Fest of Ales might be Lexington's biggest beer party, but even so, it isn't big enough.
Attendance at the downtown event is capped at 1,500, and in its sixth year, the event has sold out all but one year, says co-founder Chris Vandergrift.
"But it got close," he says of the non-sellout year. "We had a bad forecast; it was supposed to rain."
The evening festival will feature about 170 beers from about 70 breweries, including many craft brewers in Kentucky.
Vandergrift says that almost all of the local breweries are bringing a special keg to tap, with about 35 special releases in all.
Here are a few to look for:
■ Country Boy's new Bourbon Barrel Aged Chestnut Brown.
■ West Sixth's annual Burley Barleywine.
■ Alltech's annual Pumpkin Bourbon Barrel Ale.
■ Blue Stallion's Barrel Aged Doppelbock.
■ Rooster Brew's "Godxilla" Sour.
■ Against the Grain's Galangal Action, a brew made from watermelon and galangel root (similar to ginger).
And from out of state, there will be:
■ Founder's KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout), a hard-to-find cult favorite from Michigan.
■ Dogfish Head's 120-minute IPA, a super bitter beer, made with hops put in every minute for two hours.
■ Deschutes' Not the Stoic.
■ Dark Horse's Bourbon Barrel Aged Plead the Fifth.
Vandergrift says he's really looking forward to sampling the barrel-aged beers from Country Boy and Dark Horse.
Kentucky's craft beers are "as good as any," says Vandergrift, who runs the website LexBeerScene.com. "We've got some very great things being done here, and I think they would give pretty much anybody a run for their money. I've been around and working in the beer community for 10-plus years, and only in the past three or four years have things really picked up. It's really interesting to watch it, and to have been around beforehand."
With the growth of craft beer in Kentucky, would the Fest of Ales consider increasing the number of tickets?
"For the past few years, we've had the ability to outgrow the space, but we don't want to move because the pavilion downtown is so nice, so perfect for this sort of event," Vandergrift says. "It's outdoors, not too cramped, but we have a roof. And it's in the heart of downtown."
That's part of the appeal, says Renee Jackson, executive director of the Downtown Lexington Corp., which co-sponsors the event.
The Fest of Ales, which netted about $16,000 last year, helps finance other events downtown, including the Friday night movies at Triangle Park and the Fourth of July activities, she says.
And bringing people downtown is part of the point.
"It brings a different crowd than, say, Thursday Night Live every week," Jackson says. "People purchase tickets from outside the county, so we're pulling people in because it is craft beer. And we hope it exposes a different crowd to everything downtown has to offer."
In case you get shut out of Fest of Ales, there will be an after-party at Pazzo's, beginning at 8:30 p.m. And there will another beer and wine event, Cork and Tap, at the Fifth/Third Pavilion on Sept. 12, featuring local craft beers and Kentucky wineries.