Macon beer festival sells out for a good cause

wcrenshaw@macon.comAugust 24, 2013 

People don’t always need a good reason to drink beer, but when they do, they can go to the Macon Beer Festival.

The festival, in its third year, aims to use something most men love to encourage them to do something most men hate, which is getting a prostate exam.

The 1,000 tickets available for the event held downtown Saturday sold out the day before, even though the number of tickets doubled from the previous year. The proceeds go to Pints for Prostates, which uses the funds for screenings and education, said Bill Beaudin, who works with Pints for Prostates in Georgia and is director of the Georgia Prostate Cancer Coalition.

He said Georgia ranks fourth in prostate cancer deaths per capita in the nation, and the key to changing that is early detection.

During the festival, the Coliseum Cancer Center provided free blood tests that detect antigen levels associated with prostate cancer. Those with a suspicious level are notified by mail to get further examination.

A blood test is what led Steve Bell to discover three years ago that had prostate cancer. Because it was detected early, he said, he was successfully treated and is now cancer free.

“You have your breath taken away when someone says you have cancer,” he said.

A member of the Downtown Rotary Club, he had the idea for the beer festival and approached the club to help organize it. Main Street Macon is now a co-sponsor.

Mechel McKinley, manager of Main Street Macon, said that in addition to being a worthy cause, the festival is good for the downtown area. Along with the ticket holders, hundreds who aren’t beer drinkers typically come along with them.

“It’s a significant benefit for the businesses on the day of the festival,” she said.

A ticket gets the buyer a half-cup sized beer glass and a pouch to drape around their necks to carry the glass and tasting ticket book. A total of 10 bars and restaurants were a part of the event this year.

Ticket holders had a list of 30 craft beers, three at each location, they could try. Most said they didn’t plan to try them all, but a few said they would see how it goes.

Lindsey McGuire of Augusta came to the festival with some friends. She was having a glass of Allagash White from the Rookery.

“I’m not a huge beer fan, but it’s good,” she said.

Bryan Murray of Macon is a huge beer fan. He was trying a Farmhouse Ale at Ginger Stir Fry Grill, and said he was enjoying his first trip to the festival.

“It’s a great way to get people into downtown,” he said.

About an hour before the festival was to end, some bars ran out of the beers on the list and told at least some ticket holders there were no substitutes. Bell said near the end of the event that he knew of three locations that had run out, but one was resupplied and he believed the others were offering substitutes.

McKinley said she didn’t expect to double the number of tickets again next year, but figured it would increase. She said the number of tickets has to be set because it has to be sent to the Georgia Department of Revenue and because the venues need to know how much beer to have in stock.

She said the festival draws beer aficionados from around the Southeast.

“Craft beer is really a growing industry throughout the country,” she said.

For the first time this year, the festival featured a home brew contest, and it drew 150 entries from around the country. Brian Whitley of Macon was the winner.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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