Some of the most innovative brew masters in America will bring their craft beers out for the 5th annual Cape Fear Beer Fest on Saturday, March 7. More than 2,000 eager enthusiasts will descend on the Wilmington Convention Center and put the 110 featured beers, wines and ciders to the test. Located on the beautiful Cape Fear River, the festival promotes admiration for the rapidly growing art of beer making.
“The craft-beer industry has experienced explosive growth over the last five years in North Carolina and in Wilmington,” John Horton, founder of the Cape Fear Brewing Company, says. “The convention center provides a clean, safe environment to taste different styles of brews and to meet brewery staff, who are there to explain and promote their products to craft-beer enthusiasts. The goal is to educate people on this amazing industry while introducing them to some great new drinks.”
Horton devised the celebration after learning the NC General Assembly passed legislation to fund the Wilmington Convention Center. It seemed a perfect place to pay tribute to the independent microbreweries, many of which have begun populating the area.
Front Street, Broomtail, Good Hops, and Ironclad are just a few of the local breweries participating in this year’s festival and representing Wilmington’s innovative beer-drinking people. Alongside of them are new establishments Hey Beer Bottle Shop and Bombers Beverage Co., who will be promoting their shops and pouring samples all day. Wilmington is in the midst of a brewery boom, rising to meet the community’s growing interest in craft beers and specialty brews. Bottle shops have begun sprouting up all across town, and with them, a wave of beverages never before tasted.
The list of local and not-so-local breweries attending the festival stretches on, offering diverse options guaranteed to satisfy everyone in attendance. Coming all the way from Louisiana, located just 30 miles from New Orleans, the Abita Brewing Company is bringing its Andygator and Wrought Iron IPA. And Boulevard Brewing Co. has readied its casks of 80-achre Hoppy Wheat beer for the 2,000 people anticipated to support the main event.
With specialty beverages flooding the convention center, there will be no shortage of entertainment. Bands Fred Flynn and Wes Sayer will be on site to perform, and plenty of food vendors will be on hand.
“We have some fun additions this year,” Horton says. “WWE wrestlers will be walking the floor and interacting with attendees. We also have the Wilmington Hammerheads and lots of new breweries participating, which is always great.”
The Cape Fear Casks Rare Beer tasting party, which will prelude the festival on Frida, March 6, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., will serve select specialty beer. Brewed specially for the event, each sampling is a unique offering. Broomtail drinkers will receive an imperial stout infused with árbol and chipotle peppers and a brown ale flavored with vanilla beans in bourbon oak. Foothills, a brewery from Winston-Salem, will be serving a pale ale made with blood oranges. The rare tasting, which is limited to just 200 people, is guaranteed to introduce even the most seasoned craft-beer drinkers to something they’ve never tried before.
This year the Cape Fear Beer Fest has teamed up with UBER, a mobile-app-based taxi service, to provide a free (up to $20) cab ride when you sign up online (https://get.uber.com/go/cfbeerfest).The festival is a strong supporter of responsible drinking and suggests that everyone participating in the event have a plan to get home. Their overall concern is safety. As well, designated drivers over 21 can opt for a $20 ticket to the event, provided they don’t imbibe.
“Don’t overdo it,” Horton urges. “Drink responsibly and don’t drive. There will be plenty of cabs, and the convention center is just a short walk to downtown transit. There are over 100 brews on tap, and this is a sampling event, so pace yourself and have fun.”
With that in mind, Horton invites anyone over 21 to join in on the fun. Children, toddlers, infants, and strollers are not allowed in, so find a babysitter for the day.
The festival runs from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Wilmington Convention Center. Tickets are $40 if purchased in advance online (www.capefearbeerfest.com/tickets.html), or at Front Street Brewery, Gravity Records, Duck and Dive, or Bourbon Street. They go up to $50 the day of the event.
Cape Fear Casks Rare Beer-Tasting Event
Wilmington Convention Center
515 Nutt St.
Fri., March 6, 6 p.m.
Cape Fear Beer Fest, Main Event
Sat., Mar. 7, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.