Bourbon and Brewfest set for Saturday

Bowling Green Bourbon & Brewfest is a business ran by three WKU Alumni, Blake Blackburn, 28, a graduate in entrepreneur, Cody Turner, 35, a professor in college business and communications at WKU and Joel Nivens, 28, a graduate in business administration. Blackburn sorts out organize the variety of Bourbon in order to get a count of how much they will be serving this weekend for their annual event.

Griffin Fletcher

The Bowling Green Bourbon and Brewfest is an increasingly popular beer and liquor festival held annually in October at the Bowling Green Ballpark. Since its creation in 2015, ticket sales for the festival have nearly tripled, from 850 sales in 2015 to more than 2,500 in 2017.

Along with the Brewfest, which will start at 1 p.m. Saturday, the Bowling Green Brewtest is in its first year and will also be held at the Bowling Green Ballpark, starting at 6 p.m. Friday. With tickets priced at $30, the Brewfest will feature 3-ounce samples of 10 different beers and will include finger foods and free Uber rides.

As for the BG Bourbon and Brewfest, general tickets cost $40 and VIP cost $75. With the purchase of a VIP ticket, guests are allowed to enter the festival an hour early at noon, granted access to exclusive bourbons, beer and a buffet catered by 6.4.3 Sports Bar and given a BG Bourbon and Brewfest shirt.

General admission provides guests with the opportunity to sample craft beer and over 100 select bourbons from over 60 breweries and distilleries. Each brewery and distillery will be supplemented by official representatives and beer and bourbon experts, who may answer questions and provide insight into how certain beers are brewed and bourbons distilled. Through these representatives, guests are able to not only drink, but to learn more about the complex processes involved in making their favorite beers and bourbons.

In creating the BG Bourbon and Brewfest, an educational approach to bourbon and beer is exactly what founders Joel Nivens, Cody Turner and Blake Blackburn wanted.

“We want it to be more of an educational opportunity for people to meet and greet,” Blackburn said. “People will be able to meet the people behind the brands and learn from them.”

Blackburn and Nivens were high school friends and remained close while at WKU, and Turner, a marketing professor at WKU, taught Blackburn. The three eventually partnered and founded the Brewfest, inspired by events like the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Although a number of brew festivals exist in Kentucky and nearby states, Blackburn, Nivens and Turner recognized not many incorporated a bourbon aspect, and also Bowling Green lacked a large scale festival. Given the success of local and regional brew festivals, the three wanted “people to embrace bourbon the same way,” and hoped to attract local as well as out-of-state enthusiasts.

“We were inspired by festivals similar cities, like Owensboro, were putting on and wanted to bring that to Bowling Green,” Nivens said in a press release.

“With Kentucky’s rich heritage of bourbon, it was due time that someone paid tribute to the native spirit that we all love,” Turner said in the same press release.

In order to properly honor both bourbon and beer, the festival will be divided into two areas. One area will include samples from over 20 distilleries, including Heaven Hill Brands, the largest single bourbon distillery in the world, Evan Williams and Deep Eddy Vodka Distillery. The other area will feature various craft beer samples from over 20 breweries, such as Samuel Adams, the festival’s title brewery.

In regards to the festival’s out-of-state influence, Blackburn notes that ticket sales outside of Kentucky are increasing, and also believes, for non-locals, the event will be a great cultural representation of Kentucky and Bowling Green.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to get out and explore rural Kentucky,” Blackburn said.

As for the Bowling Green population, volunteers over the age of 21 are eligible to work the festival by serving as drivers, and local musicians will play during the festival. Blackburn remarks upon the importance of locals to the Brewfest’s success.

“It’s not just about me,” Blackburn said. “We wouldn’t have the festival if everyone here didn’t embrace it, locally.”

Now in his third year of helping organize and run the Brewfest, Blackburn looks forward to the Brewfest’s future.

“As a partner of the festival, it’s been a thrill putting it on,” Blackburn said. “The more I know, the more I can share with our guests.”

Reporter Griffin Fletcher can be reached at 270-745-2655 and

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