If your desire to sample great beer didn’t take you north of the Comox Valley this week, don’t worry.
The North Island Craft Beer Festival is coming back.
The organizers of the first NICBF, held Saturday at the Campbell River Community Centre found out just what the interest level was from the community when it sold out in 40 minutes back in September.
Kyle and Sarah Leigh, Campbell River teachers, had the idea as they were traveling around the western U.S. and Canada during their past few summers off work, enjoying local brews along the way and seeing how the craft beer culture was exploding in a positive way everywhere they went.
They wanted to celebrate and show off Campbell River, as well as give back to the community, so what better way than to invite a bunch of brewers and beer lovers to town for a festival and have the proceeds go to the Campbell River Community Foundation?
For the first ever NICBF, they wanted to start out small and simple: a few hours of mingling in the gym of the Community Centre, with a few Island-based breweries handing out some samples. It quickly became much more than that as the momentum built during planning sessions and breweries started hopping on board.
“It kind of exploded over and above what the idea was,” Sarah says. “It was only going to be one afternoon and maybe eventually turn into a weekend thing, but it turned out to be a weekend thing this year, too, with the Brewmaster’s Dinner at Session and the After Party at Beachfire and all the other fun we had.”
In fact, they admit that because they were being so conservative in their planning, wanting to keep it from getting out of hand on their first crack at it, they probably could have had more tickets available.
“I think we’ll make it a little bigger next year, but not a lot,” Sarah says. “We got a lot of comments from people who had been to beer festivals before that they really liked that they didn’t have to stand in lines all afternoon, but it’s a big gym and we didn’t know until we were actually setting it up on Saturday morning how much extra space there would be.”
“The brewers were telling us there could have easily been 50 or 100 more people in there without everyone being elbow to elbow and held up in line-ups,” Kyle agrees. “So next year there will definitely be more tickets available.”
That’s right. Last weekend’s event was officially the first annual NICBF. And they’re excited to get down to planning for the second annual event – once they get some sleep.
“It was a lot of work, for sure, but a lot of that is because it was the first one,” Sarah says. “A lot of the work we did this past year we don’t have to do now. Now we can focus on the little tweaks rather than spending so much time picking out the little glasses we’re going to use or finding cutlery that was the right size. I haven’t spent as much time thinking about plastic spoons in my entire life as I did in the last few months.”
But for now, they have to get down to accounting and figure out how much money they get to give to the Community Foundation, which is what they are most proud of accomplishing.
“The community was so generous in what they donated for auction at the event and people were paying more than things were actually worth because they knew it was for a good cause, which was amazing to see,” Kyle says.
“The coat-check was ‘by donation’ and there were 20s and 50s in there,” Sarah says. “It was unbelievable.”
While they don’t yet know exactly how large the cheque will be that they present to the Community Foundation, they know it will be for more than they were hoping.
“We were aiming for $5,000 and we think it’ll be somewhere around three times that,” Kyle says, “so it will have been totally worth all the time we put in. I liken it to making Christmas dinner. You spend all day making it and it only takes a half hour to eat, but it’s all worth it. I’m excited to write that cheque.”