Beer and wine tastings return to Kewaunee County at Lions Clubs Brewfest

LUXEMBOURG — He’s back after an enforced three-year absence — the chance to sample around 200, mostly local, craft beers and wines, as well as locally-made food — and the Lions Clubs of Kewaunee and Dyckesville couldn’t be happier.

Roar Off the Shore Brewfest, the largest fundraiser for the two Lions Clubs that hosted the event, returns for its 14th edition, but the first time since 2019. It’s a popular and growing annual event that takes place late March since 2007, but the COVID-19 pandemic has caused it to be canceled each of the past two years.

But with the pandemic seemingly waning in recent weeks (knock on wood), beer and wine lovers around the world are being welcomed back to the Kewaunee County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall on Saturday afternoon next to sample wares from 35 craft breweries, five home brewers, five wineries and eight food producers. They can also keep the sample-size tasting glass they’ll use to try the drinks, and designated driver admissions are also available.

And that’s the call of Brewfest, said Jill Bernhardt, a member of the Dyckesville Lions and one of the event coordinators. It’s not just about being able to try all those drinks and foods, but also being able to get together with others to do so after two years of going without most large gatherings in Kewaunee County.

“It’s very exciting to be able to start again,” said Bernhardt. “It’s a great social event. Not only can you sample all of these great beers, food and wine, but you can also socialize with friends and neighbors.”

Roar Off the Shore also supports local causes and non-profit organizations. Proceeds go to the Kewaunee and Dyckesville Lions for a variety of programs, making the return of Brewfest even bigger this year.

The Dyckesville Lions have donated much of their revenue share over the years for improvements to Red River County Park and its baseball field, Bernhardt noted, as well as the Lions Club Park in the village and scholarships for local students. The Kewaunee Club has used its profits to fund scholarships and support efforts such as the Special Olympics and continuous improvement projects at Bruemmer Park Zoo. Both also contribute to local efforts for national Lions causes in blindness, vision and diabetes care.

Revenue raised grew throughout the festival’s first 13 years, from a few hundred dollars in its first two years to around $10,000 in its final years, so not being able to showcase what has been the largest club fundraiser over the past two years has put a start on their donations.

Bernhardt said the bump was less severe in 2020 because the cancellation came shortly before the already-scheduled Brewfest was due to take place — the state issued its home security order on March 12 of this year – and a number of sponsors allowed clubs to keep the dollars they intended to spend.

But that was not the case last year. Bernhardt said the Dyckesville club generates a fair amount of proceeds from the food stall and concessions it holds each year at the county fair – the fair was held last year after it was canceled in 2020 – but the Kewaunee club is nothing close to Brewfest for a revenue generator.

“It was a challenge,” Bernhardt said. “With what we lost, we couldn’t do (things) with the community like what we did in the past.”

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Bernhardt said COVID-19 has also made planning for this year’s event difficult. Lions usually start their planning about a year before, but the pandemic has subsided and escalated multiple times, including a massive surge fueled by the omicron variant that only subsided in recent weeks, which Bernhardt says , has caused uncertainty.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” Bernhardt said. “You don’t know how many people are going to come. With the planning (around changing numbers and COVID-19 protocols) you don’t know what you have until it’s there.”

But Roar Off the Shore is back, with its local focus not only on the causes it supports, but also on the vendors who supply the beers, wines and food.

Corey Weinkoetz of MobCraft Beer of Milwaukee pours a sample of the brewery's Pivot Ale for Luxembourg's Bill Gruhlke during a past Roar Off The Shore Brewfest.

Participating Kewaunee County brewers are Ahanapee Brewing in Algoma and Thumb Knuckle Brewing Co. in Walhain, joined by Door County Brewing and One Barrel Brewing of Door County and most breweries in the Green Bay area. Of the 35 breweries listed on the event’s website, all but four are from Wisconsin. Hard ciders and sodas will be available from select vendors.

As for wines, Cold Country Vines and Wines in Carlton and von Stiehl in Algoma will be on hand with samples, as well as Duck Creek Winery in Denmark, Door Peninsula Winery in Carlsville and Forgotten Fire Winery in Marinette.

Maryssa Paulsen of Parallel 44 Vineyard & Winery in Kewaunee discusses winery produce with a guest at a past Roar Off The Shore Brewfest in Luxembourg.

Food samples will include baked goods, meats and cheeses, barbecue and more.

Bernhardt said the reaction to Roar Off the Shore’s return has been positive not only from audiences, with strong advance ticket sales, but also from vendors.

“A lot of sellers are excited for this to happen,” she said. “They just like being able to hang out with people and talk to them, being able to interact with people enjoying their drinks and answering questions. It’s interactive, and they seem to enjoy the camaraderie.”

for your information

The 13th Annual Roar Off the Shore Brewfest takes place from 2-6 p.m. on Saturday, March 26 in the Kewaunee County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall, 625 Third St. Luxembourg. Tickets are $45 in advance through March 20, $50 at the door if not sold out; admission includes beer, wine, and food samples and a commemorative glass. Designated driver admission is $10 and includes complimentary sodas and food samples throughout the event. All proceeds benefit programs supported by the Kewaunee and Dyckesville Lions Clubs.

Bus trips to and from Brewfest depart for the event from Ahnapee Brewing locations in Algoma and Suamico, Port O’ Call in Kewaunee, and Badger State Brewing in Green Bay. All buses leave the event shortly after it ends. The fee is $5 and pre-registration and advance payment are required; rides are sold online only, and those interested can register under the “Tickets” tab on the event website.

For tickets or more information, visit roarofftheshore.com or facebook.com/rotsbrewfest. Tickets are also available at all Banque du Luxembourg branches, Blue Water Services Restaurant and Port O’Call in Kewaunee, and Van’s Lumber in Dyckesville.

Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or cclough@doorcountyadvocate.com.

Charles P. Patton