Pour me a cold one! Gray Matter Marketing, a Newport-based event management firm, will host the inaugural Rhode Island Brew Fest on February 2. The event will be held at the historic Pawtucket Armory, and guests will have the chance to sample craft brews from 30 breweries. We talked with Matt Gray, president of Gray Matter Marketing, about the upcoming Fest.
Kim Kalunian: Since this is the inaugural event, perhaps you can tell people exactly what the Rhode Island Brew Fest is.
Matt Gray: The R.I. Brew Fest is a celebration of American craft beer focusing on Rhode Island's own breweries. The event will feature 30 breweries, including 10 from R.I.
KK: Where did the idea for the Brew Fest come from and what was the process for making this idea a reality?
MG: Gray Matter Marketing is a full service marketing and event management consulting firm based in Newport. In addition to the R.I. Brew Fest we also own the Cape Cod Brew Festival and manage the Citizens Bank Pell Bridge Run among other events. The keys to making this event a success have been securing the support of our local breweries and distributors as well as selecting the proper venue.
KK: Tell me more about the vendors. How were they chosen? What types of beer can people expect to try?
MG: The brewery vendors are mix of new and established R.I. breweries and brew pubs as well as some small and large scale microbreweries from around the country. We will have R.I.'s newest breweries including Foolproof of Pawtucket, The Bucket of Pawtucket, Ravenous of Woonsocket and Whaler's Brewing Company from Wakefield. In addition there will be several larger breweries including Long Trail, Lagunitas, Brooklyn Brewery and Sixpoint. Most breweries will bring their flagship brands as well as some winter seasonal selections for an average of 4 styles per brewery.
KK: Is this event just for the beer connoisseur, or can anyone have a good time?
MG: We are marketing this as an event for beer fans. We hope to appeal to aficionados as well as people that are just beginning to explore the world of craft beer. The variety of brewers along with our local food vendors and live music should appeal to anyone looking for a fun and different experience. Our price point is comparable to going out for dinner and drinks on an average Saturday night and we feel that the unique nature of our event will be a nice alternative.
KK: What else will be at Brew Fest besides beer?
MG: We will host a variety of local food vendors that will be sampling and selling product. We are excited to host two local music acts in King Friday and The Mighty Good Boys. They will be splitting time during each session [there are two sessions: one from 1 to 4 p.m. and another from 5 to 8 p.m.]. With quality live music, food and beverages to sample from our attendees should have a great experience.
KK: You're having the Brew Fest at the Pawtucket Armory -- a hidden gem, in my humble opinion -- why did you choose this venue?
MG: We spent several weeks touring various facilities around the state and could not find a venue with the right atmosphere for this event. At the suggestion of a friend we decided to visit the Armory. We were unaware of the renovations the new owners had undertaken. When we walked in the door and met with their staff we instantly knew we had found our home. It will be the perfect place to host this event, hopefully for years to come.
KK: How much are tickets and what do you get with the price of admission?
MG: We have three types tickets available, Designated Driver, General Admission and a VIP pass. All attendees receive a custom event pint glass, goodie bag, sampling from local food vendors and entertainment from King Friday and The Mighty Good Boys. GA tickets are $45 and attendees have unlimited sampling opportunities from over 100 styles of beer. VIP's pay $75 and receive complimentary food, an event T-shirt and an opportunity to sample additional specialty/reserve beers from some of our brewers. There are only 25 VIP ticket remaining.
KK: Do you expect this event to attract people from out of state? Could it potentially benefit the surrounding areas economically?
MG: With over 25% of our tickets sold already, we can guarantee this event will draw significantly from across the Northeast. Craft beer fans from New Jersey to Maine have signed up. We think the draw for these folks is the ability to sample beers from breweries here in R.I. that they cannot get in their states yet. Our hotel partner is the Comfort Inn of Pawtucket which is in walking distance to the Armory. Our room block is quickly filling up. While local shops, bars and restaurants should benefit from out of state attendees we think the R.I. based breweries will see the most economic impact as this event will generate new, loyal fans that will support them for years to come.
KK: Let's look into the future: where do you see Brew Fest going in a year, five or ten?
MG: Taking the lead from our beloved New England Patriots, we are taking this one event at a time! The craft beer market is very strong right now and R.I. is certain to see even more breweries and brew pubs enter the market in the next year. Who knows where this segment of the beer industry will be in 5-10 years, but as long as people are interested in an opportunity to sample amazing American made microbrews we hope to offer them that opportunity.
KK: Anything else we should know?
MG: We need to thank Narragansett Brewery for supporting our inaugural event as the Presenting Sponsor. Without their support we would not be able to produce this event.
For more information on the inaugural Rhode Island Brew Fest, or to purchase tickets, visit www.ribrewfest.com.
An award-winning journalist and theater critic - and a performer at heart. Kim's talents have taken her from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in NY, to stages in Boston and Providence's own Trinity Repertory.