The second annual Midwest Beer Fest takes place tomorrow, Saturday, July 15th, from 3 p.m. to midnight, in a variety of spots in Downtown Champaign. Headquartered outside Cowboy Monkey (in the PNC parking lot) — you can find plenty of breweries and dozens of beers to consume all in one spot.

You might've seen Rebecca's recap of last year's festival, which featured a bunch of regional breweries — so, you'll see things are similar to last year, but have expanded a bit in terms of the number of breweries and the scope of the event — off-site tappings are happening in 2017.

I appreciate the critical mass of keeping patrons confined to this area of Downtown Champaign and I really dig the off-site tappings that allow festival-goers to participate while having some room to breathe if they don't want to be in the thick of the action next to Cowboy Monkey.

Of course, with any first year event, there is plenty of room for improvement. Sadly, I wasn't able to make it last year, though after reading Rebecca's review, I was curious what was in store for 2017 that might be different than the previous year (after what seemed to be a successful first go-round). When I asked CMT's Jenna Frye about the upcoming festival this weekend, I asked, "what are some aspects you're hoping to improve upon to make this year's fest a better experience?" Frye said:

"We were so pleasantly surprised with the turnout last year, that we are prepping to be bigger and better this year with more available beers, an added brewery tent for 13 total, and more register stations so purchasing tickets will be a breeze."

As many vendor-based festivals do — you gotta buy tickets to redeem at each booth. That said, there's organization involved here, so these are just small things that should happen in order to maintain order. You can purchase tickets with cash or via Square, so they accept multiple forms of payment to get your drinkin' tickets. It'll run you roughly $4-$5 for each brew, which feature some healthy 16 oz. pours.

BREWERIES

Even more focused on local breweries this year — the major local breweries will all be in attendence:

Plus Midwest:

TAPPINGS

A new component of the festival is getting introduced in 2017: off-site tappings. Taking place at Seven Saints, Jupiter's, Barrelhouse 34, and Cowboy Monkey, you can pay at those locations without buying tickets, so that will make things a little bit easier if you're wanting to make a pit stop and check out a few of the offerings quickly.

Frye said about the tappings:

"Additionally, we've added four off-site timed tappings at participating establishments (Jupiter's Downtown, Seven Saints, Cowboy Monkey — inside, and Barrelhouse 34). That will give festival goers a chance to cool off in the AC, enjoy dinner or a snack, and try beer from those four additional breweries (cider too!)."

She makes a good point about the weather, which should shape up fairly well on Saturday (mid 80s). But still — remember, hydrate and stay cool while sippin' on these cold ones around town. 

Here's each brewery, where they are based, the tapping location, time, and more various info about the brews themselves:

Bell's Brewery (Kalamazoo, MI) at Seven Saints @ 4 p.m.

  • Black Note
  • Two Hearted
  • Oatsmobile
  • Oberon
  • Pool Time
  • Quinannan Falls
  • Sparkleberry

All beers listed will be available beginning at 4 p.m. on July 15th at Seven Saints on the Annex side. You will NOT need beer fest tickets to purchase these beers.

Maplewood Brewery & Distillery (Chicago, IL) at Jupiter's Pizzeria & Billiards (Downtown) @ 6 p.m.

  • Charlatan
  • Husky Juice Pants
  • Pulaski Pils

All beers listed will be available beginning at 6 p.m. on July 15th at Jupiter's Downtown. You will NOT need beer tickets from the fest to purchase these beers.

Against The Grain Brewery (Louisville, KY) at Barrelhouse 34 @ 9 p.m.

  • Pile of Face (American IPA)
  • Rico Sauvin (IPA w/ Nelson Sauvin hops)
  • 35K Nitro (milk stout)
  • Jackyale (double brown ale)

All beers listed will be available beginning at 9 p.m. on July 15th on tap inside Barrelhouse. You will NOT need beer fest tickets to purchase these beers.

Apple Knocker Hard Cider at Owl Creek Vineyard (Cobden, IL) at Cowboy Monkey @ 10 p.m.

  • Knock and Roll (sweet with raspberries)
  • Bad Apple (tart and tangy)
  • Sweet Knocker (traditional cider)
  • Hard Knocks (fermented in oak barrels w/ Belgian yeast)

All ciders listed will be available beginning at 8 p.m. on July 15th on tap inside Cowboy Monkey. You will NOT need beer fest tickets to purchase these beers.

FOOD + EXTRAS

If you're hungry, there will be food there as well. Cowboy Monkey's full menu will be available from 3 p.m. through the evening, and Dave's Dogs will be on site slinging dogs from 5 to 8 p.m.

There will be live entertainment around the area as well, including Champaign Park District's StreetFest featuring the Brat Pack. And yes, you can bring your beers over and watch them perform. In addition to that, there's an after party at Cowboy Monkey with Greg "2 Hype" beginning at 11 p.m. (though you must be 21+ to enter).

Parents, have no fear — this is a family friendly event. So, buy your kid a taco or two, and enjoy a few cold ones in the summer heat. Responsibly, of course. Here's to hoping that 2017 keeps moving the dial forward for what sounds like a very promising event for Downtown Champaign, and Champaign County's brewer comraderie.

Check out Midwest Beer Fest happening this Saturday, July 15th from 3 p.m.-12 a.m.