Beer kegs from some of the country’s top beer makers will come to Raleigh next month for Brewery Bhavana’s first beer festival, the inaugural Soft Beer Fest.
The acclaimed hybrid of dim sum, brewery and flower shop will host the festival Sunday, March 31 from 2 to 6 p.m. in downtown Raleigh. Bhavana’s beer has made it to festivals all over the country, brewer Patrick Woodson said, and that the time had come to throw a party of their own.
“We’re about two years in and wanted to celebrate all the folks we’ve gotten to know from around the country and bring them to Raleigh,” Woodson said. “We’re excited about the state of Raleigh and love an excuse to host a lot of people.”
Bhavana quickly became one of Raleigh’s highest profile restaurants when it opened in 2017, collecting a Bon Appetit nod as one of the country’s 10 best new restaurants and a Forbes mention as one of the coolest places on the planet to grab a bite to eat. In the last year, it’s the beer that’s been racking up the attention, showing up on Thrillist’s summer roundup of the country’s best new breweries and online beverage publication Vine Pair’s case for Raleigh being one of the best places to drink in the world in 2019.
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As for the title of the party, Soft Beer, Woodson said that’s more loosely defined, with no real hard and fast meaning.
“Infinitely quaffable,” Woodson offered, saying that to him it meant Bhavana’s barrel-aged saisons. “We left it open ended and part of the fun will be seeing what it means to each individual brewery. What is their interpretation of soft beer.”
Brewery Bhavana announced the new festival in an Instagram post, teasing out a lineup that includes behemoth craft beer pioneers like New Belgium, to national favorites like Oxbow Brewing and Trve Brewing and North Carolina rising stars Zillicoah and Fonta Flora.
Woodson said the festival’s maiden voyage has something to do with the current state of Moore Square, which remains an active construction zone in downtown Raleigh, but whose renovation is scheduled to be completed this year. If things go well, Bhavana has their eyes on the square for the encore.
“It’s the first year we’re doing it, it’ll be an experience for us to learn how it goes,” Woodson said. “We’d really love for next year to spill out into the park and build a much larger festival. We hope to grow into a bigger affair.”
The festival will cap tickets at 300, which includes unlimited pours and food and a tasting glass. For comparison, Bhavana’s dining room has seating for 206, Woodson said. The cap aims to keep the festival intimate, Woodson said, rather than a beer guzzling frenzy.
“We wanted to keep it at a level where we could meet every single person that’s there,” Woodson said. “Beer festivals used to only mean getting as many breweries in the door as possible and everyone drinks too much. With breweries hosting their own events, bringing in like-minded or vastly different breweries, often times the consumer has the opportunity to taste more beers.”
There’s not yet a food menu for Soft Beer Fest but Woodson noted a preference Bhavana has built into a business model.
“Dumplings go pretty well with beer,” he said.
Tickets are $70 and go on sale Wednesday, March 6 at noon.