Key West Brewfest kicks off this Thursday, Aug. 30, with more tastings, brunches, dinners and hoppy goodness than ever before. And the event’s signature festival will take place on South Beach, alongside the Southernmost Beach Café, this Saturday.
As the event enters a ninth year, we caught up with the godfather of the event, Matt Babich of the Southernmost Beach Resort, who also belongs to the Key West Sunrise Rotary. Together, the entities have raised more than $400,000 for local charities during the past eight years. The “Beer Father” explains how a gesture of diplomacy led to one of Key West’s most anticipated weekends of the year.
Why is Brewfest important and does this year hold a special significance following the storm? It is important to raise funds for our local Key West Sunrise Rotary, which then commits to over $60,000 per year to Key West High School students, college scholarships for local students and many other local charities. Plus eliminating polio from the planet and bringing clean drinking water and sanitation to those who need it.
How many vendors can we expect in Year 9 of Brewfest? We have 59 vendors bringing over 175 beers. We have local craft and brewed beer, plus southern Florida. Also national and worldwide beers.
What was the conversation that launched the idea for Key West Brewfest? I was planning a beer symposium to invite breweries from all over the USA to come and talk about brewing beer. However, when Obama invited police officer (James) Crowley and Harvard professor Henry Gates Jr. to the White House to discuss the arrest issue over beer (with Vice President Joe Biden) in a private, cordial meeting near the White House Rose Garden; this became known colloquially as the “Beer Summit.” That is when I decided we needed a Brewfest in Key West and start it immediately.
How many people do you expect and what advice would you give a first time attendee? Hope to have around 1,500 attendees. Try out new beers you have never tasted to find your new favorite beer.
What impact do you think Brewfest has played on the island’s craft beer movement we’ve witnessed over the past five years? We were on the wave of a lot of craft beer bars opening and all of our bars now have a much larger selection of beers for your taste!
The main tasting event is Saturday Sept. 1 from 3 to 8 p.m.; VIP is 3 to 5 and is $75.00, general admission is 5 to 8 and is $40 in advance and $45 day of event. For more on tickets and events visit www.keywestbrewfest.com