Beer. It’s one of the oldest beverages humans have produced, dating back to the fifth millennium BC. Until recently, brewing giants ruled the roost, with images of bikini-clad women, “real” American heroes and ribbit-ing frogs. With the rise of the craft brewery, the art has returned to beer. Eight years ago, there were fewer than 1,500 breweries nationwide. Recently, that number has grown to over 4,000.
Homebrewing is also becoming a hobby for many. Steven Parks founded Shade Tree Beer Brewers of Cenla, one of 18 home brew clubs recognized by the American Homebrewer’s Association. Parks began after catching the brewing bug from a friend. “The equipment was simple. One pot on a stove, a plastic bucket with a lid and a water filled air-lock, a beer extract kit from the local homebrew supply shop, some yeast and we were in business! A few weeks later, I was hooked.”
Craft beer festivals are on the rise as well. Funktoberfest will be the first in this area, an outdoor festival this October 24th with craft beer tastings and a home brewing competition, along with New Orleans headliner bands and children’s activities. Steven was pulled in from the onset of the planning period to ensure that the event was authentic and true to the spirit of the homebrewer’s movement. “You are going to see homebrewing at its finest,” said Steven. “I’m a certified beer judge, and I judge beer all over the state. I’ve judged most of Funktoberfest’s contestants previously, and all I can say is I promise you won’t be disappointed.”
The festival, held on the greenspace beside Spirits Food and Friends in Alexandria, aligns with the mission of Spirits to bring great beer and great live music to the area. Lee Gwinn, owner of Spirits, says, “When we moved to our new location we doubled our offerings to over 50 craft beers available in bottles and on tap and always feature at least 10 to 12 seasonals.”
Another surprise of the festival will be an inaugural Funktoberfest beer “Kindred Spirits Funktabulous 2IPA” that Lee and Steven collaborated on in Steven’s homebrew garage operation. It is a Double IPA in style with IBU’s in the 50 range and an ABV of 8.5%, with an original blend of hops utilizing some that aren’t available in the marketplace yet.
Some of the breweries that will be offering free samples will be: Broken Wheel Brewery, Goose Island, Bayou Teche, Southern Tier, Tin Roof, St. Arnold, New Belgium, Flying Heart, Covington Brewhouse and Red River Brewing. Designated Driver tickets are $10.00, General Admission is $20.00 and VIP tickets are $35.00. A few tables are still available at $400 each. The event will benefit Tipitina’s Instruments A Comin Program.