Introducing the "Five Beer Five K" event
Adding to the ever-growing list of annual Hot Springs events is the Hot Springs Craft Beer Festival, which is ready to start the beer flowing for a third time on May 21 at Hot Springs Convention Center.
Attendance was “up quite a bit” last year with about 1,200 people attending, said Rob Pratt, event coordinator and Beer Baron, and the number of beer exhibitors is expanding each year, as well. The first event in 2014 was to have been held at Hill Wheatley Plaza, but the weather forecast called for “tornadoes, tsunamis, hurricanes,” Pratt said, laughing.
The very accommodating convention center staff jumped in and they were quickly able to move the event there and “it proved itself to be the place to be.” The doom and gloom weather forecasters were found to be crying wolf with weather sunny and in the 90s, but Pratt said everyone was comfortable in the air conditioning at the center. “It worked out so well we decided to just keep it there.”
With about 50 vendors the first year, 85 last year and 93 beer vendors lined up this year, “It just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” Pratt said. The festival is a fundraising event organized and presented by Arkansas Event Management, with profits going to support cultural and community activities in Hot Springs.
The vendors come from all over Arkansas and the United States, and even other countries. “We tried to get as many as we could from Arkansas. We tried to entice them, but there were some who just felt this wasn’t their market,” Pratt said, noting they have exhibitors coming “from New York to California to Florida” and everywhere in between.
Locally, they will have Superior Bathhouse Brewery of Hot Springs and Bubba’s Brew Sports Pub and Grill from Bonnerdale, as well as vendors from Little Rock, Fayetteville, Springdale, North Little Rock, Rogers and Cabot. Other vendors are coming from New Mexico, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Colorado, Missouri, Oregon, Indiana, Chicago, Michigan, Milwaukee, Tennessee, Boston, New Hampshire, Vermont and even from Sweden and Austria.
As for criteria for participating, Pratt said craft beer is “kind of an open definition, but basically nothing mainstream or mass produced or overly commercial.” He noted they also have some non-beer vendors offering specialties such as fermented tea, artisan cheeses, gourmet chocolate and fine cigars.
The event also features several food vendors. “We will have all kinds of food,” he said. “People don’t go there for the food, but they enjoy the food they find.” He said they encourage the participants to eat and will have six or seven water stations as well. “We just want people to have a good time.”
Food vendors include Buffalo Wild Wings, Copper Penny, Fat Jack’s, Firehouse Subs, Longhorn Steakhouse, Newk’s Eatery, Silks Bar and Grill at Oaklawn, and Vina Morita.
This year, organizers also “got a wild hair” and decided to add a preliminary event the evening before. The inaugural “Five Beer Five K” will begin at 6 p.m. May 20 with runners gathering at the Hot Springs Artisans and Farmers Market. “You run a K, have a beer, run a K, have a beer, run a … well, you get the point,” Pratt said. The runners will proceed north on Central Avenue, with the course taking them to the Copper Penny, where they will have a beer. Other stops include Vina Morita and Fat Jack’s before returning to farmers market.
“When you enter you get to join a fun-loving group as they run up historic Central Avenue in beautiful Hot Springs, taste some wonderful local craft beer while you’re doing it, and join everybody for a post race party with live music and, yes, beer,” Pratt said, noting runners, who pay $40 to enter, will receive a 5B5K T-shirt and tickets to the next day’s festival. Pratt said he expects to have “well over 100 runners” and that spectators who don’t want to run are welcome to come to Farmers Market to enjoy the festivities.
Pratt said the beer festival “offers a lot of camaraderie and friendship and fun for beer lovers,” stressing that “people don’t drink to get drunk here. They like
it. They talk about. People discover there is more to beer than what they’ve been raised on. There are a wide variety of flavors and styles. This gives you a chance to learn more about beer. A broad spectrum of things.”
He said when they held the first one he expected mainly 30- to 45-year old “Yuppie” types, but “it’s been the whole range. People from 21 years old to 71 years old. We get a lot from the Village, Fayetteville, coming up from El Dorado. These are more beer snobs or beer geeks. They’re not the drink-a-20-pack-of-beer-on-the-way-home crowd.”
He said he felt the event was good for Hot Springs, bringing in a lot of people who stay from Friday through Sunday, filling up the local motels and hotels.
Tickets are $30 in advance or $35 at the door with VIP passes for $55. General admission is 6 to 9 p.m. with VIP pass holders allowed in at 5 p.m. For tickets, visit https://tickets.beerfests.com/event/hot-springs-craft-beer-fest.