The craft beer movement is strengthening across states as brewpubs and breweries open in cities and handcraft a multitude of flavors to sate aficionado palates far and wide. In 2005 NC officially became a hub for this ever-growing effort as then-Governor Mike Easley signed into law Pop the Cap, which raised the level of alcohol in NC beer to 15 percent ABV. Since then, we’ve secured our own state’s beer month (April) and have seen the launch of organizations like NC Beer Guild, a nonprofit made up of brewers, vendors, retailers, and craft-beer enthusiasts focused on promoting North Carolina beer.
In Wilmington the rise of breweries just in the past six months remains impressive: Flytrap, Broomtail, Wilmington Brewing Company, and Good Hops all opened (or will open) their doors in time for the second annual Wilmington Beer Week, headed by the folks at Lighthouse Beer and Wine in Wrightsville Beach. Since 1998, Jason Adams, owner of Lighthouse, has had his passion seeped in hops and barley. He founded Lighthouse Beer and Wine to be a one-stop shop for everything from cheap domestic beer to high-end champagne. It not only evolved beyond his expectations, he also launched the longest running beer festival in Wilmington. On October 18 the Lighthouse Beer and Wine Festival will take place at Battleship Park from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., but to preface the charitable tasting (proceeds benefit The Carousel Center, which works with abused and neglected children), Wilmington Beer Week will takes place October 11 through the 17.
Anna Worobey, manager for Lighthouse Beer and Wine, says, “The success of each event last year definitely made it easier to get it off the ground this year. . . . We’ve been able to improve this year’s number of events and people participating.”
With a small team helping Worobey organize and plan, they’ve devised over 25 happenings in six days. Plus, they’ve included numerous restaurants, retails shops and brewpubs to join the fun. From beer dinners to tap takeovers, brewery showcases to charity events, there is something appealing for everyone, no matter the preference.
“We’ve tried very hard to schedule a good variety,” Worobey says. “We do not want to oversaturate a day with events because craft beer in Wilmington isn’t quite big enough yet. We want these beer dinners to sell out. We want each tap takeover to be successful!”
The Bruery out of California will take over the taps at the Lighthouse on the 11, and Stone Brewery will take over Mellow Mushroom on the 15. Beer dinners have doubled this year, too. Canapé, located in the Brooklyn Arts District, will kick off the week with a beer dinner featuring brews from Mother Earth Brewery out of Kinston, NC ($65). Downtown’s Manna will return as a participant to host Foothills Brewery on the 15, and Castle Street’s Rx will host five courses with five Oskar Blues beers ($65) on the 14. Rx’s sister restaurant, Pembroke’s, located in the Forum, also joined the festivities and will welcome Highlands Brewing Company to their digs on the 16 ($65). “Pembroke’s and Rx wanted to make sure they were paired with a North Carolina brewery to stay true to the farm-to-table style that they’re already famous for,” Worobey says.
“We did it last year and it was so communal,” Lisa Nez, event coordinator at Rx and Pembroke’s, says. “People were making friends, and we see these people regularly at the restaurant now. It’s such a great event—so laid back. And it really goes with our mission: Highlands is a NC brewery, and Oskar Blues grow their own hops.”
New this year is The Olive Café, which will pit beer against wine during a dinner hosted on the 13. They will focus on small plates but with a competitive edge.
“Their manager’s a level-two sommelier and will pick the wines, and Aaron Dowling (one of our staff members and the person who has helped plan this entire week with me) will pick the beers,” Worobey says. “The guests will vote throughout their meal as to which pairing they like best, and a winner will be picked at the end of the meal.”
Wilmington Beer Week 2014 features numerous local charities, too, as many businesses decided to take imbibing to greater levels outside of expanding one’s beer glossary. Waves to Water and Paws Place Animal Shelter are slated to be beneficiaries of two events. Founders and Friends will happen October 14 at Lighthouse, with pups who need adopting greeting participants. Partial proceeds of every beer flight purchased will be donated to Paws Place.
“Jason and [his wife] Leigh are big advocates for adopting dogs (not shopping for them), and Paws Place is a local non-kill shelter with an outdoor facility,” Worobey says. “They are in the process of raising money for an indoor facility, so we picked them to help speed that process along, raise awareness, and hopefully find some forever homes for some of their dogs.”
Waves for Water raises money for clean water for communities worldwide. Lighthouse will host Longwave Yoga for a Detox to Retox event, led by instructors Lexi Paulos, to benefit the charity. “We decided to pair some of our events with charities because these people work hard to better our community and communities around the world,” Worobey says. “Wilmington Beer Week is a celebration of craft beer in our community, and what better way to celebrate those people and what they do then by giving them a break from their hard work while helping to support their cause?”
Aside from hosting various brewery reps throughout the week, Fermental also will hold a fundraiser for the feline rescue All 4 Cats during their Great Pumpkin Debacle on October 11. Live music will play throughout the day, food trucks will be on hand, and pumpkin beers from around the world will be served. Partial proceeds will go to All 4 Cats.
Other specialty events on the docket include a screening at Satellite Bar and Lounge off Greenfield Street on October 13 at 9 p.m. Bombers Bev. Co. will be on hand, as the evening commences with musical and beer-infused short films directed by Zach Boylston. Boylston followed numerous beer enthusiasts around NC for three years and will showcase the outcome via film.
Broomtail Craft Brewery will do a sensory training seminar for enthusiasts who wish to learn the proper way to discuss and evaluate beers. They will hold four training classes during the day (5 p.m. – 8 p.m.) for up to 20 people each, to discuss the areas most important to understanding aroma and flavor: acetaldehyde, isoamyl acetate, diacetyl, DMS, trans-2-nonenal, and infected. Reservations must be made to attend.
As well, on the 13 Good Hops Brewing in Carolina Beach will offer eight of their half pours for only $10, and folks will get to keep a commemorative glass. On the 16, Brittney Offenburg’s photography series of local skaters in our community will debut at Annex Supply Company (4 p.m.), along with music by Tyler McKeig; local beers will be served, too. Cape Fear Wine and Beer will host Ballast Point Brewing on the 16 at 7 p.m., and afterward at 8 p.m. they’ll debut a mystery infused beer. Also on the 16, Wilmington Brewing Company will release their fall seasonal Sweet Potato Amber Ale that they’ve coined “The Wilmington Beer Week Brew.” Plus, they’ll have bocce ball, corn hole, can jam, and more games in their beer garden.
Downtown at Front Street Brewery, another special beer realease will get underway with their Autumnal Apple Brown Lager. It will debut during their Wilmington Beer Industry Social (not open to the public). Anyone who works at a local craft brewery or craft beer shop will be invited.
“It’s designed to meet other craft beer professionals, talk about upcoming events, happenings and beers, bring some beer to share or swap, come up with some ideas for collaborations, and have a good time,” Worobey says.
On the 17 craft-brew aficionados will take over the Voracious Rare Beer Festival on the Battleship NC deck, 6 p.m to 9 p.m. ($75, includes hors d’ouevre). This intimate event focuses on small-release and trade beers only. “The appeal is that it’s designed for people who want to try something special,” Worobey says. “We’re trying to keep most of these beers under wraps, but a sneak peak of what you can expect are S’mores Old Chub from Oskar Blues; Stone is pouring a Reason to Be Dammed aged in red wine barrels; and Ballast Point will be pouring their Sour Wench. . . . It provides people with the opportunity to discuss what they’re tasting with the people who make it.”
It all culminates with the Lighthouse Beer and Wine Festival held all day on the 18 ($40-$50). (Pick up next week’s encore for full coverage.)
“This week is about celebrating craft beer in our community,” Worobey adds, “and supporting businesses that support craft beer all year long. The more people that participate the better! My goal is to make Wilmington Beer Week a destination.”
Wilmington Beer Week
Annual Beer Festival and Wilmington Beer Week sates thirst
Jason Adams of Lighthoiuse Beer and Wine started his annual beer festival 13 years ago at Hugh MacRae Park. With around 20 beers on tap and local bands taking the stage, he set in motion an annual tradition and fundraiser, which not only had people excited about craft beer but supporting community interaction and live music.
Through multiple venue changes—and especially dollars raised for The Carousel Center, which works with abused and neglected children—this year’s event will overlook the Cape Fear River. Folks will trek to Battleship Park from noon to 5 p.m. to enjoy well over 100 breweries on tap. Plus, Adams has added wine to the lineup and around 50 wineries will showcase their sips.
Before Saturday’s festival takes off, folks will be able to enjoy the overrun of Wilmington Beer Week events, which started October 11. “Wilmington’s craft beer community has grown exponentially over the past few years,” Adams told encore. “Many cities around the country have their own week to celebrate craft bee—Wilmington Beer Week is all about building a relationship with craft beers and local businesses. We feel that is our responsibility to help promote and celebrate the local spots around town that carry craft beers.”
From brewery showcases to beer dinners to tap takeovers and even beer releases, the full schedule can be downloaded through the encoreGO app or log onto www.wilmingtonncbeerweek.com (also see last week’s coverage on encorepub.com).
On Friday night, Lighthouse will host a Voracious Beer Festival on the Battleship NC’s deck. This intimate event focuses on small-release and trade beers only.
“The appeal is that it’s designed for people who want to try something special,” Anna Worobey, Lighthouse manager who oversees Wilmington Beer Week events, says. “We’re trying to keep most of these beers under wraps, but a sneak peak of what you can expect are S’mores Old Chub from Oskar Blues; Stone is pouring a Reason to Be Dammed aged in red wine barrels; and Ballast Point will be pouring their Sour Wench. . . . It provides people with the opportunity to discuss what they’re tasting with the people who make it.”
Tickets are limited and only 35 breweries are invited. Cost is $75 and includes hors d’ouevres.
On Saturday, VIP ticket-holders ($50) will be admitted onto park grounds early at noon, to get a head-start on the sipping and without the lines. Gates officially open at 1 p.m. for everyone. with a $40 general admission. Designated drivers passes can be purchased for $13. All ticket-holders receive a commemorative glass to use to refill the samples and to take home. Food vendors will be onsite as well, so folks can soak up the suds (and vino) with grub.
Attendees can track their fave beers with BrewGene. Plus, a guide of all the wines will be available at the festival for easy navigation. A free shuttle service is available for folks who live in the greater Wilmington area who need a ride home safely. —Shea Carver