Live music, unlimited beer and food drew in more than 2,500 people to the ninth annual SLO Beer Craft Festival at the Alex Madonna Expo Center on Feb. 22 and 23.

More than 50 businesses showcased their beer and food. The fest included a wide variety of both new and veteran businesses. Libertine Brewing Co., for example, has attended for three years. Jen Jacobsen of Libertine said she loves the event’s emphasis on local breweries.

“Our company strives to do local events all the time. We are a part of wine and beer programs with everyone in this area. So that’s the biggest thing I think, to get everyone to shop local.”

Head organizer Mike Gasbarra said he has noticed people have higher expectations for their craft beer and food than they seemed to have in the past.

I think that interest in craft beer has definitely increased over the years. People expect more from their food and drinks than in the past. They care about where they’re made, how they’re made, and that they’re fresh and flavorful,” Gasbarra wrote in an email to Mustang News.

Bang the Drum, BarrelHouse Brewing SLO, Firestone Walker Brewing Company, SLO Brew and Central Coast Brewing company were only a small selection of the distilleries at the Expo. Restaurants Fatte’s Pizza, Woodstock’s Pizza, Just Baked, Sweet Zulu and the Greasy Wiener provided unlimited sliders, pizza slices, sausages and cupcakes.

The event attracted a wide range of age groups. Many Cal Poly students spent the weekend at the festival. Kinesiology senior Chelsea Barry said she appreciated the event’s affordability.

“I think that the SLO Craft Beer Fest is a great opportunity for young adults and also older populations to come here and have beer and food that’s unlimited at a reasonable price all at one location. It’s a really fun atmosphere,” Barry said.

Gasbarra wrote that this year the festival added a large tented area outside of the Expo to offer an alternative area to hang out. He wrote that the new tent addition was well received and that he was very satisfied with the festival’s outcome this year.

I think people had a great time and maybe learned a couple of new things about craft beer. That’s what we hope for each year. It didn’t hurt that the weather was perfect!” Gasbarra wrote. “In the future we hope to continue to offer people a chance to learn a little more about craft beer in an interactive way.”

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