The Inaugural Beer and Bacon Fest: The Great Unifier


“What’s remarkable to me,” said Brian Oakley, one of the founding fathers of the first annual Bacon and Beer Fest, “is that there’s so much interest in this event without any information about it.”

He wasn’t lying. Back in February when I first heard of the event, I sent our Motif publisher an email containing only the Eventbrite ticket link and the word, “YOWZA.” In the five months following that email, I learned nothing more about the specifics, yet my enthusiasm for the festival never waned. In fact, one of my friends postponed a camping trip because, as he said, “I’d rather do bacon and beer.”

So, what exactly is this festival that sold out its 700 tickets in only 10 days?

It’s everything you hoped and imagined it would be.

In order to gain a full understanding of what to expect, however, I need to discuss the two organizations that are responsible for this love child: Beervana and RI Food Fights. Beervana is the ultimate craft beer festival that happens every fall in Rhode Island, the type of event that’s invite-only for breweries, and the kind of place where true beer nerds can find eternal bliss. Oakley, of Julians, and Mike Ianazzi, of Nikki’s Liquors, have been perfecting this event for eight years.

Over in the food corner is Jim Nellis, the founder of RI Food Fights, an organization that showcases local culinary talent by setting up head-to-head competitions where Rhode Islanders cast votes for their favorite. These range from the Best Cookie and the Best Cupcake to the Best Italian Grinder and the Best Burger. (I’ve participated in nearly every event, including my pinnacle life achievement: judging the 2015 Cookie Smackdown.) During the Smackdowns, vendors set up booths in one location and offer samples, and ticketholders select a winner.

And thus, the Bacon and Beer Fest was born.

On June 17, from 2 – 5:30pm at The Steel Yard in Providence, 23 pairs of breweries and restaurants will come together to compete for the best bacon dish and beer pairing of any number of creative executions (for example, the vegan-vegetarian restaurant, The Grange, will be bringing their own “bacon” dish to be paired with a brew from Two Roads Brewing Co. in Connecticut). Every attendee will receive a tasting glass, a program with a map and a ticket to serve as his or her voting ballot. After sampling until their heart’s content, they cast their ballot for their favorite, and a prize is given for the “People’s Choice Award,” as well as a 1st and 2nd place prize as voted on by the Official Judges, and a special “Big Porker Award,” given by 94 HJY, one of the event’s sponsors.

Circling back to this event’s hype, Oakley said he, too, is excited. “An event like this appeals to the basic need of society, it’s part of our culture. And bacon and beer? They’re the great unifier.”

We could all use a reminder of those things that bring us together, united in our humanity — especially if it means having a little more bacon and beer in our lives.

27 Sims Ave, PVD. Note: a portion of proceeds will go to benefit The Steel Yard

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