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Drinking in community spirit at Craft Beer and Wine Fest in downtown Vancouver, Washington

July 31, 2022 Updated Sun., July 31, 2022 at 9:05 p.m.

By Shari Phiel Columbian

VANCOUVER, Wash. – Thousands of area residents found the perfect way to beat the heat Saturday. Rather than hiding inside in the air conditioning, many headed to Esther Short Park for the annual Craft Beer and Wine Fest.

This is the ninth year for the festival, which is usually held in June but was moved to July to accommodate the different groups needing to use the park.

Rusty Hoyle started the festival as a way to showcase the products and services offered by local small businesses.

Hoyle said there were 60 craft brews on tap from 20 to 25 breweries, 20 wineries offering 100 craft wines, 30 craft vendors and six food vendors as well as four distilleries, live music, a video arcade, cornhole games and misting stations to keep everyone cool throughout the park.

As for the types of crafts, Hoyle said, “It’s all local handmade items, mostly women-owned or veteran-owned, or both.”

Having a focus on locally owned businesses and locally produced products is important to Hoyle.

“We use all local small business. We’re all about local. It’s really small business helping small business,” he said. “All of our wines are from Washington state. All of our beers are from the Pacific Northwest. All of our vendors are local. We source everything local that we can.”

Having a place to show off her leatherworking skills is equally important to Katie’s Mermaid Leather owner Katie Califf.

Califf uses a combination of leather stamping and iridescent dyes to create colorful, shiny leather belts that look like they were made from a mermaid’s tale.

“This has always been one of my favorite festivals,” Califf said.

She said Hoyle pays attention to all the vendors, no matter how big or small, and works to make sure everyone has what they need to succeed. This was her second year at the Craft Beer and Wine Fest and she’s planning to be back next year.

Over in Wine Country, you’ll find names like Burntbridge, Pomeroy, Emanar, Rezabek and Bateaux. All are wine cellars and all are from Washington, and several from Clark County.

Burntbridge, based in Vancouver, creat es its white and red wines from grapes sourced from many vineyards in Eastern Washington.

Mike Kobis, whose official title is cellar rat, said they came to the festival to support the community.

Volunteer Christine Hammer said tastings of their chardonnay and four varieties of red wine were going quickly.

“Anyone enjoying the tastings today we also have a complimentary tasting ticket they can take and enjoy another flight at our tasting room,” Hammer said (a flight is a selection of wines presented for tasting).

Vancouver resident Hannah Tullar said she came to enjoy the wine and live music despite the thermometer coming close to 100 degrees.

“I found a strawberry wine that was really good,” she said. The wine, produced by Matranga Vineyard in Woodland, turned out to be a big hit with many on Saturday.

For Ryan Chiodo, also of Vancouver, finally getting to spend some time outside around other people was a welcome change of pace.

“It’s nice to be back from lockdown,” Chiodo said. “Despite it being 101 degrees later, the weather is nice now. Everything says ‘Welcome back’ which is nice to see.”

Beer and wine weren’t the only spirits available at the festival. Yakima-based distillery Distillarium brought its craft brandy, bourbon, vodka and whiskeys to sample. Distillarium owner Kenny Miller, who originally comes from Texas, said he moved his business to Washington because of great selection of grapes, which is used in its brandy, moonshine and vodka. The state’s varieties of corn, rye, triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye) and barley provide the grain base for its whiskeys.

Much like wine, Miller said that “you have to age the products” in barrels, which takes several years. For example, their brandy is aged for four years while rye whiskey and triticale whiskey is aged for three years.

Glenn and Sarah Allen, of Vancouver, stopped by Miller’s booth and gave the triticale whiskey a try.

“That was really good,” Sarah Allen said. “Really enjoyable.”

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