The Harvest Beer Festival is a great way to try new beers you might not otherwise be able to, enjoy McNellie’s Group eats, and meet fellow beer enthusiasts while sipping the fall day away.
When the weather turns to fall, when October delivers that crisp chill in the air, Tulsans’ hearts turn to dreams of tasting beer. If you’re thinking we’re talking about Oktoberfest, you’re not exactly wrong, but don’t limit your thinking. There’s more than one beer-related event happening this month, thank the beer gods. Trust us, you need to plan to get to downtown’s other beloved brew lover’s dream — the Harvest Beer Festival, sponsored by McNellie’s Pub.
The Harvest Beer Festival got its origins after McNellie’s saw the taste for ale and celebration that crowds brought to their ever-popular St. Patrick’s Day block party. They decided to do a similar event in the second half of the year, and thus the Harvest Beer Festival was born.
This year, the event is being hosted at ONEOK Field, nestled underneath the covered concourse of Driller Stadium. Festival-goers, who must be 21 and over for obvious reasons, don’t have to worry about the weather, because the show can go on rain or shine. The breweries represented, more than 80 in all, will be set up festival style, serving samples to visitors, who receive a commemorative drinking mug for the event.
“It’s a great way to meet the people behind the beers. And it’s a great way to taste a variety of beers,” explains Scott Sipes, general manager of McNellie’s. All the brewers are encouraged to create and serve up specialty and one-off beers. “It’s something you don’t normally get at the brewery.”
Among the brewers being featured will be local favorites, like Prairie Artisan Ales, Marshalls, and plenty of others. If you want or need a gluten-free beer, be sure to stop by the New Era Fine Fermentations booth. Among newer names, says Sipes, you can expect to see brewers like Erie Ales, which specializes in Belgian ales, and Rapture Brewing, which has set up shop at Prairie Creek Farms in Kellyville. There will be classic national brands too, like Samuel Adams, Evil Twin Brewing, and Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales.
And that’s just a drop in the old beer stein. Sipes promises a selection of ciders too. Forbes has reported on the resurgence of hard ciders, due to new flavors and blends like rosé ciders. And craft ciders are especially popular too. So, guests of the festival can expect to have several ciders to sample, such as Schilling, Stem, and Austin Eastciders.
It depends on your preferences, but there will be plenty of flavors and styles to choose from. “The good thing about Harvest Fest is there’s a whole range of beer,” says Sipes. “If you’re into one particular style, this is a great way to branch out. Every beer style will pretty much be represented. Tulsa has a great palate; they like all kinds of stuff.”
Attendees can choose tickets for one of the day’s two tasting sessions, one earlier in the afternoon, one later. Each session lasts three hours, and ticket holders are welcome to all the beer samples they want to enjoy.
For those who want a more in-depth experience that goes beyond beer samples, opt for one of the two VIP tickets. As a VIP guest, you enjoy either brunch before the day’s early sampling session, or a buffet during the second sampling session. The VIP tickets are limited, and the brunch usually sells out. This year, the buffet is new, a trial run, so to speak, to test the waters and see how well attendees are interested.
Of course, you can expect tasty McNellie’s Group food options at the VIP brunch and buffet. And there will be Elgin Park pizza available for regular festival-goers as they wander the event. And the event itself is close to the other McNellie’s Group downtown eateries including Yokozuna, Dilly Diner, Fassler Hall and The Dust Bowl.
Those who attend the second session also receive a free Tulsa Roughnecks ticket to that night’s soccer game. (The Tulsa Roughnecks play the Sacramento Republic at 7 p.m.) It makes for a fun night out.
If you’re concerned about how you’ll get home after the festival, consider all the options — staying in the nearby Hotel Indigo, taking a taxi, using Uber or Lyft. Or use the old reliable method of bringing along a driver who isn’t imbibing. “Designated drivers are welcome,” says Sipes. If you’re the designated driver, you get in for free — and you get a designated driver wristband which identifies you. You might not be drinking, but imagine the people-watching potential.
“It’s a great atmosphere,” says Sipes of the festival, because it brings together people who are passionate about brews. “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a lot of beers.”
McNellie's Harvest Beer Festival
ONEOK Field | Tulsa
Oct. 5 (Session 1): Noon-3 p.m.
Oct. 5 (Session 2): 5-8 p.m.
Tickets: Available at McNellie’s Pub, Elgin Park and beerfests.com
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