Taste craft beer & food during Moss Rock Festival

People can enjoy local craft beer samples while also talking with the people who brewed them.

People can enjoy local craft beer samples while also talking with the people who brewed them.

Combine the crisp fall weather, scenic views, rows of artwork, dessert tastings and local craft beer, and one thing will come to mind: Local never looked — or tasted — so good.

And Hoover residents can enjoy all of these things during the 10th Moss Rock Festival Nov. 7 and Nov. 8 at The Preserve in Hoover.

One part of the festival that has continued to grow each year is the Beer Garden, which features a variety of local craft beer samples and food. There will be three sessions during the Beer Garden, which are longer than last year: 12 to 2 p.m. and 2:30 to 4 p.m. on Nov. 7 and 1 to 3 p.m. on Nov. 8.

The Beer Garden features breweries from across Alabama, and even ones from other states.

“It’s a very friendly atmosphere,” says Rob McDonald, Moss Rock Festival board member and Beer Garden co-chair. “It’s a fun, relaxed time and a family friendly event. There’s nothing you can do that’s more fun on that day of the year.”

Each participating brewery will showcase two to three brews for patrons to taste, and there will also be food samples from co-sponsors The J. Clyde and Vecchia Pizzeria & Mercado. Tickets are $25 in advance.

“If you haven’t experienced Moss Rock, you’ve got to,” says Eric Meyer, co-founder of Cahaba Brewing Company and a Hoover resident. “It’s one of the top events in Birmingham. You get to see the local artists, enjoy local craft beers and have a great day with the family.”

Everything really comes together to create a one-of-a-kind event, says Jerry Hartley, owner of The J. Clyde.

“It’s just a fabulous venue. The weather is nice, and it’s almost exclusively local flavor,” Hartley says. “It just feels like a beer garden.”

The event really showcases how much the local craft movement has grown in Hoover and surrounding cities. From June 2014 to June 2015, Birmingham saw more growth in craft beer sales than any other city in the country, according to a report from Nielsen. The city’s craft beer sales (as a percentage of total volume) changed 63.1 percent during that time, which is more than double any other city.

“If you like craft beer, Birmingham is the place to be,” McDonald says.

People can enjoy this growing beer movement, while also taking in all of the festival’s artwork and other events.

“It allows people to see the craft beer as another local arts favorite,” Meyer says. “You get to have all of those things together at one big event.”

Several of the beers are brewed just a few miles away from the event, adding to the appeal and taste.

“We’ve already strived to put out a good quality product, and we want our community to be as proud of us as are about our beer,” says like Michael Sellers, co-founder of Good People Brewing Company. “We’re excited about being a part of the Hoover event.”

There will be a variety of beers to sample, with a range of colors and flavors. When figuring out which ones to try, Sellers encourages attendees to not be intimidated by dark beers.

“The flavor might not be related to the color,” Sellers says. “Keep an open mind when sampling the beers.”

While attendees taste the beers, they can also talk with the people who brewed them, like Nick Hudson, a member of Carboy Junkies and president of Free the Hops.

“We really enjoy serving beer to people and explaining it to them,” says Hudson, a Hoover resident. “We get something back from the people to see if they like it or if there’s something maybe they don’t like about it.”

Several members of Carboy Junkies will be bringing brews to the Beer Garden. The group is a free homebrew club that has monthly meetings where they taste and give feedback on brews.

“A lot of these beers you can’t get anywhere else,” says Brianna Panos, co-owner of Vecchia. “You can sample awesome beers and great food in a beautiful setting. A lot of people haven’t had a craft beer, let alone a local craft beer.”

The event gives patrons the chance to sample a lot of different beers without having to purchase them all. “It’s a really cool experience,” Panos says. “We’re also saving a few surprises for the people who show up.”

But there’s more to the Beer Garden than local craft brews: There will also be several tasty dishes to sample.

The J. Clyde will bring a restaurant-favorite item: sauerkraut balls. They are filled with Italian sausage, cream cheese and rolled in panko crumbs before being deep-fried. “They are amazing, and you can enjoy as many as you want,” Hartley says.

Vecchia will serve items like house-made meatballs in marinara sauce, white chocolate bread pudding and crème brulee. Vecchia will also have raffle prizes, giveaways and car test-drives outside of the restaurant.

In addition to be a fun time to enjoy local brews and food, the entire festival is also a fundraiser to support environmental education.

“While we provide a great time at the Beer Garden, the main focus is to raise funds so we can teach kids how to maintain and have fun in the environment,” McDonald says.

The festival is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 7 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 8, and they plan to have TVs to show football games. Parking and shuttles will be available at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.

Tickets to the Beer Garden are $25 in advance and include a souvenir tasting glass and $10 gift certificates for The J. Clyde and Vecchia Pizzeria & Mercato. People can purchase tickets at Mossrockfestival.com, The J. Clyde and Vecchia.

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