Thursday, July 20, 2017

2nd Annual Barry County Brewfest Kick Off Unique Event Is Hosted In A Different Community Each Year

Written by  Paul Starr
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Barry County Brewfest Logo

With Michigan’s craft beer industry continuing to expand annually, in 2016 Barry County got its first ‘taste’ of what the excitement is all about with the launch of the Barry County BrewFest. Held in downtown Middleville last August, the inaugural event attracted nearly 1,000 attendees from throughout the region – despite torrential rain and tornado warnings in neighboring counties.
“We literally weathered the perfect storm last year, and still had a very successful event,” says Travis Alden, event organizer and President of the Barry County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Alliance. “We’re really excited for this year’s event in Freeport, with more breweries, more food, pretty much more of everything.”

The 2nd Annual Barry County BrewFest is slated for Saturday, July 29th from 12noon to 8pm at the intersection of Division and Warren streets in downtown Freeport. Featuring specialty brews, hard ciders, wine and mead from 24 of Michigan’s best craft breweries, BrewFest will offer something for everyone.

“People love to come to festivals like this to sample new brews, explore trends in the industry and overall just have a great time,” says Alden. “Last year we met quite a few newcomers to Barry County and I think we’ll see a similar pattern this year.”

Attracting visitors to the small communities throughout Barry County is one of the Chamber of Commerce’s goals for the event. BrewFest is intentionally held in a different location each year.

“I volunteered last year as a bartender, and it was a blast asking people where they were from,” says Lani Forbes, Executive Director of the Barry County United Way and former Freeport Village President. “We are thrilled to show off our town of Freeport this year to so many from all over Michigan and beyond.”

While it is a logistical challenge to plan for BrewFest in a new location each year, it is well worth the effort, according to Chamber officials.

“The Chamber’s office is in Hastings, but we are truly a county-wide organization,” notes Lyn Briel, a long-time Chamber board member and Freeport resident. “This event helps us develop deeper relationships in each community and bring some new activity and energy to each town.”

As the event continues to grow over time, event organizers anticipate a ‘snowball effect’ which will positively impact Barry County as a whole.

“Awareness for this event is high locally, and I’ve heard from a whole lot of people who attended in Middleville last year who are coming to Freeport this year,” says Alden. “And these are folks who might not make the trip to Freeport otherwise. Then next year, the same thing will happen in the next community. It’s sort of a multiplier that will help each town that hosts BrewFest.”

While the brews take center stage at the event, BrewFest also features a large menu of food offerings with proceeds to benefit Freeport Goodworks, a local community improvement organization. The event coincides with the annual Freeport Homecoming festival which offers a slew of additional activities, ranging from a car show to a parade to children’s activities and more.

“We are actively working to grow our Homecoming event each summer, and collaborating with the Chamber to bring BrewFest to this year’s event was a no-brainer,” says Sean McMahon, owner of Pixelvine Creative in Freeport and chairperson for the Freeport Homecoming festival. “We’re excited to show everybody a great time.” More about Freeport Homecoming can be found at

Along with the craft beer tasting, BrewFest will also feature live music by Silent Bark – billed as West Michigan’s premiere party band – as well as returning musician Tim Krause.

Also returning for year two of BrewFest is the Beard Derby, hosted by the Bearded Villains of Michigan.

“The Beard Derby surprised all of us last year with how awesome it was,” smiles Alden. “The crowd really got into it, and it was a ton of fun watching the different beard contests. It really was a highlight of the event and it’s awesome they are coming back this year!”

The Beard Derby is open to anyone with a beard, and will feature competitions ranging from longest beard to most creative to best goatee. Advance registration is encouraged at and is free to enter. A 50/50 raffle will be held during the derby to benefit Mission22 – a charity devoted to veteran suicide awareness and prevention.

Tickets for Barry County BrewFest are $22 in advance (available online) or $28 at the gate. The admission price includes access to the event, a commemorative 5oz tasting glass and five tasting tickets. Admission is free for non-drinkers, including anyone under 21 years old. These attendees will not be served any alcohol.

See for event information, brewery list, and to purchase advance tickets.

Paul Starr

Paul Starr

Paul Starr is the creator of the I'm a Beer Hound and one of the organizer and the driving force behind Art & Craft Beerfest, Lansing Beer Fest, Beerfest at the Ballpark Spring & Fall. When he's not working on Beer Hound he's probably watching the Lions, Tigers or Red Wings. Being a recent new Dad of twins, he doesn't have much extra time these days for mischief.