Brew haha

Brew Ha-Ha is not just a festival but also a fundraiser. The money supports the Phoenix Theatre and will go to everything from plays to free town halls. (Photo provided)

Interested in trying craft beers, but afraid you’ll be overwhelmed by the variety of pale ales, stouts, lagers and porters and end up spending a fortune on a beer you don’t like? Avoid that problem by going to Brew Ha-Ha Aug. 3.

Brew Ha-Ha, the Phoenix Theatre’s annual fundraiser, is a festival offering food, comedy and the opportunity to sample beers from across Indiana. Proceeds support the Phoenix Theatre, allowing the theater to offer its free and discounted programing. 

“We have a town hall discussion series that we get great support for, but those are free for people,” Tom Robertson, development associate at the Phoenix Theatre, said. “There’s just a lot of different programs that we are able to offer for free or a very low cost thanks to our fundraising events like Brew Ha-Ha.”

The first Brew Ha-Ha in 1996 was a neighborhood-sized event with around a dozen brewers. Since then the festival has grown to more than 40 brewers. Organizers expect about 2,000 attendees. To accommodate the growth, this year’s event will be in a new location: the Old Washington Street Bridge. Organizers believe the venue will accommodate the number of attendees while preserving Brew Ha-Ha’s down to earth neighborhood vibe.

“My goal wasn’t to make it massive,” Iris Dillon, events manager for the Phoenix Theatre, said. “It was still to continue to make it an intimate affair but create a new energy.” 

Each ticket includes a five-ounce cup attendees can fill with beer from any of the participating breweries. Craft beer experts can seek out new beers while newbies can sample many kinds without becoming overwhelmed. 

“Beer festivals are the best opportunities to experience craft beer if you’ve never done it because you have the opportunity to taste hundreds of beers,” Dillon said. “If you don’t like them, then you toss it. It’s that simple. … You can go to one brewery and try a stout and realize ‘I don’t like stouts, but let me go over here and taste the sour.’ You can taste the masses.”

To get the most out of the experience, Dillon recommends taking the time talk with the brewers. Not only can they offer recommendations based on individual tastes, but they add a personal touch to the experience. By talking with brewers both new and old fans of craft beer can learn about the process and what makes every drink unique.

“Approach us and ask questions about the beer,” said Jonathon Mullen, a brewer at Broad Ripple Brew Pub, a vendor at Brew Ha-Ha. “Ask questions about the brewery. If you want to get personal with the brewer, ask them about where they come from. How did they get to where they are? We all have stories to tell.”


Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.

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