Peter Ujvagi loves to talk about bacon and the local Hungarian community. Oftentimes, the topics overlap.
As the Toledo city councilman will tell you, there are 27 varieties of bacon in his native Hungary. Some of the earliest memories of his childhood are of hikes with his father, Api, or of picnics with his family, and those outings, of course, included bacon. It is typical in Hungary on picnics to build fires and roast bacon and onions, then allow the bacon grease to drizzle down onto bread. Ujvagi calls the grease “the essence of bacon.”
“Bacon, paprika, and sour cream are the three major food groups [for Hungarians]. You can find one of them in every dish we make,” said the Toledo city councilman, who left Hungary with his family when he was 7 years old.
VIDEO: Beer and Bacon Festival
Ujvagi can spend hours talking about Hungarian culture. Despite dwindling in size, Toledo’s Hungarian community is still vibrant, many of the families put down roots in the city after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. One of the most important events for the community is the annual Beer and Bacon Festival, which raises funds for the Hungarian Club on Paine Avenue. This year’s event will take place from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday
Kris Ruedy, President of the Toledo Hungarian Club, with an assortment of food for the Beer and Bacon Festival Saturday at the Toledo Hungarian Club in Toledo. The food includes bacon toffee, chocolate covered bacon, pretzels rolled in bacon, pogacsa, bacon & beer macaroni & cheese, bacon-infused popcorn, honkey turkey, and a Birmingham hot dog.
“It’s just a fun day. A lot of my friends who grew up in the area and have moved away make a point to come back and eat bacon with their friends. It’s enjoyable, and it’s positive for the [Birmingham] neighborhood,” said Hungarian Club president Kris Ruedy, who was sporting a bacon costume last weekend as members of the club began preparations for the event.
Saturday’s festival will include 18 area breweries, which is up from last year’s total of 13. There will also be more food choices, including bacon and beer macaroni and cheese, chocolate-covered bacon, chocolate bacon toffee, and savory bacon biscuits, to go along with the mainstays — varieties of bacon on a stick, the Birmingham hot dog, popcorn drizzled with bacon grease, and the “Hunky Turkey,” similar to the meals Ujvagi made around those early picnic fires. Katie’s Randy Cat, fronted by former Toledo council President Steve Steel, will be the music headliner, but during breaks, there will be acoustical performances from local musicians. Last year’s event sold out and people were turned away at the door, but the festival area on Saturday will be much larger and more tickets will be sold.
“The theme of this year’s event is more beer, more bacon, more music, and more fun,” Ujvagi said.
The growth of the craft beer industry in the region has allowed for even more beer offerings. Patron Saints Brewery, preparing to open on West Bancroft Street in Toledo, will participate this year. The event should be even larger next year with additional commitments from future breweries — Sylvania’s Inside the Five Brewing Co. and Twin Oast Brewing from Catawba Island.
“The growth of craft beer in northwest Ohio continues to get stronger,” said Jon Sicotte, president of the Glass City Mashers homebrewing club, which is partnering again with the Hungarian Club for the event.
People may have a hard time envisioning an event that pairs a traditional American breakfast food with beer, but the hoppy, floral tones in IPAs come out even stronger when enjoying that style of beer with bacon and its salty, smoky flavors. Beer and bacon festivals have become increasingly popular around the country, with Chicago, Indianapolis, Nashville, Dallas, and Denver hosting events this year.
“We’ve seen other people start beer and bacon festivals, so we’re glad we got in on the ground floor,” Sicotte said. “It’s a unique way to celebrate beer and food. Sometimes you go to a beer festival and the food is just sort of there. But we really want the breweries to interact with the food. Several of them are bringing bacon-infused beer, and they’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make a good pairing.”
Lawrence Pritchard, owner of Flatrock Brewery & Distillery in Napoleon, Ohio, is bringing his Butter Pecan Bacon stout, which he put together by using Belgian candi sugar and butter pecan and bacon flavoring.
“I’m really excited. There are not a lot of bacon beers out there. We have a butter pecan porter that is selling well at some places around Toledo. We want people to know that we do cool beers like this. The bacon is going to balance really well with the butter pecan,” Pritchard said of the Butter Pecan Bacon Stout, which will have an ABV of 7.5 percent. Pritchard is also bringing his Key Lime Radler, a shandy with an ABV of 5 percent. “We have to have unique beers. We’re in Napoleon, which is outside of Toledo. We can’t make what everyone else is making and expect to be successful.”
Other breweries taking part will be 4kd Crick Brewery, Black Cloister, Black Frog, Bowling Green Beer Works, Catawba Island Brewing Co., Great Black Swamp, Earnest Brew Works, Father John’s, Granite City, Laird Arcade, Moeller Brew Barn, Maumee Bay Brewing, Neon Groundhog, Patron Saints, Tailspin, Upside, and Wild Side.
“I’ve become friends with the craft beer makers. I’ve been exposed to more kinds of beer than I ever thought I would be, and I love it all — except for sour beers,” Ujvagi said, crinkling up his face.
Wednesday morning, the bacon preparation began in earnest at the club. By the time Saturday afternoon gets here, Ujvagi and club members will have prepared about 200 pounds of bacon. Ujvagi and Ruedy are expecting this to be the biggest club party yet and a lot of fun. But they also hope it can bring attention to not only the Hungarian community but also the ethnic diversity of the city.
“In today’s environment in the country, all of us need to realize that none of our stories started in America. They all started somewhere else,” Ujvagi said. “It’s so important to understand who we are and where we came from.”
The fourth annual Beer and Bacon Festival will take place at the Hungarian Club of Toledo, 224 Paine Ave. Tickets include 10 beer samples and cost $25 in advance at eventbrite.com or $30 at the door. Food tickets are extra and will be sold at the event. Additional information can be found at toledobeerandbacon.com and the event’s Facebook page.
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