POTOSI - Eight months of planning, 130 vendors, over 100 volunteers, magnificent weather and a sold-out crowd of 1,200 beer lovers culminated this past weekend to make the 3rd Annual Potosi BrewFest the biggest and best in the short history of the popular, rapidly-growing event.
BrewFest goers from around the region, as far away as Janesville and Dyersville, Iowa (just to name a few), showed up in droves for Saturday's event that was held outside of Potosi's Holiday Gardens from 1 to 5 p.m.
The event, which sold out on Friday, featured 22 breweries, four wineries, four home brewers, eight cheese makers, 1 hard cider company and one distiller, a delicious food stand, fund-raiser duck races, raffle prizes, as well as a local bluegrass band called Fever River Sting Band (Benton) and an interesting - and harder-than-it-looked - hammer-and-nail game called HammerSchlogen.
"We have over exceeded our expectations every year and this year is no different," said Marcia Leibfried, chair of the Potosi BrewFest committee.
Unlimited sampling different beer, wine and cheeses, a free tour of the National Brewery Museum, imaginative costumes, folk dancing, sun bathing and playing in the creek were all a part of the day's festivities.
In 2009, the first year of the event, the Brewfest drew roughly 350 people, including volunteers. Last year 1,008 tickets were sold and this year's combined crowd of customers, vendors and volunteers topped 1,450.
Planning for the 2011 'Fest began in January and continued with monthly meetings after that. Save the date cards were sent to last year's participants and an advertising campaign was run on both Facebook and the Potosi Brewery website (www.potosibrewery.com).
Sponsorships were sold, the Galena Elks Club signed on to run the foot stand, along with volunteers from the Platteville Optimist's Club.
"It takes a real team to put this all together, but in the end it's a lot of fun," added Leibfried. "It's a learning experience each year, so hopefully we can improve moving forward."
New to the planning process in 2011, and perhaps the biggest reason for this year's early sellout, was the organization of for coach buses that brought people in from outside of the immediate area.
There were Warco buses from McGregor, IA through Prairie du Chien, Bagley and Cassville to Potosi; Boscobel, Fennimore and Lancaster to Potosi; Dyersville, Iowa, Dubuque, Iowa and Kieler, and one from Madison that stopped in Fitchburg and Platteville.
"I admire the cooperation and organization between the Potosi Brewery and Warco Transportation that allowed so many people from outside the area to experience the 3rd Annual Potosi BrewFest," said Chris Lucey of Madison (originally from Boscobel). "I hope to attend the fest for years to come and hope it continues to bring breweries from across the region. It really is a glorious event."
Lucey's friend Ryan Von Haden, also of Madison and originally from Boscobel as well, agreed.
"The weather was great and a lot of great breweries were represented here. It is really a special event and the Potosi Brewery has outdone itself," said Von Haden. "The Potosi BrewFest is something to be reckoned with in years to come."
With such an overwhelming success in terms of ticket sales and customer reviews, the BrewFest would definitely like to expand, but the committee would prefer to grow at a gradual pace.
"We will try to expand a little bit next year, but we don't want to grow too fast," said Don Myers, BrewFest committee member, brewery liaison and designer of the 2011 commerative tasting glass. "But we will continue to make this event the best we can. We want to be the best brewfest in the area."
Potosi Brewery Foundation president Dave Fritz reiterated Myers comments about future growth.
"More than likely we will be expanding next year, but we want to make sure we take care of our loyal supporters first," said Fritz. "We don't want to get too big, too fast. We want to make sure there is enough room for everybody that comes out and we want to make sure everyone continues to have a good time."
Fritz added that the BrewFest is just one of the many events the Brewery hosts to raise money to pay back the initial investment that began the process of restoring the brewery more than a decade ago.
"We are just so pleased with the effort that the Potosi Brewery, the National Brewery Museum, donors, volunteers and customers put into this event," added Fritz. "The last 12 years is paying off for everyone. We still have four million dollars worth of debt and we have a long way to go, but the momentum is here. We need to stay focused and get more support and we will be in a much better place a year from now, and then the year after that."