If it seems that May is frothier than ever, you're not wrong: Lexington's Craft Beer Week is back, and it's stronger than ever.
This year's event isn't a week; it's 10 days, and it leads straight into a brewing symposium.
Thousands of people will attend events all over downtown, organizer Chris Vandergrift said. He runs the website LexBeerScene.com. Spreading it out over two weekends gives more businesses a chance to participate and keeps the weekends from being overcrowded, Vandergrift said.
And demand keeps growing.
"I believe there are 21 different businesses taking part this year, ranging from breweries to craft beer bars, to restaurants, to the Lexington Legends," Vandergrift said.
This year's Craft Beer Week kicks off Friday with a family-friendly event at Whitaker Bank Ballpark, where the Lexington Legends play the Charlestown Riverdogs at 6 p.m. For the event, the Legends will offer box seats and two drink tickets for $15.
"The rare thing is they are having beer from all the local breweries," he said, so you can sample a wide selection of locally produced brews.
Many of the local breweries will offer special beers for the occasion, too. One that many people are anticipating: Country Western, Vol. III.
It has become an annual collaboration between local Country Boy Brewing and West Sixth Brewing, and it's different each time.
This year's version, according to the brewers, is a nod to the classic May Day Pie. And just like the famous confection, there will be bourbon, chocolate and pecan notes: it's made from an imperial red aged in bourbon barrels with roasted pecans and cocoa nibs.
It's a hefty 13 percent alcohol by volume and will go on sale in bottles (limit two per person) at 3 p.m. Friday, and then will be on tap Wednesday at Country Boy and Monday West Sixth on Monday. It's a limited release, so when it's gone, it's gone.
A new local brewery, Ethereal, on the Pepper distillery campus on Manchester Street, will make its Craft Beer Week debut with two new offerings: a Berliner Weisse, with homemade syrups to flavor the tart beer, and Hop-Shaka-Laka, an Imperial IPA.
On Sunday, Blue Stallion will offer a special Mother's Day brunch at 1 p.m., with food from The Gastro Gnomes food truck.
And Tuesday, Blue Stallion will have a unique "test batch tap takeover," pouring from 10 taps dedicated to home-brewer based recipes, including a peanut butter cup stout, a blood orange hefeweizen, a watermelon ale, and a cherry ale.
"They will have two of mine," Vandergrift said proudly: a Belgian strong golden and a ginger-spiced saison. "I'm really excited to try some those things."
He hasn't tried them?
"If anybody could, you'd think it could be me," he said. But apparently even his connections weren't enough.
This year's Craft Beer Week features a distinct foodie flavor, with more restaurants involved than ever. For the third year, Country Boy pairs up with County Club for a beer dinner featuring four dishes paired with four beers.
OBC Kitchen, BRU Burger Bar, Chatham's, Drake's, Winchell's, Old Chicago Pizza, Pazzo's, and Pies & Pints also are participating with a wide range of culinary and beer pairings.
Several of the dinners are ticketed, so check availability online. But other events are open.
Throughout the week, local food trucks will be presenting special foods at the breweries, too.
As the Craft Beer Week heads into the second weekend, it picks up even more steam: On May 16, Alltech hosts the Craft Brew and Food Fest in Heritage Hall from noon to 8 p.m., with 10 food vendors and more than 50 breweries represented. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door, and include 15 pours.
But save some strength, because that night is Think Local, Drink Local 3 at West Sixth from 5 p.m. to midnight. It's the only time West Sixth sells beers from other breweries, Vandergrift said.
But it isn't over yet: The next week Alltech hosts the company's annual symposium, which this year will feature a special session just on craft brewing and distilling.
Sessions begin on Monday afternoon with Bill Samuels Jr. of Maker's Mark, Greg Koch of Stone Brewing and Bill Owens of the American Distilling Institute, and continues on Tuesday with Alltech founder Pearse Lyons, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head, and more.