‘Craftoberfest’ coming to the region

The alternative Oktoberfest will celebrate the community and offer German and local craft beer

Graphic by Shannon Millar
Graphic by Shannon Millar

Those who love craft beer, those who want to try craft beer and those who want to get a better sense of the local culture can attend one of the many events being offered by the region’s first Craftoberfest.

Imbibe Food and Drinks and the Kitchener-Waterloo Craft Beer Club have been working to plan Craftoberfest, inviting local businesses to host a variety of events from Sept. 27 to Oct. 18 that showcase local craft beer and other specialties.

Bill MacTavish, owner of Imbibe, explained that the restaurant had a small craft beer festival last year to celebrate their first birthday. Because it was around the same time as Oktoberfest, he said many people suggested he do something with the festival in the future.

Originally, the idea was to brand their second birthday party as Craftoberfest. At the same time, MacTavish’s friend Ryan Ward, the founder of the KWCBC, was planning a similar event that would feature German beers from local breweries and would also be called Craftoberfest.

“I think one day we just started talking about it and realized we were doing the same thing on the same day and realized it made sense to join forces and use all our contacts to do as much good as we can,” explained MacTavish.

“And then it became something bigger.”

After they began planning Craftoberfest together the event started to blow up with more local businesses wanting to get involved.

Ward explained that they felt there was a need for a festival centered around craft beer in the region because Oktoberfest is largely a family-oriented event. They’re trying to cater more to those who want to get a taste for German beers and other craft beers that are available in the area.

“I think what we want people to get out of it is to try and make it into the craft version of Oktoberfest, where we bring all the local German heritage back to Kitchener,” explained Ward.

He continued that they are trying to bring things back to the roots of Oktoberfest, which is about drinking beer and getting to know the local community.

It’s not just breweries that are getting involved, either. Games on Tap, a local board games café, is putting on some events along with Ambrosia Pastry co., known for their craft chocolate.

One of the events being held is called Back to the Future — a bus tour to breweries in the region. Participants will be able to have a pint at Brick Brewery, one of the last chances people will have to enjoy a drink before the building closes. MacTavish estimated that they have between 20 and 45 businesses involved in the events.

“All the feedback that we’ve gotten so far, everyone seems to be super on board,” MacTavish said.

He continued that they don’t have any real goals in terms of turnout.

“It grew so big so quickly that … if we get two or three thousand people that come out to our events that’s way bigger than the hundred that we had hoped initially,” he said.

With just over a week before their launch, MacTavish said they are working to pull things together.

“It seems like the community got involved very quickly and we’re super appreciative of that. It also confirms what we thought — that people want something in addition to what Oktoberfest is already doing.”

The launch on the 27th is being held at Imbibe and THEMUSEUM at 7 p.m. Tickets for the opening are almost sold out, sitting at around 300 people.

“The biggest thing is getting everyone together,” said MacTavish. “We’re all likeminded and we’re all striving for the same thing. We just want to make Kitchener-Waterloo better. If we can include beer in that, then why not.”

Next year, they are hoping to get even more breweries and restaurants involved.

“This community of craft beer we’ve got now, it’s expanding rapidly,” Ward said.

“It would be great if we could showcase it for a couple of weeks each year.”

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