Idaho.

"It's a chance to have good craft beers and leave the kids with the sitter for a few hours," said Biscotte, who came with his wife and friends. "It's hard to beat."

Biscotte, of Roanoke, said he likes that the money raised by the festival's organizers - the nonprofit group The Square Society - goes to Roanoke's Center in the Square.

By 2 p.m. the festival was packed. Booths lining Jefferson Street in front of the main city library had lines extending yards, some as many as 20 people long. Attendees received a pint-sized glass to hold their samples.

"The girly beers are getting a big hit," Biscotte said. "The Woodchuck [cider], the peach beer."

For a time, the line to get into the event itself stretched from the corner of Jefferson and Elm Avenue, around onto Williamson Road and nearly down to Franklin Road.

Chris Dodd, public relations chair for The Square Society, said nearly 4,000 people attended the festival, based on ticket sales and the number of glasses handed out. He said the event raises between $25,000 and $38,000 each year, the majority of which goes to Center in the Square.

A limited beer selection used to plague Roanoke, but pubs and breweries specializing in craft beers have popped up in the area in recent years. Roanoke Railhouse Brewery in Roanoke, Parkway Brewery in Salem, Bull & Bones Brewhaus & Grill in Blacksburg and The River Company Restaurant & Brewery in Radford are just some of the local establishments making a go of it.

Kevin Ridley made the trip from Charlotte with three others to visit a Roanoke friend and attend the festival.

"It's nice to come to these because where I live, we don't have some of these breweries," Ridley said. "I can come up here and knock them out all in one."

Roanoker Natalie Preston came with a group of friends. She wore a necklace made of pretzels roped on twine and sat in a camping chair as she enjoyed an IPA.

"We have a host of great beer around this area," Preston said.

As for the "pretzelace," as they're often called at beer festivals: "It's instant carbohydrates and it's a good palate cleanser."

"But not the best fashion statement, admittedly," said her friend, Kat Perez.

Imbibers eat a pretzel between drinks, Preston explained. She started with 25 when she and her friends arrived about noon and was down to a dozen two hours later.

Tony Grimm rolled up to Forest-based Apocalypse Ale Works' booth in his wheelchair with an IPA strapped around his neck in a wine holder he bought at last year's Microfestivus.

Grimm, of Vinton, said he was injured in a hunting accident. He retrofitted the wine holder to be a hands-free koozie of sorts.

"I like to start out with the IPAs," he said.

Across the way, the smells of pork sliders and beef brisket mingled from one side of Jefferson Street with those of kettle corn and chicken wings from the other. At their spot near Bullitt Avenue, Buffalo Wild Wings had two big-screen televisions playing the afternoon's sports games via a satellite dish.

Down the street, a sign for Crozet-based Starr Hill Brewery advertised a medium-bodied German-style beer with the flavor of smoky bacon.

Nearby, Roanoke band The Pop Rivets performed a cover of George Michael's "Faith."

"I know not everybody / has got a body like you," the lead singer crooned.

Maybe he was talking about the beer, too.
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