Midwest Beerfest is this weekend

The only thing I like better than the Midwest Beerfest is the Midwest Winefest, but that’s not until April. So this is just going to have to do.

The annual beerfest, put on by local chapter of the American Institute of Wine and Food, starts on Friday with a series of wine dinners. But the main event is the Grand Tasting, which is from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday. It’s in Century II’s giant Expo Hall and will offer samples of 350 beers, ciders, hard lemonades and more.

The Midwest Wingfest, a chicken wing contest between local restaurants, also will be a part of the event. The Anchor will be there, defending its title from last year. Usually, I’m a judge, but this year, I’m out of town. Word on the street is that Miss Kansas Theresa Vail will be on the panel instead. Attendees can sample all the wings for $5.

For all the info on the Beerfest, check out my story, which is coming out in the Go! section on Friday but is online right now.

Midwest Beerfest too big for old venue

Organizers of the Midwest Beerfest realized they had a problem during last year’s event — but it was a good problem.

The event, which each fall fills Century II’s Exhibition Hall with vendors serving up samples of more than 350 beers from around the world, drew a massive crowd last year. It was so massive, in fact, that it was hard to move around. See the photo I snapped here as evidence.

So the 12th annual Midwest Beerfest, scheduled for Sept. 22, will move to the much bigger Expo Hall. The date, beer fans will notice, is earlier than normal. Typically, the Beerfest takes place in October. But scheduled conflicts at Century II necessitated the date change.

Last year's Midwest Chickenfest contenders.

The event, as usual, will include food from local restaurants as well as a chicken wing contest, which the public can participate in.  This year, organizers also have added a “Reserve Room,” which will feature higher-end, higher alcohol-content beers plus food from the DoubleTree by Hilton Wichita Airport. Tickets to that room are an additional $25 and must be reserved in advance by calling 316-682-5502.

The day before the grand tasting, on Friday, Sept. 21, three different beer dinners will be staged: A Free State Brewery dinner at the Wichita Marriott, an Empyrean Bewing Company dinner at the DoubleTree by Hilton Wichita Airport, and a New Belgium Brewing Co. Dinner at Larkspur. The dinners will be at 7 p.m. and are $55 a person. The menus are available online at www.midwestbeerfest.com. 

Tickets to the Sept. 22 Grand Tasting are $40 and can be purchased at Century II’s WichitaTix box office, by calling 316-219-4TIX or online at www.wichitatix.com.

Chicken champ

My big food adventure this weekend was judging the Midwest Beerfest’s brand new chicken wing competition, which was sort of risky considering it was the first food I’d eaten since recovering from the 24-hour stomach flu.

The wings were good, as were my co-judges, local television personality Sierra Scott and “The Good Life Guy” (and Beerfest founder) Guy Bower.

We gave the “Best of Show” prize to Bubba’s Nekked BBQ, which presented a wing with layers of flavor, including a hint of cinnamon and a nice kick of spice. The originality prize went to The Anchor, whose chef Ben George brought a tasty Thai wing that he punctuated with spicy Sriracha sauce.  That wing also earned The Anchor the people’s choice award.

Other worthy competitors included Hooter’s, When Pig’s Fly, Dad’s, and Fox and Hound.

My weakened stomach handled the wings fine, but sadly, it wasn’t up for much beer. Maybe next year. Cheers to my Beerfest date Jaime Green for making the above video.

Beer: Something worth celebrating

1015beerfest_th3.jpgSaturday is the 10th annual Midwest Beerfest, and I’m looking forward to it for a couple of reasons.

One is that I like beer. Not as much as wine, mind you, but I like it.

Two is that I’m helping to judge a new feature at the festival — a chicken wing contest. And I don’t like chicken wings. I LOVE them.

A couple of other exciting things about this year’s festival: A bunch of beers from Lawrence’s Free State Brewing Company will be available for sample, and starting Monday, they’ll be available for purchase in Wichita, too.

Also, the beer expert at Goebel Liquor has selected about 150 unique beers that wouldn’t otherwise make the festival, and he’ll be set up in a special area. Among his options: A bunch of fruity beers that he’s labeled “girls only.”