January 19, 2020

February is the month of love and, in the City of Kitchener, residents will get the chance to share their ‘I love you’s’ with craft beers and freshly made tacos at the second annual I Heart Beer Winter Festival.

The southern Ontario-wide beer celebration will take place in Kitchener on Feb. 23 at Lot 42, where attendees will have the chance to sample a wide range of craft beer, play at the BEERcade and feast on delicious food made by local vendors to celebrate this year’s food theme — tacos.

“I Heart Beer Festivals came about because I have a passion for homegrown,” said Faron Benoit, owner of the event. “We have so many great things being produced in the province of Ontario and a food-and-drink style event really allows me to showcase that Ontario homegrown theme.
“The event is a sampling event. This year, we’ve decreased the sample size a few ounces to six. The idea behind the smaller samples is to try all sorts of different beers from different Ontario drink vendors without hitting that point of over-intoxication.”
Last year’s theme was I Heart Beer and Bacon; however, the event is indoors and bacon proved to be a difficult ingredient, so they opted to another fan-favourite dish for this year’s celebrations.
“Bacon was a very challenging ingredient for an indoor event, which caused many vendors to run out of their main dish before the event ended. After some discussion with a few key food vendors, tacos was a logical step in the right direction,” said Benoit.
As this is only the second year of the event’s operation, this year is all about self-improvement said Benoit.
I Love Beer festival mugs filled with locally sourced beers rest on the table of last year’s festivities. (Photo provided by Faron Benoit)
“Last year I made too many little mistakes that caused long lines at the door and congestion issues within the venue. This year the goal is to fix those mistakes and create a safe and affordable event for the people of Kitchener,” said Benoit. “I’ve got 18 to 20 drink vendors lined up, 10 food vendors, games and a great DJ.  This year I’ve added a menu card so people can see what all the vendors are offering and a Nintendo gaming area.”
Mama D’s Delicious Eats is one of many local vendors that will be featured at the event. It will offer two signature taco dishes, as well as alternative dishes for those with dietary restrictions.
“We will be making a few different items, one being a beer-braised beef taco with bourbon bacon jam,” said said Sarah Whearty, team member of Mama D’s. “We will be also offering a lime chicken taco with pico de gallo and a cilantro jalapeno sauce. We will be offering lettuce wraps as well for all attendees with gluten intolerance as well as for our keto customers. All items we are serving have been specially created for this event.”
This will be Mama D’s second year attending the I Heart Beer festival, an event that Whearty said highlights local eateries perfectly.
“There is a DJ, games, activities, local food vendors, craft beer and, this year, there is actually a judged competition for all of the food vendors’ signature dish. It should be a great time, as all of the other events have been,” said Whearty. “They’re a great company to work with and it’s a perfect opportunity for attendees to taste local vendor’s dishes that they may not have otherwise tasted.”
Although the event is for-profit, five per cent of the earnings from the event will be redirected into local charities that will be chosen by the local vendors.
“I Heart Beer is a for-profit corporation and has been in business for just over two years,” said Benoit. “I treat the company like a startup in the sense that all profits go directly back into improvements and growth.”
Tickets that range from $15-$30 get attendees general admission to the event, as well as a nine-ounce stemless wine glass and $4 in tokens to go toward sampling.

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