Fest of Ale 2016, set for June 4, prepares for life in new location

The Keg Liquors Fest of Ale, shown here in 2015, moves to a new location this year on June 4. Photo by Kevin Gibson.

The Keg Liquors Fest of Ale, shown here in 2015, moves to a new location this year on Saturday, June 4. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

For Todd Antz, founder and organizer of the annual Keg Liquors Fest of Ale, moving the venue wasn’t an easy decision — and yet it had become a necessary one.

On one hand, he and his team had enjoyed a positive 10-year relationship with St. Anthony’s Padua Catholic Church, which has hosted the festival every year since its inception. However, the popularity of Fest of Ale had the event bursting at its seams.

“It got a little restrictive,” Antz tells Insider. “It was disturbing the neighbors. The last couple of years were the first years I started hearing from the neighborhood. It got me to look (for a new site).”

The 11th annual Fest of Ale will be held Saturday, June 4, at the New Albany Riverfront Amphitheater, a downtown venue that is walking distance to shops, restaurants and bars, giving the festival an added dimension it has never possessed. Plus, the new location is far less restrictive in terms of parking and the local area, since it’s near a commercial district instead of smack dab in a residential neighborhood.

The Riverfront Amphitheater. Photo courtesy of the City of New Albany.

The Riverfront Amphitheater | Courtesy of the City of New Albany.

The festival will take up space around the amphitheater stage and a nearby road, with public restrooms on site. In square footage, Antz says the new site won’t be much bigger, but the layout of the festival will be different.

Returning this year by request is a favorite from previous years, the House of Hops, a kiosk setup that specializes in hoppy beers and barleywines. In addition, the popular Sour Shack tent will return to serve up sour beers and wild ales.

Expect roughly 250 brews by about 100 breweries, not to mention ciders, flavored beverages and wine. While most craft beer festivals exclusively focus on craft beer, Fest of Ale expands its reach a bit to attract a wider audience, including those who may not be interested in sour or extremely hoppy beers. Don’t be surprised to see, for instance, Blue Moon and Leinenkugel — which Antz calls “gateway beers” — alongside beers by festival sponsors such as Falls City, Sun King and North Coast Brewing.

“Blue Moon, for what it is, is a great gateway beer,” Antz says. “It’s a step above domestic lager; it’s not craft beer, but it’s enough to expand somebody’s palate so they say, ‘Where do I go from here?’”

In addition, a full array of import beers from around the world will continue to be a staple of Fest of Ale, including Chimay, Samuel Smith, St. Bernardus, Young’s and many others.

“It was the imported beers that really got me into more than domestic beer,” Antz explains regarding the prevalence of imports at Fest of Ale. “My first really good beer I ever had was a Spaten Lager — that was kind of my eye opener. There’s a lot of these imported beers, call them old school if you will, that a lot of people just miss, like Samuel Smith. I think some people take it for granted or just skip over it. But if you can get someone to try a Taddy Porter, it’s going to open their palates.”

The popular Sour Shack returns for a third year. Photo by Kevin Gibson.

The popular Sour Shack returns for a third year. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

Tickets are $40 in advance or $50 at the gate — assuming the festival doesn’t sell out in advance. Antz says sales are moving at a brisker pace than last year, noting, “I think there is some genuine excitement over the new location.”

As per tradition, proceeds will benefit the Crusade for Children; last year, Fest of Ale raised more than $14,000 for the charity.

The New Albany Riverfront Amphitheater is located at 201 E. Water St. in downtown New Albany, just a few blocks off I-64. Festival hours are 3-7 p.m., and attendees will get a tasting cup upon entry for sampling. Food will also be available, and a charity raffle will take place as well.

“When I started this fundraiser more than a decade ago, I had no idea what we’d be able to accomplish while having so much fun,” Antz says.