JANESVILLE—In Wisconsin, when your beer festival draws oodles of dudes in flannel shirts and about 100 different varieties of craft and home-brewed beers, what else do you really need?
Here’s what: beer keg-rolling contests, pony keg “bowling” with old tires as the ball and—get this—fresh-baked pretzels on a string necklace.
FlannelFest, Janesville’s winter celebration of all things beer and flannel, is back for year two Feb. 22 at the town square in downtown Janesville. And this year, the craft and home-brew sampling event will see the addition of a few more fun contests and games plus not just one beer tent, but two.
Lead organizer Courtney Perakis has #FlannelGoals with the event, and part of it is that she would like to see attendance double from last year’s 500 to 1,000 in 2020.
With advance ticket sales surpassing 500 as of early February and with a week or so left before the event, FlannelFest’s attendance this year could well meet Perakis’ hopes.
It also will likely boast some 40 different craft brewers from around the area and state and as many as 25 home brewers who will duke it in a judged brew-tasting competition to try to win FlannelFest’s version of the beer crown: a very fancy (and manly) flannel jacket.
Perakis dreamed up FlannelFest as a midwinter reprieve and outdoor beer sipping Saturday in February after she said her husband tired of beer festival competitions that sent judging results in the mail days after the events.
FlannelFest’s brew contest runs on a format of same-day judging and same-day award presentations. This year, based on the number of brewers attending, there could be as many as 130 beers for festivalgoers to taste along with such signature events as games and the “lazy man” run.
For the uninitiated, the “lazy man” run is a short footrace down the street along the Rock River that requires a single mindset: Racers must be lazy enough not to care how long it takes to finish or how awkward or out-of-shape they look while attempting to run. It helps if you’re weighed down by a pretzel on a string around your neck and 5 or more pounds of velvety-soft flannel garments that stylishly drape your body as you run ... beer in hand, of course.
For Wisconsin, that kind of challenge—a race with no need for intensity or effort, and with beer—is aimed at pure fun, laughs and memories. It’s the stuff Perakis said organizers hope will make FlannelFest brew up a reputation as Janesville’s signature festival.
“We want to turn FlannelFest into Janesville’s premier annual event. The event that Janesville is known for,” she said.
In 2019, FlannelFest organizers put up one tent at the town square that housed commercial craft brewers and home brewers, along with the festival’s guests. The tent ended up as a godsend because the weather (as is often the case in February in Janesville) was rainy and cold.
This year, Perakis said FlannelFest will have two tents: one to house tables for the more than three dozen craft brewers and another to give a separate space for the two dozen home brewers. That plan gives brewers some room to set up and stretch out, and it allows guests and the beer judges more room to, well, stand around and drink beer.
Perakis said tickets to FlannelFest are $50 per person at the gate, and $45 if ordered in advance. Tickets cover unlimited sipping of any beer being featured along with a free beer stein and a medal for those who complete the lazy man run.
“The medals, by the way, have a built-in beer bottle opener,” Perakis said. “It’s a fully functional award for being lazy.”
Food costs extra, but options include a local seafood food truck along with pizza and a nonprofit group that will sell pretzel necklaces as part of a fundraiser.
“Pretzels are a natural fit for FlannelFest because they’re supposed to cleanse your palate between beers,” Perakis said. “You just take your pretzel necklace and chew off a piece in between beers.”
That seems convenient, particularly for those who might have both hands occupied by beer glasses.
Perakis said it’s “not mandatory” to wear flannel to FlannelFest, although she said most people do. And if you’re there to drink beer in the damp chill of a February Sunday in Janesville, let’s face it: You’ll be wearing flannel.
You just will.