Got Beer? The GIBF Is on the Move

Since its inception 22 years ago, the Great International Beer Festival has been staple of the craft beer scene in Rhode Island. Before I even began writing for Motif, I was already a regular face at the fest, and it had a tangible role in helping bring good craft beer to the attention of the general public. But as the years went by, more beer festivals began to pop up in our humble little state, raising the bar and bringing new blood into the mix.

Meanwhile, the GIBF, and its spring incarnation the GISBF, have been relatively unchanged. I’ll be candid. Many beer snobs considered the fest to be past its prime in this new era of craft beer renaissance. Most of the other beer festivals were smaller and more intimate, and featured a focus on local breweries and celebrated special brands beloved by beer nerds everywhere.

Well, the GIBF has also changed with the times. This year’s Great International Spring Beer Festival will not be held at the Rhode Island Convention Center. Instead, it will be held at Mulligan’s Island Golf Course in Cranston, outside, under large tents, and feature both a renewed focus on craft beer, and a lower ticket price than in years past.

Including all the local RI favorites that you know so well, there will be 40 to 45 breweries offering their fare, including Grey Sail and Revival, as well as regional and national favorites like Berkshire, Samuel Adams, Lagunitas, Black Hog Brewing, and even some spiked seltzers in case the beer isn’t enough for you. The tradition of live music continues with Steve Smith and the Nakeds providing some tunes on the big day.

The change marks a real turning point in the craft beer culture of RI. The convention center affair was well-known to have a number of different issues, including security, crowd control, and the obvious cost issues of booking such a large and often sought-after venue.

“It’s a fun occasion, and that’s how we’re trying to keep it,” says head honcho Maury Ryan. “For the last 7 years, we’ve been trying to curtail drunkenness. We’re trying to do a fun, but unique craft beer festival with good craft beers.” In partnership with Mike Friedman, owner of Mulligan’s Island, and sponsored by 94HJY, Maury has shaken things up from the usual formula.

In addition to a more open and relaxed venue space, the change to the Mulligan’s Island golf course makes a number of otherwise difficult issues vanish. Parking in downtown Providence, as we all know, is an expensive proposition, but Mulligan’s Island has parking for 1,500 cars, and won’t be charging entire limbs to thirsty beer lovers. The Convention Center’s proximity to Kennedy Plaza was a plus, but the new venue also lies on the bus line (near the DMV), so public transportation is still an option for those without designated drivers. Uber services are also available, making safety a high priority for the new GIBF.

The changed venue also eliminates potential timing issues that have popped up over the last few years with Comic Con and other big-name events that tend to crowd around the same fall-to-winter timeline.

As for the fall show and beer competition, things are still up in the air. But Maury is hard at work trying to find an accommodating venue for the ever-popular festival, one that can overcome the show’s history of flaws and give us an exciting new fest to look forward to.

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