Whistle Belly brings brews, more back to Merchants Square

sbirkenmeyer@vagazette.com

The Whistle Belly festival returns to Colonial Williamsburg Aug. 4 with dozens of beers from across the U.S. alongside sweet and savory creations from local restaurants, all for a cause.

The Junior Woman’s Club of Williamsburg and DoG Street Pub will team up once again to bring the biggest Whistle Belly yet to fruition.

“We’re really trying to make it a destination event,” said Lauren Moore, DoG Street Pub manager. “We’re trying to expand and reach the broader area as well.”

This year, the event expands beyond Merchants Square and onto Duke of Gloucester Street for the first time. Moore said about 1,000 people are expected to turn out. The festival also shifts from Sunday afternoon to Saturday evening, embracing a cooler atmosphere and offering visitors more flexibility with their schedules.

“It’s pretty exciting. We just don’t have a ton of events like that in the evening,” said Whistle Belly co-chairwoman Meg Hendricks.

Funds raised support local nonprofit groups and scholarships for high school seniors through the JWCW.

The beer lineup features 35 breweries from across the country. General admission includes access to 75-plus beers. Local offerings include Alewerks’ Wet Money Belgian Blonde and brews from Billsburg Brewery as it makes its Whistle Belly debut. Other options include the Nuclear Nugget IPA from Goochland’s Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery and a mojito cider from Wyndridge Farm, based in Pennsylvania.

VIP tickets grant access to 10 additional, rarer brews, including a barrel-aged IPA from the Detroit-based Founders Brewing Company and a Black Friday stout from Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Company.

“It’s wonderful because breweries get really excited about Williamsburg,” Moore said. “You get to find a lot of stuff that you wouldn't normally have access to.”

For those not interested in the beer, the Williamsburg Winery will serve its wines at the festival for the first time.

“We feel that we’re just broadening that and making it more approachable,” Moore said.

Food is once again all-you-can-eat, included with the $50 price of admission.

The Catering Company, Blue Talon Bistro, the Trellis, Culture Cafe and DoG Street Pub are catering the event’s food with menus that have a state fair theme. The multiple stations will cook up brisket barbecue sliders, nachos, tacos, candy bars and more, including a waffle cone filled with fried chicken and Belgian waffle bites drizzled with honey.

“There’s so much variety and so much food,” Moore said. “You will be full when you leave.”

The festival also features live music for the first time in the form of Irish rock band the Fighting Jamesons. Cornhole and other games round out the entertainment.

Despite numerous other beer and food festivals found in the area throughout the year — such as the Williamsburg Taste Festival and the Williamsburg Craft Beer Festival — Hendricks is confident Whistle Belly’s more varied selection of beers and all-you-can-eat munchies help it stand out.

“I think that we have a pretty large beer and wine scene in the area,” she said. “It’s also at a good price point and it’s in a cool area.”

Want to go?

Whistle Belly runs 7-11 p.m. Aug. 4 in Merchants Square; VIP early admission begins at 6 p.m. $50 general admission, $70 VIP. Hotel discounts are also available. For tickets and more info, visit whistlebelly.com.

Birkenmeyer can be reached by email at sbirkenmeyer@vagazette.com, by phone at 757-790-3029 or on Twitter @sethbirkenmeyer.

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