Thousands of people celebrated downtown Fresno with food and music Saturday, and Mayor Ashley Swearengin sipped a tribute beer bearing her name and likeness during the fourth annual FresYes Fest.
“How many of you are ready to try the Swearengin Strawberry Ale?” the mayor asked the crowd, to loud cheers. Swearengin said she was deeply honored to be picked for Tioga Sequoia’s first tribute beer.
“But really, today is not about me – even though I can’t wait to taste my very own beer,” Swearengin said. “It’s about our downtown, it’s about what Tioga Sequoia stands for, it’s about investing back in our community, in ourselves.
“It’s about believing that inner-city Fresno is on the rise, not on the decline,” the mayor said.
The beer is made with strawberry puree. After being presented with a cup and the tap handle of her tribute beer, Swearengin took her first sip.
“Everyone, if you’ve got a glass with you, hold it up,” Swearengin said to the crowd, beer dribbling down her hand and wrist as she held her cup aloft. “One, two, three, Cheers!
“This is delicious, by the way.” she said. “You can taste the strawberry, it’s really refreshing, so hopefully it’ll be a top seller.”
Swearengin’s tribute beer is the first in what will become a series of craft beers honoring important people in Fresno, said Tioga Sequoia President Mike Cruz.
“This is the first year that we’ve done this, and we’re going to do it every year,” he said. “We thought, what better way to introduce this than with our mayor, who’s been such a great advocate for downtown.”
FresYes Fest is way to celebrate Fresno, and especially downtown, with craft beer and food, said Mike Osegueda, one of the event’s organizers.
“Tioga Sequoia is one of the cornerstones of downtown, and going forward as we sort of enter the new era of the new downtown, they’re going to be one of the places leading the charge down here,” Osegueda said.
There were more than 20 craft beers available this year, and more than a dozen food vendors, which took up a blocked-off stretch of Fulton Street.
Organizers have been excited to see how the festival has grown each of its four years.
“This is at least triple the attendance of last year at this time,” Cruz said. Last year’s attendance was reported to be approximately 4,000.
Mike Kuhar, a recent Fresno transplant from Florida, enjoyed the mayor’s beer. Kuhar said he appreciated that the organizers were trying to promote downtown.
So what can Fresnans expect when they try Swearengin Strawberry Blonde Ale?
“It’s a light, springtime beer,” said Kevin Cox, brewmaster at Tioga Sequoia. “It’s made with 100 percent real strawberries fermented in the beer. A little tart, a little sassy – like our mayor.”