ShakesBeer Festival Raises Pints & Funds for Stratford Theater Aug 17

James Gribbon

ShakesBeer Festival Raises Pints, Funds for Stratford Theater on Aug. 17

Shakespeare wrote the line "a quart of ale is a dish fit for a king" in A Winter's Tale, so down two pints and get to feeling regal as the first ever ShakesBeer festival comes to the grounds of the American Shakespeare Festival Theater in Stratford on Saturday, August 17. Music, food, local craft beers and, naturally, some live theater, are all planned. 

The American Shakespeare Festival Theater overlooks the mouth of the Housatonic River at 1850 Elm Street in Stratford, and has hosted show business names like Christopher Walken, Katherine Hepburn, Christopher Plummer, Jack Palance, Roy Scheider and Kelsey Grammer from its construction in 1954 until finances caused the last curtain to fall in the late 80s.* The building still stands, the location is still prime, and efforts to restore the theater have been ongoing in fits and starts since various developers and the town of Stratford itself wrested control of the property from the state. 

Steven Bilodeau, the beer manager at Wines Unlimited in Stratford, saw an opportunity, took it to the Stratford Arts Council, and the ShakesBeer Festival was born. All profits from the festival go to restoring the venerable theater to the glory still be experienced by its sister theaters in Stratford, Ontario, and Stratford-Upon-Avon in England. Early settlers in the area were reminded of the Avon, in fact, which is how Stratford got its name.

"I always wanted to host a beer fest locally," Bilodeau told CTBites. "I decided to use the Shakespeare theater as a venue, and everyone jumped at the idea."

He started by inviting every brewer in the state of Connecitcut - seriously. Stratford's own Two Roads Brewing, now the largest brewer in the state, is already in, and Bilodeau is working with Craft Beer Guild Distributing of Connecticut to bring representatives and brews from a dozen or so other Constitution State brands.

Beer samples will be included with the price of admission, as well as food from Vazzy's Restaruant in Stratford and Lesser Evil snacks of Wilton. Food will be available for purchase from the Cowabunga food truck, and Bilodeau is working on getting truck-borne eats of the seafood and BBQ varieties as well. 

Stratford's own Javier Colon, winner of The Voice, will sing at the festival, and other musical acts will include Crunch Rock Band and emerging solo artist Rusty. Short scenes from Shakespeare's plays will be performed by Festival Theater actors between musical acts. 

Tickets to attend the brewfest and support the theater are $75, and are available at the gates, and ahead of time at Wines Unlimited, 2336 Broadbridge Avenue, and Captains Keg at 200 East Main Street, both in Stratford.

The ShakesBeer Festival takes place Saturday, August 17 from 4-8p.m. For more information, contact Steven Bilodeau, bilodeaus3@gmail.com203 993 0056

*Hollywood/theater legend John Houseman wrote extensively about his time as the American Shakespeare Festival Theater's artistic director in his book Final Call