The state of Mississippi just rolled out a new marketing campaign for this year titled “Mississippi Homecoming,” aimed at boosting tourism and the state’s creative economy.
And, the 2nd Annual Oxford Craft Beer Festival and Food Show is doing its part to see that the campaign is successful.
To be held Saturday, April 19 at the Colonel’s Quarters on Highway 6 in Oxford, the Oxford Craft Beer Festival and Food Show is expanding its unique beer-food matchup with a new home brew section and a regional pizza-cooking competition this year.
“There are a ton of craft beer festivals now, and we were looking for ways to be different when we started talking about organizing a festival here in Oxford,” said Darryl Parker, the festival’s organizer. “So, we decided to match the craft beers with food. That was great last year, so we’re bringing it back. This year, we have added the South Eastern Pizza Classic competition. I mean, what goes better with beer than pizza? And, we will also offer a home brew section where home brewers can network with others to share ideas.”
Parker, who is also host of the Oxford Blues Festival (to be held July 18-19), said he “completely underestimated” the event’s crowd last year. The festival drew approximately 900 attendees last year, far more than expected.
Last year’s festival was a two-day event, but has been trimmed to Saturday only this year due to Easter. Still, organizers are planning for as many as 1,500 festival-goers this year.
More than 140 craft beers will be offered, including samples from Mississippi companies Lazy Magnolia Brewing in Kiln and the local Oxford Brewing Company.
The new home brew section will offer samples provided by Memphis Home Brewers and Mississippi Home Brewers as well as the chance to network with other brewers.
The festival’s unique beer-chef matching event returns for the Food Show. Local chefs will prepare an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert, which will be paired with the perfect brew. Some of the participating chefs will include Rob Ray, Sean Adams, John Myrick, Tim Woodard and Sam Thamatok.
Attendees will also be offered complimentary samples of food from other local chefs and choice steak cuts provided by the Mississippi Cattleman’s Association.
The biggest news out of the festival this year, however, is the South Eastern Pizza Classic. Sponsored by brewer Samuel Adams and Oxford-based PMQ Pizza Magazine, the pizza bake-off will pit teams representing Southeastern Conference schools. At press time, 11 of the 14 SEC schools had teams committed to the competition, but Parker was hoping to land more this week.
The winner will receive a grand prize and the opportunity to join the U.S. Pizza Team, which competes in bake-offs around the world.
The Oxford Craft Beer Festival and Food Show will also provide live music, arts and crafts, food vendors and more.
The main event will run from noon-6 p.m. with the last beer poured at 5:45 p.m. An Early Bird Event will be held from 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. (VIP ticketholders may enter the event at 10 a.m.)
General admission is $45 and $15 for designated drivers. VIP tickets are $75 and $25 for designated drivers. Early Bird Event tickets are $25.
Ticketholders are provided all the beer they can sample, food sampling on a first come first serve basis (local chef samples are guaranteed for VIP ticket holders) and other event activities.
Parker said discussions are already underway about the 2015 event. He said he was waiting on feedback from this year’s participants before committing to any new offerings, but did say one addition could be breakout sessions where attendees can hear the latest on beer-related topics.
“For instance, Mississippi does not offer glass recycling,” Parker said. “So, one topic next year could focus on the environment and green issues.
“We definitely are planning on bringing the Oxford Craft Beer Festival back next year, and we have been absolutely thrilled with the response we have gotten.”
For more on the 2nd Annual Oxford Craft Beer and Food Show, visit www.oxfordbeerfest.com. Parker may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.