Though the buzz around microbrews seems to have spiked in recent years, this region has been on the bandwagon for some time.
The State College Brew Expo is in its 16th year, and the momentum continues to build, said Mike Martin, who owns and operates the expo with his wife, Malissa.
“Craft beer is huge, now, and has been for a while,” he said.
“It’s something people enjoy doing. When we purchased the event, we moved it to Tussey (Mountain Ski Resort).”
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The event previously was held at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel.
“In summer, people want to be outside,” Mike Martin said.
The event has become so popular that the Martins decided to come up with a creative way to keep long lines of attendants entertained while they waited to purchase tickets. The event starts at 5 p.m., but visitors arrive early.
“We bring in some of the top BMX guys to do a demo outside while people are waiting, something we’ve done for three or four years now,” Martin said.
“The line to get in starts kind of early, so it’s something cool for people to check out while people are waiting to get in.”
The Martins also made another change: They turned the expo into a charity event to raise money for the American Cancer Society’s Coaches vs. Cancer program, which aims to empower coaches, teams and communities to fight cancer by participating in awareness efforts, advocacy programs and fundraising activities.
Last year, about 1,200 visitors participated in the expo, and Mike said the annual events have raised more than $50,000 so far.
This year, organizers will host the second Brew Expo Home Brew Competition.
“We learned a lot from our first competition last year,” Martin said. “Last year, the styles were all over the board.”
Only pale ale will be on the stand this year for judges, he said, and entries are limited to 20.
Even folks who aren’t trying for the grand prize — the chance to brew their mix with event sponsor Happy Valley Brewing Co. — can learn tricks of the trade by listening to judges’ feedback.
Attendants can also pick up ideas in event seminars, such as a presentation by Saucony Creek Brewing Co. owner Matt Lindenmuth, who will tell his story of being a professional inline skater in the X Games, a pro snowboarder and, eventually, a brewer.
“We want to make sure it’s educational,” Martin said. Lindenmuth “actually had trained some at Camp Woodward. He went to law school and turned into a brewer. It’s a pretty interesting story of how he got there. I thought it would be a really cool seminar to have because so many people say, ‘I’d love to be a brewer, but I do this other job.’
“Matt went from a completely different job to being a brewer,” Martin added.
Music will be part of the scene, with Altoona band Chris Vipond and the Stanley Street Band opening and Folly Beach, S.C.-based trio Dangermuffin headlining.
Of course, the brew is the focus for most who head to the expo.
About 40 breweries will be on hand, at least half from Pennsylvania.
“We have a good representation from Pennsylvania and some national ones as well,” Martin said. “We want to reach out so you have the big guys, the small guys and the medium-size guys — ranging from people with large distribution and more local people as well. We love our friends from Elk Creek, Otto’s, Happy Valley, Gamble Mill and Robin Hood.
“It’s always neat to hear people say, ‘I’ve never had the chance to try this type of beer until today,’ and to get people into new breweries. Even a brewery like Straub from St. Marys, people look at them as this old-time brewery with a basic beer. Over the last few years, they have come out with some great craft beers.”
Volunteers and sponsors make the event a successful charity, Martin said.
“Our slogan is ‘Good beer, good food, good music, but very much a great cause,’ ” he said.
“You can have a wonderful time, try a bunch of beer, listen to some awesome music, and the whole purpose is to fight cancer. People can get away with saying, ‘I’m going to do some charity work,’ and can go drink for four hours.”