Whistle Belly craft beer festival draws big crowd

Roughly 1,000 craft beer enthusiasts beat the heat Sunday at the Whistle Belly craft beer festival near Merchant's Square.

All seemed to agree with the motto on one man's t-shirt: "Local Beer Tastes Better."

"We sold 900 tickets in advance and I'm sure we're up to a thousand by now," said Michael Claar, manager of DoG Street Pub and principle organizer of the festival, about 90 minutes after participants began streaming into the complex of tents set up in the parking lot between Merchant's Square and the Godwin Building.

Robby Willey, of new craft brewery start-up The Virginia Beer Company, said the attendance didn't surprise him.

"No, considering the success  of the past festivals and the way DoG Street Pub and Alewerks and others were promoting it on social media, this is just the kind of crowd I was expecting," he said. "What's better? A nice summer day and beer and food for five or six hours."

Claar said this, the third festival that DoG Street Pub has sponsored, was the biggest yet.

"We've done two smaller festival and found out that the idea of craft beer festival in August was something there was a lot of enthusiasm for," he said.

Sunday's festival featured the contributions of 36 craft breweries.

Not all were from Virginia.

"We limited it to Virginia brewers the first year, but after seeing how successful it was, the out-of-state brewers wanted to come to and we're all friend with them so we said, 'Sure, come on,'" Claar said. "There are over 100 beers available today."

One of the most touted was a collaboration between The Virginia Beer Company and Williamsburg's established craft brewery Alewerks, called Red Rye IPA, which was available for the first time at the festival.

Claar said the response to it seemed to be good.

"That''s been the longest line all day," he said. "I'm hoping they'll have some left at the end of the day so I can try it."

Willey, who was standing next to the tent where Alewerk's six beers were being served agreed.

"Our contribution was the Azocca hops, those will be the basis of our future IPA as well," he said. "They give notes of pineapple, mango and citrus. It also has a reddish color, so it's a little more interesting look than you average IPA."

He said the fruit notes make it a good summer IPA.








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