Tim Janson, Kathy Sundrara and Arrow Mestas taste beer during the Everett Craft Beer Festival in 2013. The festival, which left for the Tri-Cities after five years in Everett, has essentially been replaced by the new Upper Left Beerfest, which is Sept. 16-17. (Genna Martin/Herald File)

Upper Left Beerfest raises a glass to the area’s good taste

The new beer and music event, downtown this weekend, replaces the Everett Craft Beer Festival.

The Everett Craft Beer Festival was a victim of its own success.

After putting on the beer fest for five straight years in downtown Everett, the Washington Beer Commission decided craft beer had taken hold in the county and it was time to move on in 2017. The commission held the inaugural Tri-Cities Craft Beer Festival earlier this year instead of a sixth Everett festival.

“We personally felt like it was mission accomplished in Everett,” said Eric Radovich, executive director of Washington Beer Commission. “When we started the Everett Craft Beer fest six years ago, there were a half dozen breweries in Snohomish County and a bunch of tap handles of yellow beer. Now there’s 20-plus breweries and craft beer on tap handles throughout the county.”

That didn’t mean Radovich wanted to completely abandon North Sound craft beer drinkers. After the decision had been made to transfer the commission’s focus away from Everett, Radovich reached out personally to Jared Loranger, who owns Fizz Events, an events management company. Having worked with him on events in the past, Radovich made it clear to Loranger that he felt like Everett was still a good venue for a large craft beer festival.

Thankfully for Everett, Loranger listened. The result is this weekend’s Upper Left Beerfest, a two-day craft beer and music festival in downtown Everett.

“We felt like every year it was a totally successful event, and I hated to see it just go away,” Radovich said. “I felt like the event would be in good hands.”

The city of Everett was interested in keeping the festival going, so Radovich put Loranger in touch with the Everett Downtown Association and city leaders like Carol Thomas. Having produced a number of large-scale outdoor events, including the SeaFair Marathon and Whidbey Island Marathon, Loranger saw a great opportunity.

“Obviously, the Everett festival was something that people loved,” said Loranger, whose only experience in craft beer events is running the beer garden at the SeaFair hydroplane races. “Carol with the city was instrumental in helping bring this together.”

Thomas, the city’s cultural arts manager, was disappointed that the popular Washington Beer Commission event left. But she’s been excited to see it come back in a different form.

“For the city, it’s a great chance for people who have never been to Everett before to experience a great event downtown,” Thomas said. “People can come out and look down Hoyt and see the water and the Olympics and then see the Cascades, and get a really good feeling about Everett and have an exceptional experience.”

Obviously the beer is a big draw for the inaugural Upper Left Beerfest. Nearly 30 breweries will be pouring over the weekend, including Everett breweries Lazy Boy Brewing, Crucible Brewing and At Large Brewing.

With his brewery located just down the street from the beerfest, At Large owner and head brewer Jim Weisweaver is excited that Everett still has a marquee beer festival.

“This isn’t just great for the participating breweries and other vendors, but it’s great for Everett,” Weisweaver said. “For us being four blocks away gives us an opportunity to showcase our location and beer. I hope it’s an event we can plan on in the coming years.”

Loranger made it a goal to attract local breweries and said response was strong from Snohomish County brewers. He also went to outlying areas, looking at Bellingham, Kenmore and Seattle, to bring in a wider variety of breweries.

“We really wanted to attract local breweries as well as some further away that local beer fans don’t have regular access to a lot of the time,” Loranger said. “We wanted to allow them to try something they can’t try elsewhere.”

Loranger also wanted the beer festival to be more than just beer. He worked with Everett Music Initiative to book some local bands for music and invited Gip’s Downhome BBQ and Big Dog food trucks.

With no Washington Beer Commission events planned for this weekend, one beer fan in particular expects to be in Everett this weekend.

“I plan on being there,” Radovich said.

Upper Left Beerfest

The inaugural Upper Left Beerfest will be held in downtown Everett from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 16 and noon to 6 p.m. Sept. 17. The event will feature beer from local breweries, food trucks, live music and more. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.upperleftbeerfest.com.

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