Small State Great Beer is Back and Greater than Ever
Warning: “THIS ISN’T YOUR TYPICAL BEER FESTIVAL”
Small State Great Beer, now in its third year, prides itself on being a beer tasting party with a music festival vibe. On Saturday, September 15th, 2018, SSGB will be taking over Constitution Plaza in downtown Hartford, bringing Connecticut exclusive craft beer, food trucks, live music, and most of all… the best crowd around.
But, to get a better sense of what this year will bring and how the festival came about, we wanted to meet up the masterminds behind CT’s fastest booming festival – the SSGB crew themselves.
How did the idea come about to create a craft beer festival right in the middle of downtown Hartford?
At the time, a few years back, there weren’t too many things in Connecticut that people were excited about. However, all these breweries in Connecticut were booming into existence, and it was the first positive thing that really got people talking.
We wanted to guide people to come see all that the city of Hartford has to offer, while also supporting local breweries.
When it came to choosing the exact location, we know that people respond to the environment that they’re in. Constitution Plaza was mentioned as a possible space and we thought it was a great idea. Nothing has happened annually at the plaza since Taste of Hartford and the Festival of Lights, so they were excited about the possibility of something happening there.
On an elevated plaza some of the load in logistics can be difficult (such as building a full stage), so there were definitely some hurdles. But on the night of the festival when you cross that bridge and the sun is about to set and you’re having a beer with friends, you really feel like you’re in this cool, dynamic downtown … and that’s what we were trying to create with the space.
SSGB isn’t like other craft beer festivals, how would you describe the event to someone who has not been?
It’s a music festival vibe at a beer tasting party.
At other beer festivals, you’re usually out in the middle of a field somewhere or cramped in an arena… there’s not a lot of site activation… beer vendors with their tents, and that’s about it. Small State Great Beer is different. We’re always looking for where we can do things to catch people’s attention and get them to ask “wait, what?”
The festival this year will have two sessions. The first from 1-4PM and second from 6:30-9:30PM [with a VIP session from 5:30-6:30!].
Most festivals are not at night, or in a beautiful downtown urban area. We spend a lot of time and resources lighting up the whole plaza so that when the sun starts to set, there’s an incredible evening experience.
We’re approaching the festivals’ third year now, what do you feel like you learned from the previous two years that you’re (or not!) bringing this year?
People can expect this year to be similar to our second year (but better of course). We learned from the first year that we needed to offer two different sessions and cap each one. This allows long lines for beer tastings to disappear.
How did you choose the lineup of music?
We always strive to have a national level line up that wouldn’t normally play in Hartford. Bands that aren’t quite Xfinity Center but are bigger than Infinity Hall. This year we’re very excited because we’re staying true to that but doubling down on pro-CT and pro-Hartford with the band Bronze Radio Return.
The band brings a lot of fans both locally and from all over the place. You hear their music (which you should listen to here) and you’re instantly feeling a party-like atmosphere. They fit the Small State Great Beer vibe super well and their music is dope.
How do you choose which beer vendors you want to participate?
Our goal is to be an all CT beer festival. We’ve had some vendors reach out to us before they even officially open and it’s always interesting to see what their story is, and why they’re willing to throw away their stable jobs to start up their own brewery.
What can people expect this year that will be different?
- A ‘VIP’ hour from 5:30-6:30PM that we’re bringing back from the first year. This hour is solely for people with VIP tickets, where they’ll get a full hour of talking to each one of the breweries, bigger tasting glasses, and no lines.
- The food truck area will now be closed off and only available to SSGB participants so 1) there will be less wait time, and 2) you can now bring your beverages down to the ‘food truck district.’
- More and new beer vendors, some distilleries and cider houses, and even a non-alcoholic athletic beer company.
- The biggest band from Connecticut, Bronze Radio Return will be giving fans an unforgettable experience.
Do you see this turning into an even larger event down the road? Where do you see this festival in years to come?
Our goal is to be in Hartford for as long as possible. Each year we’re going to continue to make this an even bigger cultural experience. Whether it’s extending the music or adding more family-friendly parts to the afternoon, we’re always looking to evolve SSGB in exciting new ways.
If SSGB were a person, who would it be?
Chris Pratt – the man knows how to have a good time and doesn’t take himself too seriously. Think, Parks and Rec. Chris Pratt, mixed in with some Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 Chris Pratt. We should email this interview to him and see if he’ll come. The Avengers cast looks like they are always down for a good party.
Don’t forget to purchase your tickets for Small State Great Beer here!