Photo by Robin May

The AcA’s major annual fundraiser, Gulf Brew is a tasty, time-tested event.
By Dominick Cross

It’ll be beer here, there and everywhere come rain or shine when the sixth annual Gulf Brew gets to pouring Saturday, July 21, 6-9 p.m., at Parc International.

On tap, but actually served from bottles, will be more than 150 fine craft and specialty brews for the Acadiana Center for the Arts’ major fundraiser of the year. That’s 50-plus more than last year. Of course there will be music and food, as well as brewing demonstrations, a gaming area and an educational brewer’s tent.

Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 the day of the event. A designated driver (non-taster) ticket is available for $15. 

A limited number of VIP Hour tickets ($75) are available and that gets you in an hour before the doors open, special beer and food selections and access to VIP rest rooms. “So instead of being there with 3,000 of your best friends, you’re only there with about 400 of your best friends, which is a big plus because you get to try the beers first,” the AcA’s Bree Sargent says with a playful smile. Sargent, like the rest of the AcA staff, is helping coordinate the event.

New this year is the Brewer’s Tent. “A lot of people come to this event for the festival atmosphere and the beer, but a lot of people come because they are beer aficionados and they want to talk to beer people,” says Sargent. “We’ve got quite a few people coming in from around the country to talk about their beers.”

In a Gulf Brew exclusive — “because you can taste them at Gulf Brew, but you can’t buy them later,” says Sargent — home brew clubs such as Lafayette’s Dead Yeast Society and Mystic Brew of New Orleans will have samples of their work. Under the big tent, in the education center, the home brewers will demonstrate how to make a home brew, and that beer will be served at next year’s event.

With all eyes on the weather lately, it should be noted that the festive event is held in air conditioned tents. If you recall, it rained last year.

“It started raining about half an hour before the end, which actually worked out because people started leaving and we didn’t have to kick them out,” says Sargent. “So we do it no matter what. The whole thing is tented. It’s one big, giant, air-conditioned tent. You can get out of the rain. It’s not a big deal.”

All of the local and regional breweries will be on hand, including Parish, Bayou Teche, Abita, Covington Brewhouse and others.

Volunteers, some 350, pour two to three ounces of beer from bottles into 3.5-ounce plastic cups. The bottles and the cups will be recycled behind the efforts of the Green Room and the Recycling Foundation.

The event is not just for the beer aficionados, beer amateurs and the just plain beer lovers, but for the breweries themselves. La. 31 got its start at Gulf Brew and Lazy Magnolia, a Mississippi brewery that rebuilt after Katrina, got its second wind at the fundraiser. “We’ve actually had several success stories from people like that,” says Sargent. “They met their distributors at Gulf Brew.”

Of course, the beer lover can expand his or her taste at the event. “You can come here and try a little bit of everything,” says Sargent. “You might not always want to buy a six-pack of something you might not be interested in, but here you can taste it.”
As in previous years, a brew book will be available, but this year’s book will include a blank area for you to make your own notes because your memory may not be as sharp after 150 tastes. And speaking of beer drinking, Lafayette cabs and a towing service will be on hand if need be for a free ride and/or tow.

Gulf Brew, no matter how you slice it, is “our biggest fundraiser of the year,” says Sargent. “It’s a really good time, but it’s not just for fun or for beer, it actually supports everything we do here at the AcA.”

Proceeds support programming that begins in September because “you can’t sell enough tickets in our little theater to cover the costs of some of the shows we bring in,” she says, as well as for outreach programs such as Art in Education. “We have a lot of community development and outreach throughout Acadiana.”

Music will be provided by a deejay, Brother Dege Legg, The Rayo Brothers and Corey Ledet. Three venders – food trucks Viva La Waffle and Freetown Fries along with Deano’s Pizza – will be selling food. Soft drinks and lighter domestic beers will be available, too.

And don’t worry, there will be plenty of portable rest rooms.

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