The Big Texas Beer Fest is Coming to Fair Park, and Sounds Like it Just Might Work

Remember when a husband-and-wife team planned a beer festival in Fair Park and everyone was all excited about it but then it got canceled and everyone, aside from a few told-ya-so-sayers, was bummed? Well, once again, a husband-and-wife team is organizing a beer festival in Fair Park.

And, with more than a year of planning and Andrews and Ben E. Keith on board as affiliate sponsors, Big Texas Beer Fest, set for Saturday, April 14, looks like it has a pretty good shot of actually happening. Chad and Nellie Montgomery have been laying the groundwork since last July after being inspired by a trip to Denver's Great American Beer Festival in September 2010. Or longer, if you consider the inroads he's made as a vocal consumer in the passionate small but growing craft-beer scene.

"Cathy and Jay [Rascoe, organizers of Dallas Beer Week and the aborted Dallas Beer Festival] are really nice and meant well, but they are in Houston and don't know all the locals," Chad says. "I know the beer nerds in the area, and they are going to help."

Promotion tactics such as flyers in like-minded stores and bars ("I buy a lot of beer," Chad notes) give it a much better chance of success. More important is having sponsorship. Yes, Andrews and Ben E. Keith will probably want to offer samples of products that, to put it gently, won't appeal to the core beer-geek audience. But if that's what it takes to ensure they aren't on the hook for multiple kegs of unsold beer that they're unable to legally resell, Chad is fine with that.

Tickets, $35 or $60 for VIP with $20 designated-driver spots also available, went on sale through the website this week. By Texas law, the fest can only sell up to 24 ounces at a time, meaning entrance comes with a tasting card entitling the bearer to a dozen 2-ounce samples. Additional tasting cards are $2; Chad wanted to make refills cheap but not turn the thing into a drunk-fest. Also, as the Montgomerys are self-vending tickets, the $35 price actually means $35: no "convenience" fees. Along with tastings, ticketholders can enjoy samples of cheese, music from The O's, a free photobooth and buy food from food trucks.

Chad expects 80 to 100 breweries to join in. Confirmed breweries so far include Stone Brewing Co., Lakewood Brewing Co. (pending TTB approval), Deep Ellum Brewing Co., Brewery Ommegang/Duvel, Boulevard Brewing, Jester King, Rahr & Sons and Maui Brewing. Additionally, Andrews has told him that Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams), Ballast Point and New Belgium have so far expressed interest in sampling. As for special and rare beers, Rahr has promised two special firkins including a festival exclusive; Jester King has likewise promised two "extra special" beers; Maui will offer its La Perouse White and, if it's ready in time, a rum-barrel-aged Black Pearl; and Ommegang will have its dark abbey-style Art of Darkness.

The event is 1 to 6 p.m. at the Automobile Building in Fair Park, with VIP entrance at noon; VIPs are also take home a customized Beer Caddy and lanyard. See the exhaustive FAQ section of the fest site for the answer to just about any question you can come up with.

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