STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
Raise a glass for a good cause! The second annual Fonthill Castle Beer Fest offers a tasting of more than 25 local and regional breweries. Monies raised benefit the Castle’s educational programming. The event is sold out, according to www.mercermuseum.org/event/fonthill-castle-beer-fest/
The event on Saturday, Aug. 29, features high quality beers and locally sourced foods. Jazz quartet Hot Bijouxx will perform. The participating beer makers are: Appalachian Brewing Company, Bold Rock Hard Cider, Chaddsford Hard Cider, Doylestown Brewing Company, Erie Brewing Company, Evolution Craft Brewing Company, Flying Fish Brewing Company, Goose Island, Great Lakes Brewing Company, Great Swamp Brewing Company, Harpoon Brewery, Keegan Ales, Leffe, Long Trail Brewing Company, Magic Hat Brewing Company, Round Guys, River Horse Brewing Company, Shock Top, Starr Hill Brewery, Stella Artois, Stoudts Brewing Company, Troegs Craft Brewery, Victory Brewing Company, Wynridge Farm and Yards Brewing Company.
Fonthill Castle is Henry Mercer’s concrete castle-like home. It has 44 rooms and 18 fireplaces, and the walls, floors, and ceilings are decorated with his original handcrafted tiles. It’s a National Historic Landmark that has been featured on television shows and magazines.
Staff member Heather Hicks is Beer Fest’s organizer. Having local breweries and food vendors fits with the Castle’s mission.
“Mercer was very much a proponent of looking at history,” she said, so featuring companies that use historic brewing techniques (some do) and local products — “that’s something that Mercer would have identified with.”
The educational programs the Fest supports are aimed at schoolchildren — more than 3,000 visit each year. There’s also a camp in the summer that shows kids what it was like to live in a castle and teaches them history. Organizers want to create more ways to interact with students, Hicks said.
“We have this unique, crazy, concrete castle, and it’s a visually impactful environment,” she said. Of course, it’s more than 100 years old, so younger hands aren’t allowed to touch much. So they’re thinking of other ways the kids can get to know its history.
Hicks thinks it’s important to be a part of the community, “especially for young people, it’s not a stodgy old place,” she said. “It has a connection to the people here in Doylestown. Mercer was an eccentric, artistic, creative person who was not afraid to walk to the beat of his own drum.”
She thinks his life could inspire others.
“He could have built a regular house,” she said. “But he showed creativity. It’s OK to be doing your own thing, following your own path. That’s something we all can connect to.”
Bill McGeeney of Round Guys Brewery in Lansdale, thinks the event draws a great crowd and it’s a good cause. His company will have a few beers available for Fest attendees to try. They’ll probably be lighter.
“In the warmer weather, you don’t want to be drinking a heavy beer,” he said.
McGeeney, who started as a homebrewer, likes learning about how beers are made and trying new concoctions.
“I like drinking it and it’s fun to make it,” he said.
He thinks events like Beer Fest are fun, too, because there’s a community surrounding brewing.
“You see your friends and how they’re making their beers,” he said. It’s like a fun get-together.”
Tickets are selling fast, and organizers hope the event will continue to grow (this incarnation of Beer Fest actually grew out of a smaller event the Castle held for several years). McGeeney is proud to support the fundraiser and hopes that people will come out and have a good time.
“It’s fun,” he said. “And it’s good to do stuff to help out the community.”
IF YOU GO
What: Fonthill Castle Beer Fest
When: Saturday, Aug. 29 from 2-5 p.m.
Where: Fonthill Castle, East Court Street and Route 313, Doylestown.
Tickets: Event is sold out, according to http://www.mercermuseum.org/event/fonthill-castle-beer-fest/.
Registration/prepayment are required. All guests must be 21 or older.
Info. and tickets: Visit fonthillmuseum.org or call (215) 348-9461
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated that the event was to be held Aug. 23, as supplied by the event organizer. The event is being held on Aug. 29. We apologize for the inconvenience.