Got the Blues? Get Some Brews to Wash Them Down
By Scott Shurtleff
Just because the Lowell Folk Festival is over, it doesn’t mean the fun is done.
Another festival -- the Blues N’ Brews -- is coming to JFK Plaza this year.
The annual music fete, normally held in at Nashoba Ski Area in Westford -- has changed venues, moving from the soul of the woods to the heart of the city.
But there is more than great music on tap. The event, to be held Saturday, Aug. 11, rain or shine, will have 50 craft brews on hand, or in hand, for sampling or purchasing, which will surely get your appetite whetted for the bountiful feast of barbecue and burgers.
Sponsored and staged by the Westford Rotary Club, the annual event always raises money for local nonprofit organizations. This year’s beneficiaries are Merrimack Valley Food Bank, Ironstone Farm’s Challenge Unlimited and Lowell House. Good music, good beer and a good cause -- three bangs for the buck.
This is the 17th annual event, which has raised more than $500,000 for local charities, and the first one to be limited to a single day.
Westford Rotary President William Barnett said, “Losing the second day won’t affect revenue much. Most people only attend the first day anyway.”
“We moved the event to Lowell this year to reduce costs,” added Penny Hamel, festival chairperson. “We give 100 percent of the proceeds back to charity.”
Two Lowell-based brew-masters will be among the 28 crafters who will promote their wares to the legal-aged majority of the more than 2,000 expected visitors. The samplings will include traditional and exotic flavors of ales, ciders, lagers, meads, porters and stouts.
Adam Pearson is a local brewer who is returning for his fourth B&B Fest this year. The Lowell-based Merrimack Ales is one of more than two dozen craft-brew vendors that will participate.
“It gives us great exposure,” Pearson said. “And it should be especially great this year because of the accessible venue. But mostly because it’s all in one day this year.”
In the past, some vendors were pushed to the scarcely attended Sunday afternoon slate.
“But this puts us all on an even playing field,” Pearson said of the downtown Lowell venue. “It is important to promote brand recognition.
“Anything that happens in Lowell, we want to part of it,” he added, “to continue cementing our relationship with the community.”
One hard-core and dedicated fan of the event is Lowell’s CJ Vinal, who has been to the last six Blues N’ Brews. She credits the fresh mix of talent as her reason for returning to the event every year.
“Plus all the great brew,” she added. “I think it’s great that it has moved to downtown. That will bring out more people who can walk to the show or take the train in from out of town. It’s more accessible.
“The acts are awesome,” she added. “It’s usually a mix of familiar names along with newcomers. And the lineup changes every year so it keeps things fresh.
“It makes sense to have it in Lowell because it is becoming the cultural hub for the region,” Vinal said.
And while the blues please the ear buds, the brews will please the taste buds.