SHERIDAN — When the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce looked to start a brewfest a few years ago, organizers wanted a one-of-a-kind trophy to go along with what they hoped would turn into a premier event.

Mission accomplished. Now in its fourth year, the Sheridan Suds n’ Spurs Brewfest is considered one of the region’s top craft beer festivals, and Tom Balding Bits and Spurs made memorable, coveted top prizes to match.

Back in 2012, the Chamber approached business owner Tom Balding about creating an award for two categories: professionally judged and people’s choice.

“I came up with the idea of just mounting a spur on a horseshoe and gosh, from the very beginning, the people just really loved them,” he said.

Balding said he went to a brewery in Colorado last year that had taken home one of the spurs. The brewmaster recognized Balding and told him he was “thrilled” to win the award, which seems to be a common theme amongst Suds n’ Spurs participants.

“It’s kind of neat to be part of the brewfest,” Balding said. “I think the guy I met in Colorado who had won one of the trophies said usually they get some kind of plaque or something, but these are just really unique and sought-after awards.”

The hometown company tweaks the awards each year to ensure winners get something unique.

To take home one of the spurs in 2015 won’t be easy. At press time, 17 breweries from five states planned to come to Sheridan this weekend and show off their finest beers.

The brewfest is the Chamber’s largest fundraiser each year. The 2015 edition will be a little different than past events. The location moved from Whitney Plaza to Whitney Commons Park, a grassy change of environment everyone is excited about.

Chamber CEO Dixie Johnson said Chancey Williams and the Younger Brothers Band will perform, and other highlights include five food vendors and, fingers crossed, temperatures in the high 80s or low 90s.

“It’s just great overall for the whole community,” she added. “It drives tourism. It brings people in. It gives people another reason to not leave the community on the weekend as well, which is something we’ve seen over the last number of years.”

It also introduces the community to craft beer. Sheridan already has two breweries — Black Tooth Brewing Company and Luminous Brewhouse — but many local residents might not realize how big craft beer has become.

More than 3,700 small breweries operate nationwide, employing an estimated 115,469 full-time and part-time workers. Through the first half of 2015, craft brewers produced 12.2 million barrels of beer, more than double the 5.5 million barrels small breweries made the first half of 2011, according to the national Brewers Association.

“A lot of people here in Sheridan, they go to Star Liquor or they go to T & C or Little Goose, and they think, ‘These are just six-packs,’” Black Tooth Vice President of Liquid Assets Auggie Katzer said. “Well, at the end of the day, it’s part of a much bigger, broader revolution that’s going on around the states and the world.”

“Craft brewing has been one of the fastest-growing industries at least in our region and our state in recent years,” Johnson added. “You can see evidence of that here in our community.”

For Katzer and other craft brewers who plan to attend Saturday, the brewfest is a great opportunity to thank customers for their loyalty while vying for those special trophies.

Who is coming to Sheridan’s Brewfest?

  1. Altitude Brewery and Chophouse, Laramie (1999),
  2. Black Tooth Brewing Company, Sheridan (2010),
  3. Canyon Creek Brewing Company, Billings, Montana, (2013), (website under construction)
  4. Clear Creek Brewing Company, Buffalo, (2012),
  5. Coal Creek Tap, Laramie, (2014),
  6. Crow Peak Brewing Company, Spearfish, South Dakota, (2007),
  7. Gillette Brewing Company, Gillette, (2013),
  8. Lander Brewing Co., Lander, (2009),
  9. Luminous Brewhouse, Sheridan, (2013),
  10. New Belgium Brewing Co., Ft. Collins, Colorado, (1991),
  11. Odell Brewing Co., Ft. Collins, Colorado, (1989),
  12. Oskar Blues Brewery, Longmont, Colorado, (1997),
  13. Prairie Fire Brewing, Gillette, (2013),
  14. Red Lodge Ales Brewing Co., Red Lodge, Montana, (1998),
  15. Snake River Brewing, Jackson, (1994),
  16. Uberbrew, Billings, Montana, (2012),
  17. Uinta Brewing, Salt Lake City, Utah, (1993),

Planning to attend?

The fourth annual Suds n’ Spurs Brewfest will take place Saturday from 3-8 p.m. at Whitney Commons Park. Tickets are $30, available at the Chamber of Commerce or at Black Tooth Brewing Company. For more info, call the Chamber at 672-2485.