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Craft beer festival draws large railside crowd

Posted on Friday, October 4, 2013 at 12:57 pm

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More than 1,500 people gathered on the Hanover Arts and Activities Center lawn Sept. 28 to celebrate a classic American beverage at the inaugural “Off the Rails Craft Beer Festival.”

An event volunteer hands out beer samples for Richmond-based Strangeways Brewery

An event volunteer hands out beer samples for Richmond-based Strangeways Brewery

“There was a line of people waiting at the gate before we opened the event at 1 p.m.,” said Sara Holloway, HAAC president and event coordinator.

In a time when people are experiencing a new-found love for craft beer, it is only natural that Ashland would hop aboard the festival train in order to showcase local breweries from around the area. Beer tastings were available from a variety of Virginia craft breweries and even a cidery.

“The beer scene is going through a renaissance period. Everybody wants to get in on this and there’s a lot of good beer coming out of it,” said Mikey Bourquardez, Richmond-based Hardywood Park Craft Brewery representative. “Its nice to see how supportive this whole community is of the local beer scene.”

Event attendees were presented with a commemorative glass upon their arrival and were given the opportunity to taste dozens of different Virginia beers. Hanover’s very own Center of the Universe Brewing Company offered patrons samples of their locally brewed Ray Ray’s Pale Ale and Main Street Virginia Ale.

“The thing I like most about this event is that it’s local and it’s supporting local businesses,” said Andrew Gayfield, Ashland resident.

Kelly Kindle was among those dancing along to live music from “The Bush League” and James Brown tribute band “The Big Payback.”

“The Center is a great place to come and have a good time,” Kindle said.

Fundraisers such as these allow the HAAC board to continually improve their 154-year-old facility.

Hollaway said proceeds from the festival will go toward the Center’s building fund. They are currently trying to raise $30,000 to receive a matching grant from the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation.

With structural improvements and increased events for people of all ages, the Center hopes to bring notoriety to the long time Ashland organization in order to gain continued community support.

“We wanted to do something a little more fun and different than what we normally do here,” said Holloway. “It’s been a very valuable day for us. People are showing interest in what we do here at the Center.”

Due to the success of the inaugural “Off the Rails Beer Festival,” HAAC board members are already planning for next year’s festivities.