When: August 11 & 12
Where: Prince Arthur’s Landing at Marina Park
Headliners: All local acts!
Cost: $20 per session (3 sessions offered, 4 hrs each)
What not to miss: Brewer “one-offs” made just for the festival, expanded craft beer education sessions, ciders newly featured alongside beer
The scene: Laid-back lounging on the shores of Superior with your favourite brew and food
Where to stay: Prince Arthur Waterfront Hotel and Suites (across the street from Prince Arthur’s Landing)
Food: Local Motion, Red Lion, Hot Paddle Pizza, Daytona’s, Superior Foods, and more
Insider tip: Bring your water bottle on hot days—they’ve got water refill stations!
Memorable moments: Bagpipe opening ceremonies, meeting your fav craft brewers

For BrewHa! co-chair Jon Hendel, the secret to the festival’s success lies as much in people as it does in product. “We have the best crew,” he boasts. “The best advice we were given when we started was to find amazing staff and volunteers. Ours are unbelievably dedicated. We love the people who come to this festival. You’re right on Superior with a tonne of smiling faces, people acting responsibly but still having fun. We’ve got great synergy with our partners in the waterfront district—all these things make you fall in love with your community.”

It’s plain to see Thunder Bay adores BrewHa! in equal measure. Now in its third year, BrewHa! is expanding ticket sales to accommodate 6000 visitors over three sessions, double the number it sold during its inaugural run in 2015. If previous years are any indication, each session will be sold out. Hendel believes the key to accommodating growing capacity is ensuring a good brewer-to-visitor ratio. “People love festivals, but they hate lineups. We did our research and found the magic number seems to be one brewer per 100 visitors.”

BrewHa! aims to be the premier craft beer festival for our region, dedicated to representing northern Ontario brewers and bringing the best in national and international beer to its population. The festival’s reputation is beginning to spread, to the city’s benefit. “We can’t believe how many people come from away—for example, Wisconsin and Minnesota—who’ve never been to Thunder Bay before, and made that trek for us,” Hendel says. “Beer tourism is huge. People travel further for beer than almost any other type of tourism.” Brewery reps who attend the festival are impressed at how engaged BrewHa’s attendees are—the education tent draws capacity crowds, and festival-goers are full of questions about flavour profiles and craft practices.

In addition to bringing good brew to town, BrewHa’s organizing committee feels strongly about giving back to its community. A portion of its ticket sales go to Stroke Recovery Canada (Thunder Bay Chapter). From free reusable tasting glasses, mandating 100% biodegradable packaging from vendors, electronic tickets doubling as transit passes (also helps avoid drinking and driving!), bike valet, water filling stations, and recycling sorting service, BrewHa’s got green covered. And BrewHa!’s committee plans off-season events—pints and yoga, pints and painting, and education sessions—to keep the fun going. “We’re becoming known for quality events, so it’s great brand to keep Thunder Bay entertained and hydrated with,” says Hendel.

When asked about his favourite festival moment, Hendel doesn’t hesitate. “We open every festival with bagpipes, and it’s a very proud moment to me. We parade the brewers around the festival ground and bring them up to the stage. They come to Thunder Bay to celebrate their craft with us, so it’s an ode to them, to our country and city, and to our amazing team and festival-goers.”