Wine and beer fans, get ready.
Both a wine festival and a craft beer festival are coming to town this weekend, giving wine and beer lovers from Omaha and beyond the opportunity to taste hundreds (yes, hundreds) of drinks from dozens of breweries and wineries.
Saturday is the Great Nebraska Beer Fest, an event sponsored and organized by the Nebraska Brewing Co. The fest drew a few dozen breweries and 400 guests when it started in 2009. This year, organizer (and Nebraska Brewing Co. owner) Paul Kavulak has lined up 82 breweries that will offer more than 400 beers to a crowd of at least 2,000 from at least 16 states.
“It’s growing beyond a really cool local beer fest to a really cool regional beer fest,” Kavulak said.
The Great Nebraska Beer Fest offers only American craft beers, in many cases from brewers Kavulak has gotten to know personally during the time he’s run the Nebraska Brewing Co.
“We’ve all become friends,” he said.
And, as with any good beer festival, many of the breweries on the roster don’t distribute in Nebraska.
Among the breweries on the list: Stone Brewing Co. from California, Schlafly Brewing Co. from Missouri, Wyncoop from Colorado, Blind Tiger and Free State from Kansas, and Maui Brewing Co. from Hawaii.
Home brewing clubs from Lincoln and Omaha also will be there, offering samples of some of their best brews.
The event include live music, food and seminars on topics such as beer travel, the role of the Internet in the growth of craft beer, home brewing troubleshooting and beer and food pairings.
The event is outdoors at Shadow Lake Towne Center, 72nd Street and Highway 370 in Papillion. Doors open at 1 p.m. and the final pour is at 6 p.m. Tickets are $40 in advance and $45 the day of the event. For more information, go online to www.greatnebraskabeerfest.com.
Meanwhile, the Riverfront Wine Festival, also in its fourth year, begins Friday night in Stinson Park, 67th and Center Streets.
The big change from years past: “We have a lot more wine,” said festival organizer Jen Kocher.
Guests can choose from more than 200 wines from 40 wineries and distributors. Like Kavulak, Kocher made sure to include wines that aren’t usually distributed in Nebraska. Among those are wines from a vineyard owned by NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon. Wines from the Paoletti and Hopper Creek wineries in California also will be available.
The event is geared toward wine newbies and serious wine drinkers alike, Kocher said, and will include high-end (and pricey) California wines, as well as offbeat wines that taste like chocolate or are infused with citrus or almond flavors, and wine-based cocktails.
Live music, an array of 40 craft beers and a wine academy where guests can learn about such things as Australian wines or the Chinese wine market round out the event.
It runs from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 day of the event and include 10 wine tickets, a sampling glass, unlimited samples of craft beer and access to all wine academy classes. Tickets and more information are available at www.riverfrontwinefestival.com.