Wayne Holt used to be a Bud Light guy.
Then he and nine of his friends started taking monthly tours of North Carolina craft breweries. First stop: Aviator in downtown Fuquay-Varina.
“I tried a Hot Rod Red and I was in love,” Holt said, referring to the brewery’s Irish style ale.
As the number of breweries in the state has grown, the 52-year-old Holly Springs man and his buddies have tried hundreds of beers, met dozens of brewers and started their own blog.
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They recently turned the blog into a craft beer promotions company – 919 Beer – and on Saturday will hold their first major event to show Triangle residents what’s so great about local brews.
The Beericana Craft Beer and Music Festival will take place from 1:30 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Sugg Farm Park in Holly Springs.
The festival will feature more than 50 N.C. breweries, about a dozen food trucks and four bands. Each brewery will serve at least two styles of their beer, and many will offer even more.
“There’s something in North Carolina being brewed for every beer drinker,” Holt said. “Even if you are a national brand drinker, if you come out and try a lot of beers I know you’ll find something you like.”
Bigger brewers that will be attending include Big Boss from Raleigh, Fullsteam from Durham and Foothills from Winston-Salem.
The festival will also feature smaller brewers such as Clayton’s Deep River Brewing, Cary’s Fortnight Brewing Company and Charlotte’s NoDa Brewing Company, which won a Gold Award at the 2014 World Beer Cup for its American style IPA.
“The most exciting thing about this festival is that the people pulling the taps are the people directly involved in the production of that beer,” said Adam Eshbaugh, Holt’s 32-year-old business partner from Apex.
The festival is the first of its kind in Holly Springs.
Holt, a homebuilder, pitched the idea to Mayor Dick Sears when they were at an event together about a year ago.
Sears said the town’s newest park, which is 112 acres and can hold nearly 5,000 people, would be the perfect location.
“(The festival) will be a fun event in a wonderful setting,” he said.
It will also allow the town to show off Holly Springs’ hometown brewers: Carolina Brewing Company and Bombshell Beer Company.
“The German pilsner at Bombshell is especially good,” Sears said.
Holt and Eshbaugh said they were able to recruit a large number of breweries to the event because they’ve built relationships with brewers over the years and plan to treat them well.
919 Beer is paying for hotel rooms for any brewers who travel more than 30 miles to attend the event, Holt said. The company is also paying for all the beer dispensed, providing vendors and volunteers with free gourmet meals and paying attention to the finer details of the event.
For example, Holt said the tents will be laid out so that beer lines don’t run into each other. The event will also have free water for everyone and more restrooms than other festivals, he said.
“We’re trying to do something that makes everyone feel appreciated here,” Holt said.
VIP tickets – which allow early admission and access to private bathrooms and exclusive brews – are $75. General admission is $45.
All ticket holders get unlimited 2-ounce samples throughout the festival. Holt and Eshbaugh want Triangle residents to learn to appreciate local craft beer the same way they did: by talking to brewers.
“Conversion comes through conversation,” Holt said.