What do you get when you combine beautiful weather, live local music, an amazing selection of craft beers and delicious food from a variety of local restaurants?
An incredibly relaxing Saturday courtesy of the Metro Spirit’s 5th Annual ETCP Spring Fest.
Only beer drinkers are required to buy an armband for $5 to wear throughout the event in order to purchase craft beer from breweries across the country.
“There will be a wide variety of beers to choose from,” said Logan Stansell, the craft brand manger of the area’s largest distributor of craft beers, A.B. Beverage Company. “There will be everything from IPAs to dark beers to even ciders for people who don’t like beer.”
Red Hare became the first craft brewery in Georgia to can its own beer in 2012 and currently offers four year-round beers in addition to seasonal and reserve brands.
This year’s ETCP Spring Fest will also feature beers from Monday Night Brewing, an Atlanta-based craft brewery that is known for offering balanced, flavorful ales that pair well with food.
Believe it or not, the idea for Monday Night Brewing grew out of a small Atlanta Bible study, according to the company.
Members of the Bible study began brewing beer together on Monday nights as a way to get to know each other better.
As the group got more engrained in the industry, more people started showing up to brew with them and beer quickly became more than just a weeknight hobby.
Monday Night Brewing is definitely a Georgia brewery that sincerely believes beers should be savored, not guzzled.
If you are Georgia Southern fan, a must try this Saturday is a craft beer from Eagle Creek Brewing Company.
Founded in August 2013, Eagle Creek Brewing Company is the first craft brewery in Statesboro.
However, if you are a Georgia Bulldog fan, never fear. The Southern Brewing Company, a craft brewery from Athens, will also have brews available to try.
The ETCP Spring Fest will also offer craft beers and ciders from Lonerider Brewery based in Raleigh, N.C., and McKenzie’s Hard Cider from New York.
“There will be something there for everybody’s taste,” Stansell said. “People are going to enjoy the wide selection.”
But, of course, this festival isn’t just about the craft beers.
After all, what’s an outdoor festival without incredible, live music.
This year, Spring Fest will feature the local bands Delta Cane, The Mason Jars and festival headliner The Robbie Ducey Band.
Known for his “old school, 1970s bluesy-rock” style of music and his gritty, soulful vocals, Robbie Ducey and his band bring such enthusiasm to the stage that audiences can’t help but be swept up in the music.
“My favorite aspect of performing live on stage is the energy,” Ducey said. “That natural high that you get when you are up there doing your thing and it is hitting on all eight cylinders and it is all sounding good, it’s just incredible.”
When that kind of magic happens, there is an instant connection between the audience and the band, Ducey said.
“There is just nothing like it. There is no drug you can do that ever gives you that kind of high,” Ducey said, laughing. “Unless you’ve ever gone up on stage and experienced it, you just don’t get it. And that’s why once you get into music, you are hooked. It is done. It never gets out of your system.”
Ducey joked that he is living proof of that fact.
“Look at me. I retired two years ago, I’m in my 60s and now I’m back playing gigs here and there because I can’t get enough,” Ducey said, explaining that the band agreed to come off the road and stop touring a few years ago. “Prior to 2013, we were pretty much on the road all the time, playing anywhere from small intimate clubs to big outdoor festivals with big-name bands.”
Initially, the entire band agreed to slow things down in 2013, but Ducey said he started itching to return to the stage about six months ago.
“We all kind of looked at one another and went, ‘Well, we don’t have to go out and do it full-time anymore, but we still have some more music we want to record and we still have some shows that we want to play here and there,’” Ducey said. “So, we did a couple of benefits over this past summer and had a great time. Then, we decided we’re going back to the studio here in the next couple of months to cut some new material and some older material that just never made it on any of the other CDs we put out. So we are kind of semi-out of retirement and back doing it again.”
Ducey is extremely proud of the fact that his band has been close for more than 20 years.
“I had a long career of playing in cover bands all of my life, like everybody does to make a dollar and have some gigs,” Ducey said. “But around 1995, I was in my early 40s and I decided, ‘All right. How long can you keep playing cover music? You either make a move now or time is just going to pass you by.’ And I decided to give it a shot. Here it is, 20 years later, and we have five CDs out and we managed to carve out a living doing what we love to do.”
After more than two decades of playing together, Ducey said the members of his band understand one another and respect each other’s talents when they step on stage.
“The Robbie Ducey Band does more or less kind of ‘70s blues-rock style and we play power trio all the time,” Ducey said, referring to a lineup of guitar, bass and drums. “Of course, I’m on guitar and the guys who play with me are super musicians. Just the three of us are able to put out a lot of sound and have a lot of fun doing it.”
The members of the band have a real sense for the music because they have been together for such a long time, Ducey said.
“Steve Brantley, my bass player, has been all over the world playing with big-name people,” Ducey said. “He made it in the country music industry and lived in Nashville for a long time. When he came back home to Augusta from Nashville in the mid-1990s, he and I kind of found each other. Steve and I got hooked back up after all this time and he helped produce my first two CDs.”
As for the band’s drummer, Burt Rayburn, Ducey said he has known him since they were teenagers.
“I can remember when we were back in high school — I mean, we are talking in the 1960s — we had a band together,” Ducey said, chuckling. “We would go and practice in a tin storage building behind Burt’s parents’ house out in south Augusta. Back then, Burt was an All-State drummer in Butler High School’s marching band.”
Even as a teenager, Ducey always knew that music would play a major role in his life.
“Here it is, years later, and it is kind of cool that not only do we get to make this incredible music on stage, but we get to do it together,” Ducey said. “The same guys who have known each other since we were teenagers are still together. It has worked so well because we all live and breathe music.”
Band members Andy Colbert and Trey Pitts began playing together in May 2005 as simply a way to escape the daily grind. But this two-man band’s fast pickin’ and soulful sound soon caught on all across the region.
Whether you love bluegrass, country, blues or rock music, a performance by The Mason Jars never disappoints.
This year’s Spring Fest is also proud to feature the live music of local band Delta Cane.
Delta Cane is a local group of six close-knit musicians steeped in old time bluegrass roots while also experimenting with a new “modern gypsy-grass sound,” according to band members.
With singer Bethany Davis on stage surrounded by Henry Wynn on fiddle, Taylor Swan on banjo, Deveren Roof on bass, Michael Balducci on mandolin and Jarett Acosta on guitar, Delta Cane’s rich, southern sound easily captivates an audience.
Along with the great live music and incredible craft beers, Spring Fest will also offer a number of local restaurants and food vendors.
Kona Ice, Twisted Burrito, Woody’s Bar-B-Q, Wicked Good Bites, Mini Melts, Lola’s Treats, the Lemonade Man, and Willie Jewell’s Old School Bar-B-Q will all be there.
For example, Poplar Creek Brewing will have a booth at the festival to discuss its homebrewing supply store located at South Belair Road in Martinez.
In 2014, Poplar Creek Brewing opened its doors and has quickly become the CSRA’s homebrewing and wine making headquarters.
Owner Wylie Bullock began brewing beer while serving in the U.S Army stationed in Arizona.
Since the closest homebrew supply store was more than 90 miles away, Bullock began reading and researching the art of homebrewing beer and wine on his own. Over time, Bullock gained a newfound appreciation and understanding for the importance of fresh grains, hops, yeast and quality equipment.
That knowledge and passion eventually lead him to open Poplar Creek Brewing in order to provide local homebrewers with the tools and equipment they need to make quality beer, wine, mead and cider.
Ann Wohlstadter, the store manager at Poplar Creek Brewing, said the store has developed a very loyal customer base over the past year and a half.
“There are two different types of customers,” Wohlstadter said. “There’s the people who have been brewing from a long time that were forced to drive to Columbia or Atlanta to get their supplies and now those customers can get their stuff here, locally.”
The other type of customer that comes through the door is someone who enjoys making their daily items themselves, she said.
For example, people who enjoy making soap, candles or home-cooked meals from scratch are also typically attracted to the idea of making their own beer and wine, Wohlstadter said.
“So we are seeing more and more of those customers coming in that are interested in making beer and wine because they enjoy making things for themselves,” Wohlstadter said.
“We are going to have more of those classes available in the future,” Wohlstadter said. “Classes that will probably take a couple of hours on a Saturday. But if customers just walk into the store without a clue, I will walk them through the quick process and show them the equipment and kind of how it all works here in the store. I can also point them to a couple of different websites as well if they are looking for other tutorials.”
Poplar Creek Brewing is also working on creating its own video tutorials that customers can access.
“For this Saturday’s festival, we are going to do at least a couple of dry-run demos,” Wohlstadter said. “We are going to have the equipment set up there, like the standard starter kit, and we are going to periodically go through a dry run of how to make a beer.”
Poplar Creek Brewing will continue the beer-making process at the festival all the way up to putting the yeast in the brew, but, because of government regulations, it will have to stop at that point.
“We are also going to have some different grains up there that people can smell and check out,” Wohlstadter said. “That way, people can get an idea of what kind of flavor contributions go into homebrewing.”
But if you’re not into making your own brew, Tip Top Taps, Columbia County’s newest growler store on Washington Road, will also have a booth available at the festival to educate the public about what it has to offer.
“I will be at the festival to share our story about what we do,” said Tip Top Taps owner Marty Koger. “Many people still do not have a clue about what a growler shop is for.”
Basically, growlers are jugs that can be filled with draught beer and transported to another location for consumption, he said.
Traditional growlers hold 64 ounces of beer; whole howlers, or half growlers, hold 32 ounces.
By purchasing craft beer in growlers, it allows customers to enjoy the taste of draught beer at home and it is a cost-effective way to experiment and share the many varieties of beer available, Koger said.
“I also intend to promote my vapor business, Bel Air Vapors, at the festival,” Koger said. “So we will have devices and e-juices and batteries there available for sale.”
Another point of interest at this year’s festival will be a booth set up by Riverwatch Brewery in Augusta.
Just a few weeks ago, Riverwatch Brewery finally received all the state and federal licensing it needed to officially begin brewing beer in Augusta.
It will be the city’s first locally owned and operated packaging brewery since the demise of the Augusta Brewing Company.
Riverwatch Brewery is currently running a 20-barrel system and plans to offer a taproom to provide tastings.
“We can’t offer any beer at the festival, but we are going to have T-shirts and koozies available for people to purchase and we just want to get a chance to chat with people,” said Anne Sloan, director of sales and marketing for Riverwatch Brewery. “We haven’t had a chance to get out and talk to a large group of people yet about the brewery. And this festival seems like a great place to start.”
Anne Sloan’s mother, Brey Sloan, is the head brewer and owner of Riverwatch Brewery and has been a homebrewer for more than 20 years.
Now a retired Army colonel, Brey studied brewing technology at the World Brewing Academy, as well at the Siebel Institute in Chicago and Doemens Academy in Munich, Germany.
Riverwatch Brewery plans to have four core brews, in addition to limited releases and experimental brews, according to its website.
Ever since receiving the final state and federal licenses last week, Anne Sloan said the company has been extremely busy brewing.
“It’s been an experience. We are doing a lot of beer brewing this week,” Anne Sloan said, laughing. “We have a launch party tentatively set for March 14 at Enterprise Mill, so we are moving forward and we are really excited. It is picking up speed really fast.”
“We just can’t wait to get the public involved and promote the brewery at this festival,” she added. “We hope to see a lot of people out there.”
ETCP Spring Fest
Evans Towne Center Park
Saturday, March 5