PinBrew Fest: The Pinball and Beer Convention You Need to Visit

PinBrew Fest: The Pinball and Beer Convention You Need to Visit
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PinBrew Fest: The Pinball and Beer Convention You Need to Visit
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PinBrew Fest: The Pinball and Beer Convention You Need to Visit
Published on
April 11, 2024
Updated on
May 2, 2024
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Pinball conventions are, mostly without fail, a good time. Whether you're looking to try out as many games as possible, play some matches against friends, or simply mingle with the community, a good pinball show is always worth the trip. There are numerous conventions that provide fun games and competition, but PinBrew Fest ups the ante by also celebrating one of pinball's most iconic companions: beer.

Co-produced by Keith Campanelli and Marvin Ortscheid, this year marked the fourth PinBrew Fest, and the show has been gaining more and more popularity since it started in 2021. Located at the Metroplex Expo Center in Girard, Ohio, the convention fires up in early April every year, offering three days of family-friendly, flipper-based fun. This year, I made the trek to PinBrew Fest 2024 to check out some new games, try my luck in the tournament, and of course, sample some refreshing drinks. I absolutely love pinball conventions, and I'm happy to report that PinBrew Fest is an uproariously fun party that boasts everything a pinball fan could want in a weekend.

New and Rare Games Galore at PinBrew 2024

You can't have a pinball show without some games, and thankfully, attendees were spoiled for choice at PinBrew 2024. With over 130 games available to play, all eras of pinball were represented, with EMs, solid-state, and modern games scattered around the convention center. I was extremely impressed with the pure number and variety of new machines, highlighting the latest and greatest from every conceivable pinball company. Simply put, if you were hoping to try out the most anticipated releases of 2024, PinBrew Fest was the place to be.

For starters, if you hadn't gotten your hands on Stern's latest game, Jaws, there was a dedicated section jam-packed with both Pro and Premium models to try out. Nearby, you could try out Jersey Jack's newest title, Elton John (Collector's and Platinum versions), slide over to play the buzz-worthy Labyrinth by Barrels of Fun, then indulge in my favorite fresh game, Pulp Fiction by Play Mechanix/Chicago Gaming Company. Just across the room, a trio of Multimorphic machines offered the best of the P3 modular system, including The Princess Bride, Weird Al's Museum of Natural Hilarity, and Final Resistance.

Spooky Pinball and American Pinball were also heartily represented at PinBrew Fest 2024, thanks to the folks at Mad Pinball, who provided an impressive collection of machines. This included the newest Spooky games, Looney Tunes, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, along with American Pinball's latest, Barry O's BBQ Challenge. As a bonus, they also brought a slew of rare Spooky games, including Domino's Spectacular Pinball Adventure, and America's Most Haunted. However, the standout for me was Rob Zombie's Spookshow International, which was housed inside an appropriately dark tent with immersive sound and lighting to amplify the experience.

Refreshing Drinks and Fierce Competition

Backing up the “brew” in PinBrew Fest, the show also featured an awesome selection of 14 craft beers and beverages from 6 local breweries, sure to satisfy all manner of taste buds. Throughout the weekend, I sipped on several delicious blueberry and strawberry blonde ales from Biker Brewhouse, was wowed by a fantastic Japanese rice lager from Birdfish Brewing, and kept coming back to sample more. Irish red ales, German hefeweizens, IPAs, and some smashing sours filled out the exceptionally tasty beverage menu. Best of all, despite the significant amount of consumption, every attendee was on their best behavior. PinBrew Fest has a distinct party vibe, but it's one where everyone stays respectful and positive, even when the hour grows late.

On several days of the show, I found myself sticking around late into the night, as PinBrew's pinball tournament offerings had me hooked. The main tournament saw approximately 100 players competing, with various 2-hour-long qualifying rounds scheduled throughout the weekend, leading to the big playoffs on the final day of the show. Saturday also hosted a handful of other tournaments, including the PinBrew Fest Women's Tournament, as well as the Youth Tournament. Similar to my performance at Past Times Mega Matchplay, I failed to qualify for the A or B division finals, but it was still a blast to participate.

Women's Tournament Winners

Both the Main and Women's tournaments were streamed live on Twitch courtesy of the Northeast Ohio Pinball Network, showcasing the top players as they hit their stride. Congratulations to the Top 4 players from A Division, including Aaron Rich (1st), Gary Hartz (2nd), Carlos DeLaSerda (3rd), and Cryss Stephens (4th). The B Division also had a stellar battle, with Aaron Florian (1st), Scott Paul (2nd), Nick Lane (3rd), and Alyssa Goodwin (4th) taking the top spots. In the Women's Tournament, four incredibly talented players emerged at the top of the pack, as Valencia Kelly (1st), Holly Koskinen (2nd), Emily Harrison (3rd), and Angie Martinelli (4th) all fought their way to the finals.

Main Tournament A Division Winners
Main Tournament B Division Winners

A True Pinball Community Party

In short, my experience at PinBrew Fest 2024 was outstanding. When discussing the show with Keith Campanelli, he made it clear that the event was all about having a good time with friends and celebrating the wonderful pinball community. Since its debut, PinBrew has seen significant growth, to the point where you can now catch legendary designers like Mark Ritchie walking around the halls and interacting with fans. To my luck, I was even able to challenge Mark to a match of Pulp Fiction, and spend some time chatting about the heart and soul of our beloved hobby.

If you've yet to attend PinBrew, worry not, as this beautiful mix of pinball and beer is sure to return in 2025. After an entertaining weekend full of fun games and great company, I can't help but feel even more entrenched in my love for pinball. Thanks to the hard work of organizers like Keith Campanelli, PinBrew is a place where everyone can come together to celebrate pinball, from families and friends to the most dedicated competitive players. According to Mark Ritchie, pinball is more than just a game, but verifiable “art in motion.” If that's the case, then PinBrew Fest is the best kind of art gallery I can think of, where the drinks flow freely and good times are had by all.