There’s no such thing as a bad beer festival, but Jeff Wharton and Devon Regan host some that are truly exceptional.
“We focus on one thing, and always keep our eye on it: people who like stuff that tastes good.” It’s such a simple statement from Drink Craft Beer co-founder Jeff Wharton, but it sums up the company’s ethos perfectly. Fort Point tech workers and family guys Wharton and Devon Regan started the company in 2006, “as a blog to provide more accessible access to craft beer culture and knowledge for the folks that didn’t want to use a forum. It’s more for the craft beer curious, versus the uber enthusiast.”
The website created was, and still is, an active and informative place to find some of their favorite beer-of-the-month clubs, beer-centric savory recipes, homebrewing tips, and local craft beer news and events. The word ‘pairings’ is used in many ways: with beer, with friends, with food, and with a great vibe. “Sharing great beer and great food with great friends, you can’t help but have a good time,” says Wharton. “But we’ve always wanted to make the point that friends and being social should come ahead of the beer and food.” It was the focus on the social aspect that led them to create their first pairing event with Taza Chocolate in 2008; it was, to put it mildly, wildly successful. “We expected 50 people to show up,” explains Wharton, “and 300 waited in line for a couple samples of beer and chocolate paired together.”
Fast-forward a few years, and the two now produce three popular beer festivals in Boston annually: Boston Beer & Cheese, Boston Beer & BBQ, and Boston Beer & Sweets. Coming up on March 10th & 11th at the Cyclorama in the South End (you may be able to snag one of a handful of tickets still available, if you’re lucky) is the Cheese companion event: over 80 New England craft beers and ciders from 25 different breweries, with unlimited samples of cheese from 10 New England creameries. Savor your oatmeal stout with a sharp Vermont cheddar, try a hopped-up IPA to cut through gorgonzola, pair a yeasty Hefeweizen with some soft, tangy goat cheese, or customize your own combo—no food rules apply. You’ll even come across some non-cheesy nibbles while you’re there to test out as well. The self-explanatory Boston Beer & BBQ is coming up in July, and the Boston Beer & Sweets Fest, featuring fancy truffles, specialty donuts, cookies, and ice cream for beer floats, will be scheduled for later this year.
It’s an excellent environment for tasty food and drink, knowledgeable vendors, and a fun crowd. “We saw a lot of the hyper-enthusiasts creating spaces on these internet forums that turned off casual beer drinkers,” states Wharton. “We wanted to be the opposite. So, from the beginning, we focused on tasting experiences, recommendations versus reviews, locality, and food. Brewers tell us they see increased sales and traffic to their tap rooms after our events, and people tell them they discovered their beer at a Drink Craft Beer event. This all means so much to us, because the goal has always been to help people learn about great food and drink in their backyards, get them out socially to learn this stuff, and help to bolster local companies. And it seems like it’s working.”