Thousands of beer lovers hit the Coast for Top of the Hops
BILOXI -- The Mississippi Coast Convention Center on Saturday was transformed into a beer lover's paradise as it played host to the sixth annual Top of the Hops Beer Fest.
And with more than 150 beers from which to sample, Alex Colee of Red Mnt. Entertainment, the festival's production company, said there was something for fans of many styles of beers.
"We have a lot of the same breweries represented every year, but it's an ever-changing market, so there's always something new coming in," she said. "We try to keep things up to date. This event appeals to the craft beer aficionados and we also have things that are new to craft beer and the people who enjoy things such as Bud Light -- there's something here you're going to like."
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Breweries represented this year included NOLA Brewing Company, Crooked Letter Brewing Company, Goose Island and Oskar Blues Brewery.
Colee said there were two new additions to the show that she believed would be exciting to the participants.
"This is the first year we have Yuengling, which is new to South Mississippi, and Slow Boat Brewery from Laurel," she said.
The concept of the festival is simple: beer enthusiasts and the beer-curious paid $45 for a ticket and were given a 2-ounce mug for sampling the different flavors of beer. Volunteers, including several from Keesler Air Force Base, acted as hosts at the beer booths, pouring glass after glass of pilsners and ales.
But for $75, patrons could purchase a VIP upgrade that included early entry into the convention center. For some, the extra money meant less time in lines and more time enjoying the beers.
"It is totally worth it to pay the additional money," Tina Terry of Ocean Springs said. "There are no lines and you get to taste the first samples."
Terry's friend, Christie Heizer, also of Ocean Springs, said the festival is something they attend regularly.
"This is our third year to come," Heizer said, "We love it because every year there is something new to try. I've already tried a root beer and a hard tea this year. It's always exciting to what new products will be here."
Colle said she estimated 2,000 people attended this year's Top of the Hops, drawing people from the immediate area and beyond.
"This is my first time to attend Top of the Hops, " Zach Boykin, of Charleston, S.C., said. "I've always heard great things about it. My friends and I decided to have a reunion and we planned it around the Top of the Hops in Biloxi."