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Take Me Out to the Brewfest!

On Friday, September 22, autumn officially begins in the Northern Hemisphere. As Central New Yorkers well know, the autumn chill starts way before then. Whether you’re a craft beer aficionado, a newbie, or someone who just likes to have a great time, then you’ll want to greet the new season on Saturday the 23rd at the Ballpark Brewfest, held at the NBT Stadium from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., rain or shine. I recently spoke with Jason Smorol, General Manager of the Syracuse Chiefs to find out more about this upcoming event.

Gloria Aviles-Rakowsky: When did the Ballpark Brewfest start?

Whether you’re a craft beer aficionado, a newbie, or someone who just likes to have a great time, then you’ll want to greet the new season on Saturday the 23rd at the Ballpark Brewfest.

Jason Smorol: I believe there were brewfests in 2012 and 2013; we took a break in 2014 and the Ballpark Brewfest was reimagined in 2015. This year will be our third.

GA: How did the idea for it come about?

JS: After the first brewfests, the Chiefs took it over in 2013. After some growing pains, the Board of Directors made changes to better promote and reimagine the event. We worked with our partners, beer distributors and people like Fred Matt from Saranac to make sure we did it right. The 2015 Ballpark Brewfest was a success, and the 2016 was even better.

GA: How is the brewfest celebrated and what sets it apart from the others?

JS: The location and the commitment to really be about the craft brew experience is what make this event special. This brewfest is for everyone, from the everyday beer drinker who’s looking to try some more brews to see what he or she likes to the hard-core craft beer enthusiast. We will have rare beers as well as some selections new to the market. Our brewfest is celebrated at a unique location —our stadium— that gives us certain advantages. We’re centrally located so it’s easy to get to; we have free parking; and the ability to go rain or shine. When the sun does shine, there is no more beautiful location to have a festival than the NBT Bank Stadium. We have taken batting practice on the field the past two events and this year we are expanding the fest to the field.

GA: How are the breweries that participate chosen?

JS: We work exclusively with Onondaga Beverage. They are a wonderful partner and really make the event special. We have a great relationship and history with the West End Brewery, the Matt family who brings an extensive range of brews from Saranac. We also reach out to local independent brewers and invite them to the event. Pete Kirkgasser from the Eastwood Brewery got on board last year and will be back again this year.

GA: In short, what can a fest-goer expect for the event?

The Party deck will be turned into the “Spirit and Cigar” Deck presented by Rocky’s Cigars. Guests will be able to sample cigars as well as spirits other than beer.

JS: You can expect great beer, education, rare brews, and the opportunity to taste a wide variety, along with food trucks, live DJ music and fun. You’ll get to talk to the brewers like Fred Matt and experts like the staff from World of Beer about brewing and beer. This year the first 1,000 guests will receive a complimentary brewfest baseball jersey too.

GA: About how many people are you expecting?

JS: Between 1,500 and 2,000.

GA: What is your favorite part of the Ballpark Brewfest?

JS: For me it’s learning about all the different types of beer, tasting the brews, and meeting the people. It’s different from baseball and I like that. It’s good to use the stadium for more than baseball.

GA: How can the local community participate?

JS: They can go to www.ballparkbrewfestcny.com to buy a ticket and they’ll enjoy a really great brewfest!

Also, our party deck will be turned into the “Spirit and Cigar” Deck presented by Rocky’s Cigars. Guests will be able to sample cigars as well as spirits other than beer. We’ll have games such as corn hole and can jam and let people try to hit home runs off a tee from second base. We’ll have food tucks right on the field. It’s going to be great!

And there you have it folks, a great fall brewfest not to be missed! Cheers!

Gloria Rakowsky
Craft Beer Crusader
Beer/Travel Writer, Founder of Syracuse Women of Craft Beer, and Craft Beer Crusader!