This years World Beer Festival in Durham will showcase North Carolina beer more than ever.
Daniel Bradford, publisher of All About Beer Magazine, which organizes the event, recently told me one of the festivals biggest challenges this year is finding a big enough tent for all the North Carolina craft breweries. There were so many.
Three of the states newest breweries will make their debut: Beer Army Combat Brewery from Trenton, Lynnwood Brewing Concern from North Raleigh and Ponysaurus from Durham. And a new addition to the North Carolina tent: Oskar Blues, the Colorado-based brewer that just opened a brewery in Brevard.
The twice-a-year festival (Raleigh in the spring and Durham in the fall) draws thousands for a bacchanal celebrating craft beer. The Durham Athletic Park is the venue for Saturdays event.
Its an interesting mix of those who come for the party and craft beer enthusiasts who are searching for the newest great taste. Whatever your motivation, heres a quick primer on the event:
New this year: The Art of Beer Village that showcases the refined elements of the craft will showcase beer and food pairings. Chefs from eight area restaurants will cook and offer tastings paired with a specialty beer.
Other educational components in the village include a homebrewing demonstration from Ben Woodward at Haw River Farmhouse Ales and a miniature replica of a commercial brewery.
Special beer: This years festival will feature its own beer. Bull City Burger and Brewery and Fullsteam Brewery partnered to make a fresh-hopped English mild with a majority of North Carolina malt and hops. Dubbed appropriately as Beer Fest Beer, its a dark-amber ale with a roasted caramel toffee nose and flavor with a bitter finish. Its 57 IBU and 3.5 percent alcohol by volume. VIP ticket holders will receive a 22-ounce bottle to take home, but the bottles are not for sale at the event.
Must-taste list: Each year, I seek out the breweries Ive never tasted before moving on to my favorites. This year, the three new North Carolina breweries are atop my list. Ponysaurus is bringing a fig saison that piqued my interest.
Another new one is Three Heads Brewing from New York. According to their website, they dont distribute in North Carolina, so get a taste of their India pale ale and black IPA before they run out. Both get good marks on beer-rating websites.
And Crazy Mountain Brewery, a Colorado-based brewer that just recently started distributing to North Carolina, will bring four beers from their lineup, including a couple I havent seen in local bottle shops.
Cask ales: Another way to try unique beers at the festival is hitting all the casks. These ales are served unfiltered and uncarbonated, often aged on hops, fruit or spices. Thirteen North Carolina breweries are bringing special cask beer, including a handful of IPAs for the hop heads in the crowd. Steel String Craft Brewerys cask caught my eye. Its a Simcoe-dry-hopped Cryin Holy Imperial IPA on yellow birch spirals.
Special beers ready for Casktoberfest
As a warm-up for the World Beer Festival, dont miss Big Boss Brewings 3rd annual Casktoberfest from 5-9 p.m. Thursday. The event benefits the states Mountains to Sea Trail and features more than 20 one-of-a-kind cask-conditioned and barrel-aged beers. Big Boss says its the companys largest selection ever.
Among the offerings: a Big Operator Belgian black raspberry ale from 2011 served from an oak wine barrel and Hells Belle Belgian golden ale aged on Sichuan peppercorns.
The event honors National Cask Ale Week in the United Kingdom and Oktoberfest in Munich and features German cuisine. No tickets are required, but Big Boss wants people to RSVP from its website, casktoberfest.com.The event is at the brewery, 1249 Wicker Drive, Raleigh.
What Im tasting
I had a chance to taste one of the new beers Steel String is taking to the World Beer Festival. The Carrboro brewers just released Crying Holy, an imperial IPA that is loaded with hops and dry-hopped twice. The malt balances the big bitter bite, and the floral, citrusy hops give the beer a potpourri that makes it tough to decide whether to drink it or just sniff it.
Contact John at 919-829-4698 or email@example.com.