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Humble beginnings for what could become a premiere event

By: Scooter Hendon  |  04/26/2011

Humble beginnings for what could become a premiere event

As our state starts to flourish with breweries and a growing interest in craft beer, it takes the efforts of motivated individuals to share that knowledge and craft beer experience with the well-versed and uninitiated alike. Enter Clif Wigington, founder and Manager General of The Texas Beer Fest.

Wigington’s goal in starting a festival in Texas, and more specifically the Houston area, has been on making people aware of the great beer we have in our state.

“I wanted to find a way to really support the Texas brewers. We’ve got great breweries here in Texas, and to me, it’s funny that a lot of people don’t even know about them. Here we are having Texas breweries winning awards like at (Great American Beer Festival) and still most of the population of Houston has no clue that we’ve got a great brewing community. So my thought was, why don’t we get together a festival that incorporates as many craft breweries as we can in Texas and really support the local, but also celebrate the national?”

And currently, the Texas Beer Fest has done just that. Incorporating 20 Texas breweries, some of which aren’t even commercially producing beer yet, the festival looks to be a premiere event for exposing people to Texas brewing. With established breweries like Saint Arnold and Real Ale, newbies will have a chance to try some things they may not have before, but the focus will be to shed some light on the upstart guys as well. With Kreuz Creek, New Republic and No Label scheduled to be there, even those beer-savvy attendees will have a chance to meet some exciting new faces and potentially try beers that have previously been mostly unavailable or impossible to even access before. Or, they might be able to simply shake the hand of a Texas entrepreneur who is looking to get going.

“We’ve got pretty much ever Texas craft brewer we can and basically we’re telling them “Listen, we just want you there,” Wigington said. “We’ve even got some breweries who don’t have a license to sell their product, but we want them there so that when people come up and see them they can speak to them. They may not be able to try their beer yet, but they’ll get to know ‘Hey, when these guys can start selling, this is who I want to support.”

Lest you think these guys are just looking to capitalize on the craft beer boon, you can rest assured that they’re in it for the cause.

“We’ve gotten with these guys and said ‘Listen, we just want to support you, we don’t want you to donate product, we want to buy product from you and we want everybody that we know to know about y’all,” Wigington said.

The idea is to make this a multi-year thing and make it into an annual event that grows to become the premiere event for craft beer in the state of Texas. They’re starting out simple and not getting ahead of themselves, but are certainly keeping their eyes on how they can expand the festival in coming years to incorporate more food-related and other ancillary events to go along with the festival.

“We have a lot of big grocery chains and a lot of big company sponsors that are really watching us and they want to make sure this Texas Beer fest is exactly what we say it is as it’s a promotion of Texas industry. This is not a ‘let’s all get together and do some keg stands, let’s all get together and get drunk.’ Because this is the first year there are a lot of people watching and will see that after the first year. Then everyone says that this is exactly what we intended it to be as a positive, very friendly, very safe environment, then we’ll have bigger sponsors next year.”

In addition to supporting Texas industry, 25 percent of the net proceeds from the festival will be donated to the Houston Food Bank. “We are going to get some money back from the festival, why not give back to the same community that we’re being a part of? We want to be able to support local industries, but also support those people that are having trouble getting food.”

And ultimately, there’s an ends to this all this effort. With Texas being comparatively so far behind many other states, we aren’t seen as a beer destination point. Ask anyone around the country who’s really into beer and chances are they’ll tell you their ideal beercation would be to Colorado, California, Oregon or many other areas that are associated with great beer. As Texas catches up, the goal of the Texas Beer Fest will be to make us more synonymous with great beer states.

“If we can create a great festival that gives a fun, friendly environment and we can also do it to where it’s easy to get into from across the states, we can really start changing the beer culture in Texas and create a destination for people to come to,” Wigington said. “I dislike the idea of someone from, say, Washington D.C., comes into Houston and he goes to the local bar and see the same beers as he does in Washington, or New York or anywhere else. Whereas if he had a friend take him to a bar that had all the Texas beers, he’d be like ‘Wow, I can’t get this in Washington D.C., this is something I want to return to. This is something I want to tell my friends about and Texas can become a destination for beer advocates in general.’ ”

The inaugural event takes place May 7 at the Humble Convention Center Arena from 1-10 p.m. with related beer dinners happening from May 2 through May 12. Tickets for the festival are $34 in advance and $40 at the door and includes 12 coupons that can be used for 2-ounce beer pours or food. Leave the young-uns at home, the event is 21-and-up.

Special Texas beers available at the Texas Beer Fest

  • (512) Casabel Cream Stout (Firkin)
  • Independence Brewluminati
  • No Label Panamanian Coffee Milk Stout
  • Rahr & Sons Bourbon Barrel-Aged Winter Warmer
  • Real Ale Lost Gold IPA (Cask)
  • Saint Arnold Divine Reserve 11
  • Thirsty Planet Double Buckethead IPA

Going Back to School (With More Drinking)

By: Scooter Hendon  |  04/26/2011

Going Back to School (With More Drinking)

We’re excited about an upcoming video series called Texas Brew School. Check out our brief introduction to great things to come.
Check out more videos from us at Texas Brews YouTube Channel


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