Brewski. Suds. Cold one. Pint. No matter how one refers to the deliciousness of an IPA or a sour or a saison or an ale or a stout, beer has made a huge mark on the NC economy over the past few years alone. According to the NC Craft Brewer’s Guild, North Carolina boasts the largest number of craft breweries in the American South. More than 120 breweries and brewpubs pepper our state, from mountains to coast. Within a 30-mile radius of Wilmington, alone, seven (soon to be eight) have opened shop within the last two years.
Next weekend, as Lighthouse Beer and Wine hosts their 14th annual Carousel Center Beer and Wine Festival, six of our local breweries will be represented. Front Street, Ironclad, Wilmington Homebrew, Waterline, Good Hops, and Check Six Brewing all will be on hand. Drinkers will be able to sample over 120 breweries (Oscar Blues, Lagunitas, Coney Island, Founders, Lost Coast, Stone, Ballast Point, Great Divide) and 40 wineries (Josh Cellars, Trinchero Terra De Oro, Napa Cellars) nationwide. No tap will be left unturned.
The event has been going strong as a fundraiser for the Carousel Center for Abused Children—a nonprofit that works with abused and neglected children and families on child-abuse prevention across southeastern NC. The festival has raised more than $150,000 for the nonprofit since its inception in 2001.
“We feel this particular non-profit is a very important cornerstone to our community’s youth and future,” says Jason Adams, owner of Wrighstville Beach’s bottle shop, which used to bear the name of the event: Lighthouse Beer and Wine Festival. For 2015 they’ve switched the name to Carousel Center Beer and Wine Festival to put more focus on awareness for the nonprofit.
“We’ve always felt confident that our efforts and donations go toward something very powerful and special in Wilmington,” Adams continues. The nonprofit will have a tent set up on the grounds to sell pretzel necklaces to help raise additional funds.
Aside from welcoming more local pours on tap, the beer festival has moved locations as well. More than 5,000 people are expected to turn out to downtown’s North Waterfront Park, overlooking the Cape Fear River.
“It will be even more convenient in terms of not only parking, but the ability to walk to and from the festival, leaving the past parking problems completely out of the equation,” Adams foretells.
Asheville’s Holy Ghost Tent Revival is set to take over the stage to play their ‘60s and ‘70s soul and classic rock. Plus, food trucks will be lined up to help soak up the suds.
But for folks who wish to really go underground in the craft brew movement, on Friday, Oct. 23, Lighthouse welcomes back the Voracious and Rare Beer Festival on the deck of the Battleship NC. Folks will be tasting one-of-a-kind beers not yet available to the general public.
“With the addition of amazing food from Culinary Creations, and killer music from The Honeycutters, this event feels like a private party thrown just for beer geeks,” Adams promises. “Voracious was created to offer the person wanting a more intimate experience in sampling rare beers.”
Some of the beers folks can expect to sip on include Wicked Weed’s Oblivion Red Sour and their Fille De Ferme. Front Street will showcase a cucumber saison, and Wilmington Homebrew has a Pappy-barrel blended stout. “It’s aged in three different types of Pappy barrel,” Adams says. All monies raised from the rare beer fest will benefit Carousel Center, too.
Leading up to the two major events, Adams started Beer Week across Wilmington a few years back. This year it starts Oct. 17 and includes events at various locations across town, like Detox to Retox—a yoga session held in Lighthouse’s beer garden with folks from Longwave Yoga. Beer Week takes place across all seven days leading up to the main festival on the 24th.
Adams and a small crew of helpers—including Lighthouse employees Dmitri Brown, Anna Worobey, Tom Clifford, R.J. Hogan, and Aaron Dowling, along with Carousel Center executive director Amy Feath—all work to make it go off without a hitch.
“It takes hundreds of additional volunteers to make [the festival] the great event that it is,” Adams says. “It’s been nice to see the parallels between the craft beer development in NC and the growth and development of our festival and its history. It’s also been a really neat opportunity to be able to bear witness to the huge shift in the way people in NC and Wilmington think about and enjoy beer.”
Tickets to all events are available at www.lighthousebeerandwine.com through Oct. 24.