Sour to the People

Hi-Wire Brewing at Golden Belt hosted the first annual “Sour to the People” beer festival on Saturday, June 22 at their Taproom in Durham, NC. Feature 20 nationwide and local breweries poured some great sour and wild ales. Live music by the CJ Baker Band plus four local Durham Food Trucks were available.

Entry Included a commemorative glass and 3 beer tokens. Additional beer tokens were on sale for $3 each. Each beer was to be a 4oz pour (per token) but I’m happy to report most were pouring 5-6 ounces.

It didn’t get off to the best start, as it looked like it would rain and the line to get in moved painfully slow. It took me just over a half hour to get in and I watched to see when the line finally died and it was about 7pm.

All 20 breweries were in a single tent in the middle. Hi-wire had a tent of their own off to the size pouring 6 different beers from bottles. Some breweries were pouring from kegs, but most were from bottles. The brewery itself was open for business as usual with lots of indoor games inside. 

Brewery List

  • Allagash Brewing Company
  • Avery Brewing Co.
  • Barrel Culture
  • Bhramari Brewing Company
  • Birds Fly South Ale Project
  • Bond Brothers Beer Company
  • Botanist and Barrel
  • Burial Beer Co
  • Cascade Brewing
  • Fonta Flora Brewery
  • Haw River Farmhouse Ales
  • Innovation Brewing
  • Jackie O’s Brewery
  • New Belgium
  • NOLA Brewing Co
  • Revelry Brewing Company
  • Steel String Brewery
  • Trophy Brewing Company
  • Wooden Robot Brewery
  • Zillicoah Beer Company

Broo’ers Festival

Not quite a legit beer fest here but it was an oasis in a sea of Pabst Blue Ribbon for those attending Bonnaroo 2019 so I wanted to give it some quick coverage: A set of 24 different breweries were ready to pour including some highlights such as Bhramari , Lagunitas, Hi-Wire, New Holland, Brooklyn and others. Asheville, NC was well represented! You could buy tokens at the front or pay by credit card (or wristband). Each had one or two, but the good ones sold out after a couple of days and eventually breweries like Bhramari had nothing. This was the one area where the souvenir cup didn’t get a dollar discount, but they sold full and half pours for a reasonable price. They were all set up in a nice large wooden tent at the edge of the shops, central to multiple stages, with wood floors and decorated with fake hops.   

This was something they had done the previous year as well so, hopefully this is was a big enough success to continue going forward– it seemed to be doing well enough.

Participant List

those marked with an asterisk below were new to the event in 2019

  • Appalachian Mountain Brewery *
  • Bell’s Brewery
  • Bhramari Brewing
  • Boulevard Brewing Co.
  • Brooklyn Brewery
  • Country Boy Brewing
  • Crazy Mountain Brewing Co.
  • Elysian Brewing
  • Good People Brewing Co.
  • Gypsy Circus Cider*
  • Forbidden Root*
  • 4 Hands Brewing Co.
  • Hi-Wire Brewing
  • Hutton & Smith Brewing *
  • MadTree Brewing Co.
  • Nantahala Brewing Co.
  • New Holland Brewing
  • Oskar Blues Brewery
  • Pontoon Brewing *
  • The Saint Louis Brewery – Schlafly Beer
  • Sweetwater Brewing Co.
  • Terrapin Beer Co.
  • Wicked Weed Brewing

State of Origin 2019

This was a 6th annual event held on June 8 2019. Tickets were $65 each, but were $55 when tickets first went on sale.  The price is well justified when you consider what’s being poured are among the most expensive bottles you’ll find in your favorite bottle shop and some amazing breweries were on hand to pour including Jester King, Trve, Carolina Bauernhaus, Fonta Flora, Burial, Salud and dozens more (over 30 in total). The event describes itself as follows:

State of Origin is a boutique craft brew festival focusing on fermentation which embraces the unique flora and fauna of each brewery’s “state of origin” in the creation of their craft brews.

June 9, 2018 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Courthouse Square, Morganton, NC

The town had a free trolley service that did a loop around several area hotels which was very nice. Not knowing how frequent it was running, I took an Uber to the event from the hotel for only about $8 but Uber was not able to keep up with demand when the event concluded and so I did take the Trolley back and it was great.

Earlier in the day there was a tent in the square where you could pre-check-in to get your ID and tickets checked for a wristband as well as a table at Fonta Flora down the street who run the event. I didn’t realize it or would have got in a better position, but access to the event opened a half hour ahead of schedule to allow people to come in and wait in line for their brewery choice. A lot of us were at Brown Mountain Bottleworks (where Newgrass had a tap takeover going and were pouring samples) and I knew something was up when it cleared out about 20 minutes before the scheduled start time of 5pm.

Jester King’s line was the longest with their Spon 3 bottles expected to run out quickly and as we came in saw that Trve also had a very long line toward the entrance. The idea of allowing people to check tickets early and enter early was great and really kept things as under control as possible.

The majority of the breweries served from bottles as opposed to kegs due to the nature of these wild ales and sours. The event also has a nice sampling glass branded and with a unique shape. Fonta Flora also brews a special beer just for this annual event which could be pre-purchased and picked up at the brewery the day of the event.

The weather looked very bad but for the first half hour we were lucky and then the sky really opened up and poured hard. Luckily, they had prepared for this and there were several large tents to stand under when drinking, and naturally the vendors were covered in their own individual tents for pouring. Fonta Flora was even so nice as to bring large magnums into the tents and offer pours on the spot.

Another tip and note for myself next year. Quite a good number of people were staying at the Quality Inn where a large bottle share was planned. Personally, I’d had enough by the time the event drew to a close so I’m not sure I had a bottle share in me, but I guess you don’t get a large number of beer lovers in one place like this often so you’ve got to take advantage of it!

Untappd Beer Festival 2019

176 breweries committed to pour at the first annual Untappd Beer Festival on May 4th 2019.

The first annual event reportedly drew upwards of 12,000 participants but thanks to the venue size, the football stadium was able to accommodate them all well. Unfortunately, it did mean for much longer lines than you would typically see at a beer festival. 

If you were to dig though the FAQ on the event, you’d see bags were to be restricted per NFL bag policy: Clear bag no bigger than 12” x 6” x 12” or a clear one gallon sized freezer bag OR A woman’s clutch no larger than 4.5” x 6.5”. But as you’d expect, a good number of attendees were unaware of the policy and were turned away. The suggestion was to pay the Residence Inn hotel $5 for storage.

GA tickets were $50 for 4 hours, Early Access Tickets were $65 for 5 hours and a VIP option was available for $200 which on top of the 5 hour session would get you exclusive pours from 4 breweries, some food pairings and swag.

Things didn’t start off too strong– the souvenir glass turned out to be a very flimsy plastic which broke easily. There were reports that they ran out of these cups and started handing out solo cups instead. Worse, about a third of the breweries did not have their kegs delivered to their tents during the first hour. The guys at Carolina Bauernhaus said their kegs had not arrived even know they’d been here since Thursday. They just were not delivered to their tent, but lucky for them they had a couple of bottles and poured from those off menu.  

I was fortunate to have gotten in with relative ease, I talked to other people who said that they were in line at the wrong location for early entry and were not told so they had to wait in the regular line even though they had early access.

After being spoiled by live music just a couple of weeks ago at Moo and Brew, I may have had unreasonable hopes for a stage show. During the first two hours, there were no band playing, but I heard good things about the music toward the end of the night.

Of course they had a special badge for the event. I was curious if the beer check-in experience would be enhanced at all such as leveraging bar codes for easy look-ups and was happy to see they did manage to make checking in easy. Each brewery had a large QR code you could scan to see the beer available

Early on brewers where generally cautious about running out of beer so pours were smaller averaging 2oz, but this improved as the event went on.

The weather did not cooperate, starting very hot and sunny and then it rained hard. Before the rain really picked up, staff shut things down stopping service and forcing everyone inside for shelter. Thunder was quite loud so it was serious enough that this was a very good and necessary move. Unfortunately, communication was very poor and after almost an hour a lot of people started to leave as Uber rates surged to triple standard rates.

When it did open back up, an hours were extended from 7:50 to 8:45 for last pour.

There was very little food among the breweries but inside, stadium service was on, which was so heavily leveraged during the storm that they were running out of condiments for the hot dogs.

The weather was forecasted all week so many expressed frustrating that the breweries were not set up inside to begin with, or moved in after the fact.

We can only hope lessons were learned and they’ll be back next year to try again. Despite challenges, it was an amazing set of breweries with 2-4 brews each. The check-in system was cool and Untappd is a brand we beer lovers want to see succeed!

Moo & Brew Festival 5

This is an annual craft beer and craft burger event put on by the restaurant of the same name. For this 5th annual event in 2019, there were reportedly 75 brewers serving over 200 beers in total, but they represented the breweries you are accustomed to seeing if you attend beer festivals in this area; lots of standard brews that you are very familiar with and very few that you would not have seen many many times before. While there were no special standouts, I don’t think that is what visitors expect of this event so that shouldn’t be a hit against the event. However, very few of the brewers that did come brought their A game. Some had only one or two beers and poured just half of the already small glass indicating they were concerned about supplies. Some specific examples: the Brewers at Yancey (Victory and Southern Tier) only brought just two beers (a porter and an IPA). Right next-door Pisgah Brewing had three. 

The weather that day started bad with some heavy rain and wind but by the time 2pm rolled around for general admission, the wind had died away and the rain was a light sprinkle that subsided and did not return. The ground was muddy, but otherwise had minimal negative impact on the even to everyone’s pleasant surprise. Those who came early for the VIP access experienced the most rain and you could later identify them by their muddy legs and shoes.

General admission tickets were $40 but a pair was just over $100 after fees and it was also necessary to pay for parking $20 or $10 depending upon where you chose to park. It was a damn good time though and well worth it if you got anything out of enjoying the concert that was put on (more on that below).

There were about 10 burger tents and you got a ticket to vote for your favorite. They were essentially sliders that sold for 3-4 dollars each so that you might be more likely to try a couple different places. There were also a number of vendors on site selling products and promoting services. Many of the breweries brought stickers to give away but also shirts and hats to sell.

A real treat that kicks this event up several notches was the live music. There were performances all day with Everclear closing out the show. This was a pretty solid choice as a band that a fair amount of attendee’s could get into and the band put on a great show. Some pictures from the show are below, but you’ll find video footage here on YouTube.

  • Everclear
  • Big Something
  • Junior Astronomers
  • DJ Overcash

Top 5 Charlotte Neighborhoods for Craft Beer

The greater Charlotte area is loaded with great Craft Beer Spots, but certain areas are dense with great venues that lend themselves to a nice day of Craft Beer Spot Hopping. With a focus on breweries and bottle shops, there are a couple of Charlotte neighborhoods that really stand out!

#1 Noda

Not just the most breweries and bottle shops, but some of the very best grace this popular neighborhood Noda, is loosely defined as “North of Davidson Street”.

There are a few standouts on the list of craft beer spots that grace Noda, but number one is definitely Salud — both a bottle shop with taps and a brewery/bar upstairs, you can not only buy a wide range of bottles in the shop but their own taps and guest taps are outstanding. Walk in either direction and you’ll find another area leading craft beer spot. Less than 10 minutes walking north, you’ll find Divine Barrel, less than 10 minutes walking south and you’ll find Heist (and others along the way).

#2 South End

The border lines for what is defined as South End may even include Wilmore where you’d also consider Pop the Top, but even excluding that, South End is a great walking destination for craft beer spots.

The top brewery would definitely be Wooden Robot, but Unknown is also just a 7 minute walk away. Within eyeshot of Wooden Robot is Brass Tap and Hoppin’ and Hoppin’ is right across the street from Seoul Food and around the corner from a Craft Beer Spot favorite, the Craft Tasting Room (an amazing bottle shop and bar).

#3 York Road

Olde Mecklenburg has a huge space here and has been around the longest, and that history has brought others established CLT breweries like Sugar Creek. All that great beer encouraged Queen Park Social to set up shop to introduce some entertainment and if you are walking with friends that are not as into beer as you are, there is also a cider and distillery right here. Further pushing the York Road up the list of great neighborhoods for craft beer is the recent addition of Brewers at 4001 Yancey which is an impressive collaboration between Victory, Southern Tier and now Six Point.

#4 Elizabeth

Elizabeth is one of the larger downtown neighborhoods, which is an advantage. The Hop Shop and Pour Taproom are both Craft Beer Spots favorites and are just a two minute walk from one another. Other restaurants and bars also push this neighborhood into the top neighborhoods but when you consider that these killer spots are right up on the boarder of the neighborhood of Commonwealth, the fact that you can walk to Legion and Common Market in 8 minutes, this is a great place to walk and enjoy craft beer.

#5 Plaza Midwood

Another growing neighborhood when it comes to Craft Beer Spots, it is home to a couple of recently opened breweries. Giving Plaza Midwood the bulk of its points here was the addition of Resident Culture. Pilot Brewing also opened recently and like Elizabeth above, these spots are a fairly short walk to craft beer spots in Commonwealth.