The air is crisp and the leaves are slowly turning, so it must be time for the Kennett Brewfest once again.
Now in its twelfth year the Brewfest, held Oct. 10 at the Genesis Building on South Street in Kennett Square, attracts thousands of visitors for an afternoon filled with live music, good food and some of the country's best brews.
And with just three weeks to go until the kegs are tapped, there are fewer than 300 tickets left for the event that stands as Historic Kennett Square's main fundraiser each year.
After reducing the number of tickets last year and expanding the area, Executive Director Jeff Norman said that the event has hit stride as far as attendance.
"Sales have been much more consistent than last year," Norman said, adding that last year marked the first time they had sold out before the day of the event.
This year however marks the first time the festival has had to purchase the beer outright instead of the breweries donating their goods, something that Norman expects will definitely have an effect on the bottom line.
Norman said the organizers tried to mitigate that cost primarily by limiting their marketing. Ticket prices saw only a slight increase above last year's cost.
"We're actually using Facebook as a marketing tool and that's worked out well," he said. "We have 300 to 400 friends and people are quick to comment when a posting is made."
Norman also tweaked the already sold out Connoisseur's Tasting by creating what he called the Con-o-Session tasting.
Instead of having the brewers bring their heavy hitters with a high ABV, Norman asked them to bring session beers - brews that weigh in at a lower ABV (usually 4.5 or lower) that are meant to be enjoyed for their flavor.
For the second year in a row, the event kicks off with a special fund raising dinner the night before. Calling it "An Enchanted Evening," the $150 per ticket event features a surf and turf buffet dinner from Talulah's Table, live music from the Sin City Band, and of course plenty of beer.
Beers from Dogfish Head, Twin Lakes and Victory Brewing are served beside a selection of wines from Flickerwood and others courtesy of Frank's Union Wine Mart. The event, held at Genesis Healthcare in downtown Kennett Square, also features a silent auction with items as varied as stays at local bed and breakfasts to a lunch with State Rep. Chris Ross.
Even with the few changes, Historic Kennett Square director Mary Hutchins said that they haven't altered the formula significantly because people are looking for the same fun time they've had in previous years.
"I think people have come to depend on having a good time, they like that it hasn't changed," she said. "They know what they're coming to, they know what to expect and we're able to deliver a good time for the community."
Finding a wide and eclectic sampling of brewers, Norman said, is also what sets the festival apart from other similar events.
"The beer aficinado will have plenty to be happy about," Norman said.
Norman and Hutchins both said that the festival could not happen without the support of the volunteers - over 75 each year - and the community at large, including Genesis Healthcare who donates the space for the event at their South Street location.
"Genesis has been very supportive," Hutchins said. "Having the space donated is a major bonus."
Returning for entertainment is the Sin City group and Carl Filipiak, along with an assortment of local and regional vendors and eateries.
And let's not forget the beer.
So far, 52 breweries have signed on, with several making their first appearance this year.
Although Norman said that certain brewers do contact him about attending, there's also plenty of legwork attached to finding them.
"Most of them have heard great things about the event and they want o be a part of it," he said.
Below, find a brief sampling of the dozens of breweries attending this year's festival, and some of the tempting brews they will offer.
To order tickets to the Brewfest or to the Enchanted Evening event, please visit www.kennettbrewfest.com or call 610-444-8188.
McKenzie's Brewhouse, located in Chadds Ford Township, is returning for its fourth year in a row, and they're bringing a select session beer exclusively for the sold-out connoisseur tasting.
Brewmaster Ryan Michaels is serving the Gringalet French lager, a seasonal dark lager with an ABV of 4.5 percent, a common trait of session beers that are meant for tasting and not getting pounded.
As for the festival proper, Michaels still isn't certain. It's likely he'll bring the Saison Belgian, a farmhouse golden ale ABV 7 percent, which he said was a popular favorite at last year's event. Other than that, he's still debating what will accompany it.
"For us, it's always about making an impression," Michaels said. "A lot of people like to bring their flagship brews, but we tend to look for something a little different. We like to stand out."
Having been at the last four Kennett Brewfests, Michaels said the event is one of his favorites.
"There's usually good weather and it's a good time to be outside," he said. "And we meet a lot of people who are enthusiastic about the beer. It doesn't turn into a drunk fest."
This marks the first appearance at the Brewfest for Spring House Brewing in Conestoga, but from the descriptions of the brews owner Matthew Keasey is bringing, they're likely to become fast favorites.
Keasey is serving his flagship brew, the Seven Gates Pale Ale. Described as an American-style pale ale, the Seven Gates is brewed with three kinds of hops - cascade, centennial and Willamette - and cashes in at 5.6 ABV.
After that, Keasey isn't sure what he'll bring - either his Beyond the Gates double IPA, a heavier brew that stands at 8 ABV, or the Smoked Porter, a robust darker beer that's over 8 percent ABV. For the porter, Keasey has the grain smoked at a local smokehouse over apple wood and hickory that he said really opens up when you taste the beer.
"You can definitely taste the smokiness," he said.
It's also Year One for the Philadelphia Brewing Co. at the Brewfest, and owner Nancy Barton is glad to be a part of the charitable event.
"We pick and choose because there's so many around, but this one stood out to us," she said.
For their first foray into Kennett, Barton said she is bringing the Joe Coffee Porter, made with Fonseca organic fair trade coffee.
Barton describes the porter as a "roasty, robust coffee porter" that weighs in at 5.5 percent ABV.
"We brought it back this year and bottled it, and it's been popular ever since," she said.
She is also serving their Kenzinger Pilsner malt, which Barton said lies somewhere between a kolsch and a pilsner.
"It's light and crisp and has a really good hop," she said. "It's easy to drink but has a lot of good flavor."
The German-style ale clocks in at 4.3 percent ABV.
Triumph Brewmaster Brendan Anderson said that the Kennett Brewfest is one of his all-time favorite events to attend.
"They have some of the best bands and food vendors," Anderson said. "And the overall vibe is more upbeat. Plus the staff and the organizers are so friendly and accommodating."
Anderson is serving the Kinder Pilsner, a very light bodied German pilsner, for both the Connoisseur's Tasting and the festival proper. He's also serving the Bengal Gold IPA an American-style IPA brewed with cascade, centennial and Amarillo hops that weighs in at a hearty 6.6 ABV.
"It follows suit with everything else you'll find out there in an IPA," Anderson said.
Anderson is uncertain about his third election, but he said he is leaning towards the Raspberry Wheat Ale, another American-style ale brewed with fresh raspberries that comes in a 5.5 percent ABV.