Beer, wine, food tastings return to Kewaunee County at Lions Clubs’ Brewfest
LUXEMBURG – It's back after an enforced three-year absence — the chance to taste about 200 mostly local craft beers and wines, along with locally made food items — and the Kewaunee and Dyckesville Lions Clubs couldn't be happier.
Roar Off the Shore Brewfest, the biggest fundraiser for the two Lions Clubs that put on the event, returns for its 14th edition but the first time since 2019. It's been a popular, growing annual event taking place in late March since 2007, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused it to be canceled each of the last two years.
But with the pandemic seemingly winding down in recent weeks (knock on wood), beer and wine fans from all over are being welcomed back to Exhibition Hall at the Kewaunee County Fairgrounds next Saturday afternoon to sample the wares of 35 craft breweries, five home brewers, five wineries and eight food producers. They get to keep the sample-size tasting glass they'll use to try the beverages, too, and designated driver admissions are available as well.
And that's the appeal of the brewfest, said Jill Bernhardt, member of the Dyckesville Lions and one of the event's coordinators. It's not just being able to try all these beverages and foods, but also being able to get together with others to do so after two years of making do without most large gatherings in Kewaunee County.
"It is very exciting to be able to do it again," Bernhardt said. "It's a great social event. Not only do you get to taste all these great beers and foods and wines, you also get to socialize with friends and neighbors."
Roar Off the Shore also supports local causes and nonprofit organizations. Proceeds go to the Kewaunee and Dyckesville Lions for a variety of programs, which makes the return of the brewfest matter that much more this year.
The Dyckesville Lions have donated much of their portion of the revenues over the years for improvements to Red River County Park and its baseball field, Bernhardt noted, as well as the village's Lions Club Park and scholarships for local students. The Kewaunee club has used its proceeds to fund scholarships and support efforts such as Special Olympics and ongoing improvement projects at Bruemmer Park Zoo. Both also contribute to local efforts for the Lions' national causes of blindness, vision and diabetes care.
The proceeds raised have grown throughout the festival's first 13 years, from a couple hundred dollars in its first couple years to about $10,000 in its most recent years, so not being able to present what's been the clubs' biggest fundraiser the past two years put a dent into their donations.
Bernhardt said the dent was less severe in 2020 because the cancellation came shortly before the already-planned brewfest was to take place — the state issued its safer-at-home order March 12 of that year — and a number of sponsors allowed the clubs to keep the dollars they were planning to spend.
But that wasn't the case last year. Bernhardt said the Dyckesville club generates a good amount of proceeds from the food and concessions stand it runs at the county fair each year — the fair did take place last year after it was canceled in 2020 — but the Kewaunee club doesn't have anything close to the brewfest for a revenue generator.
"It's been a challenge," Bernhardt said. "With what we lost, we haven't been able to do (things) with the community like what we've done in the past."
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Bernhardt said COVID-19 also has made it difficult to plan this year's event. The Lions generally start their planning about a year before, but the pandemic has subsided and surged several times, including a massive surge fueled by the omicron variant that only quieted in recent weeks, which Bernhardt said caused uncertainty.
"There are a lot of unknowns," Bernhardt said. "You don't know how many people are going to come. With planning (around the changing COVID-19 numbers and protocols), it's you don't know what you have until it's here."
But Roar Off the Shore is back, with its local emphasis not just on the causes it supports but also the vendors providing the brews, wines and foods.
Kewaunee County-based brewers taking part are Ahanapee Brewing in Algoma and Thumb Knuckle Brewing Co. in Walhain, joined by Door County Brewing and One Barrel Brewing from Door County and most brewpubs from the Green Bay area. Of the 35 breweries listed on the event website, all but four are from Wisconsin. Hard ciders and sodas will be available from some vendors.
As for the wines, Cold Country Vines and Wines in Carlton and von Stiehl in Algoma will be on hand with samples, along with nearby Duck Creek Winery in Denmark, Door Peninsula Winery from Carlsville and Forgotten Fire Winery from Marinette.
Food samples will include bakery items, meats and cheeses, barbecue and more.
Bernhardt said reaction to the return of Roar Off the Shore has been positive not only from the public, with strong advance ticket sales, but from vendors as well.
"Many of the vendors are thrilled that it's happening," she said. "They just like being able to get out with people and talking to them, being able to interact with people enjoying their beverages and answering questions. It's interactive, and they seem to enjoy the camaraderie."
The 13th annual Roar Off the Shore Brewfest takes place from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 26, in Exhibition Hall at the Kewaunee County Fairgrounds, 625 Third St. Luxemburg. Tickets are $45 in advance through March 20, $50 at the door if not sold out; admission includes beer, wine and food samples and a commemorative glass. Designated driver admission is $10 and includes free soda and food samples throughout the event. All proceeds benefit programs supported by the Kewaunee and Dyckesville Lions Clubs.
Bus rides to and from the brewfest depart for the event from Ahnapee Brewing's locations in Algoma and Suamico, Port O' Call in Kewaunee and Badger State Brewing in Green Bay. All buses leave the event soon after it ends. The fee is $5 and preregistration and advance payment are required; rides are sold online only and those interested can sign up under the "Tickets" tab on the event website.
For tickets or more information, visit roarofftheshore.com or facebook.com/rotsbrewfest. Tickets also are available at all Bank of Luxemburg branch offices, Blue Water Services and Port O'Call restaurant in Kewaunee, and Van's Lumber in Dyckesville.
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Beer, wine, food tastings return to Kewaunee County at Lions Clubs' Brewfest