The Dialogue with Rob Shomaker
This feature is a question-and-answer session with a new Blount County Chamber member. So here we go with our 57th installment visiting with Rob Shomaker, Treasurer of the Tennessee Winter Beer Fest which benefits the New Hope Blount County Children's Advocacy Center.
How did the Beer Fest begin? The Tennessee Winter Beer Fest began as an idea. Honestly, it was Mike Adams who was the General Manager at what we all remember as The Market. Mike wanted to do a beer festival and after gathering several of us together to make it happen the Tennessee Winter Beer Fest was born. We all agreed from the beginning that the proceeds had to benefit a local charity. As many of us were already involved with New Hope Blount County Children's Advocacy Center in one way or another, it made sense for the event to benefit New Hope.
Describe what the Beer Fest does. We put on a beer festival! Our mission is: MISSION: To promote the regional craft beer culture within East Tennessee through intimate events and gatherings while supporting local charities. We've done the annual TNWBF for 5 years, 2017 will be our 6th. We've got a great volunteer board who makes the event happen. We're also a 501c3 and registered with the state as non-profit which helps ensure we can maximize our donation each year. We also pride ourselves on keeping the event 1) focused on TN brewers and 2) small. We only sell 300 tickets each year and we have always sold out. We believe this is important in creating the right atmosphere as we want people to be able to engage with and hang out with the brewers. We also don't want our brewers to feel like they are working but able to enjoy the event too. I tell people this event feels a lot like a big party in your buddy's backyard.
What is the board's background? Several of our board members work in the industry. Adam Palmer is the President/Founder of Saw Works. Dr. Todd White is with the South College Brewing Science Program, Nathan Robinette is the brains behind The Casual Pint Franchise - the fastest growing beer franchise in the country. Steve Fillmore is a huge craft beer advocate and knows his way around a smoker pretty well - so he handles all our food. Mayor Mike Talley of Townsend is another huge beer advocate and has opened a lot of doors in the community for us. Andy Atkinson and Mike Adams are both with Charter Communications. They seems to know everybody. Andy is also with the Blount County Homebrewers. Johnny Miller currently is the General Manager of the Farragut Casual Pint and is well connected in the beer industry. Don Kline and I (Rob Shomaker) founded knoxbeersnobs.com almost 6 years ago and while we don't make our living in this industry, the blog has opened up so many doors for us and as a result we've gotten to do cool events like this, Hops for Hope, Knox Beer Week and I also now write for the Tennessee Craft Beer Magazine. So I don't know that it's any particular skill other than a love of craft beer and the community that comes along with it!
Describe the people that attend. The people that come to this event are nothing short of awesome. They love craft beer, they love the community they are a part of, they love New Hope. They're awesome and the reason we've been able to donate a total of $50K to New Hope the last 5 years.
What do you enjoy about the Beer Fest? Two things: 1) I love working with our board - these guys are awesome and I'm so glad we get to do this together. 2) While the event is always great, it goes by in a flash. What really makes it worthwhile is when the dust settles, the bills get paid and we get to hand New Hope a big silly check. Makes it all worthwhile.