First Draft with East Atlanta Beer Fest's Jelena Crawford and Lauren Leschper

Organizers talk about the festival's growth and their hopes for the community

East Atlanta Beer Fest has come a long way since its relatively humble beginnings nine years ago when a group of neighbors managed to get a thousand people together to help benefit their community (and have some tasty brews while doing so). This year's festival, which will be held on Sat., May 19, and is calling Brownwood Park home for the third year in a row, is expecting 4,000 attendees. EABF will raise money for the East Atlanta Foundation, which supports myriad organizations and initiatives in the EAV area. East Atlanta Foundation President Jelena Crawford and Marketing Chair Lauren Leschper spoke with Creative Loafing about some of their favorite beers and what they hope for the future of East Atlanta.

Describe your first beer experience.

Lauren Leschper: My beer journey really started in college. Like any good UGA student, I had my fair share of Bud Light from a keg while tailgating. I remember traveling to Ireland during that time and barely drinking that heavy and awful-at-the-time-to-me Guinness at their Dublin brewery. My, how things have changed.

What is your favorite beer style, and why? An ideal pairing for that style?

Jelena Crawford: You'll find me ordering great IPAs like Bell's Two Hearted or Lagunitas IPA, which pair best with patios and summertime. Or my ever-favorite stouts — Left-Hand Nitro Milk Stout is a year-round staple in my world.

Can you talk about some of the ways the money you raise will benefit EAV this year?

Crawford: This year's grant funds helped Neighbor in Need complete plumbing and/or roofing projects on four homes as they continue their mission of helping neighbors with emergency home repairs. One of our farmers market grants funds East Atlanta Village Farmers Market's EBT program, which provides $2 for every $1 of food stamps spent. EAVFM is one of only three farmers markets in Atlanta offering this program to make locally produced, organic food more accessible to all citizens.

The Atlanta beer drinker's life has gotten increasingly great in recent years, to the point where there is seemingly a new beer festival every couple weeks. How do you plan to remain a destination with so much competition?

Leschper: Our fest is committed to continuous improvement. Two years ago, we moved to shady Brownwood Park. We combine a broad slate of craft-beer offerings with unique entertainment — from bands to performance art to beer-bear antics — and continue to retain the beloved pint glass as our attendee gift. This year is no exception, as we are expanding our footprint in the park substantially to include more shady grass and are adding food trucks.

Next: Atlanta's best beer events in May

Leon's Full Service Flight Night
?When: Every Monday, 5 p.m. until they're out
?Where: Leon's Full Service
?Price: Varies
?Leon's serves up myriad beer and wine flights (five or six of each) with food pairings.

Cypress Street Beer Geek Tuesdays
?When: Every Tuesday, 7 p.m.
?Where: Cypress Street Pint & Plate
?Price: Depends how much you drink
?Each week, this Midtown establishment features different tap takeovers, guest speakers, and special brews.

5 Seasons Cask Night
?When: Every Thursday, 5:55-7:55 p.m.
?Where: 5 Seasons North and Westside
?Price: Varies each week
?A different guest taps a different keg of "real cask ale."

Terrapin Tap Takeover
?When: Thurs., May 3
?Where: Ale Yeah!
?Price: Depends how many growlers you take home
?Brewery reps will give out stickers and glassware from 6-8 p.m., while Tree Hugger, Hopzilla, Easy Rider, Phlux Capacitor, 10th Anniversary, Rye Pale and a secret Randalled Golden Ale will be on the taps.

Atlanta Beer Tours: SweetWater, Red Brick, 5 Seasons Westside
?When: Sat., May 5, 2-6:30 p.m.
?Where: Brickworks parking lot, behind Hop City
?Price: $60, $35 for designated drivers
?The inaugural Atlanta Beer Tours trek will visit three Atlanta beer institutions.

Lazy Magnolia Meet 'n' Greet
?When: Wed., May 9, 6-8 p.m.
?Where: Ale Yeah!
?Price: Depends how many growlers you fill
?Lazy Magnolia brewmaster Leslie Henderson will be in the shop with glassware giveaways, while Southern Pecan, Jefferson South, and Deep South will be on the taps.

Hogs and Hops
?When: Sat., May 12, 6-10 p.m.
?Where: SweetWater Brewery
?Price: $40
?Barbecue will be served up by DBA, Boners, Sweet Auburn, and Bone Lick. Admission also earns you all the SweetWater you can drink, live music, and hopefully a nice day for sitting outside on the brewery's lovely new deck.

American Craft Beer Week
?When: Mon.-Sun., May 14-20?Where: The Porter Beer Bar
?Price: Depends how much you drink
?In celebration of the nationwide event, the Porter will offer takeovers on various nights throughout the week, including Allagash, Dogfish Head, Avery, and more.

Drink Local Night
?When: Tues., May 15, 5 p.m.
?Where: The Square Pub
?Price: Depends how much local brew you drink
?In celebration of American Craft Beer Week, the Square Pub will feature an all-local tap takeover (19 total), with beers from Monday Night Brewing, Terrapin, SweetWater, Jail House, and more. Brewery representatives will be in the house as well.

2-Course 2-Beer Pairing
?When: Fri., May 18, 6-9 p.m.
?Where: The Marlay House
?Price: $20-$25 (estimated)
?Every third Friday of the month, the Marlay's chef creates two unique dishes to go with two unique beer pairings. Call 404-270-9950 for further details and/or to RSVP.

Atlanta Beer Tours: Red Hare, Red Brick, 5 Seasons Westside
?When: Sat., May 19, 2-6:30 p.m.
?Where: Brickworks parking lot, behind Hop City
Price: $60, $35 for designated drivers
?The second-ever Atlanta Beer Tours trek will feature two Atlanta beer institutions and one relatively new brewery.

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