Lighthouse Beer Festival
Saturday, October 20th
1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; noon for VIP tickets
3400 Randall Parkway
$13 (designated drivers)-$45/VIP
As I write about this upcoming fest, I realize that I’ve been writing for encore about craft beer for over a year. I know how spoiled Wilmington drinkers are overall—from the Atlantic shore to the Cape Fear riverfront, locals and tourists are bound to find a plentiful assortment of artisan craft beers and microbrews. On Front Street, most of Wilmington’s bars are striving to expand and colorize their brew selection; Cape Fear Wine and Beer take the downtown lead. On US-74, crossing the bridge and heading toward Wrightsville Beach, the hot spot for craft beer connoisseurs is, of course, Lighthouse Beer and Wine.
Around this same time last year I previewed the festival, emphasizing its 10th year and the brilliant selection of craft brews—local, national, international, rare, etc. The inclusion of domestics, gluten-free options, and inspiring wine/mead choices was notable, showing that the festival directors were open to reaching everyone’s palate. Owner of the Lighthouse Beer and Wine shop and beer garden, Jason Adams, understood that while the event concentrated more on smaller breweries and the beers, there was no reason to start excluding people and their drinking choices. North Carolina breweries like Highland or Duck-Rabbit are present at the festival, yet Pabst also was welcomed to set up and hand out samples.
A large portion, almost more than 50 percent, of the festival attendees come from outside of Wilmington. Some travel from famously sud-soaked countries like Germany or Belgium. Some come home after battling through a long tour in Afghanistan.
“With all the breweries we get in, it draws a national and international crowd to the festival,” Adams said back in 2011. This year is certainly no different—all around the world, tickets have been sold and travelers consistently make their way to our quaint, coastal city for this specific event.
This year’s entertainment, Wisconsin-based Americana folk duo Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons, will take the stage after a summer tour with Norah Jones, and after an exciting performance on David Letterman. The band’s last album, “Death Won’t Send a Letter,” received accolades from Rolling Stone which described it as “filled with woozy gospel organs and broadly strummed acoustic guitars.”
This Saturday, October 20th, the Lighthouse Beer Festival is marking its 11th year. The Lighthouse Beer and Wine store came to life 14 years ago, and to this day it carries over 700 different beers, including kegs. Putting aside obvious smart business moves, Jason Adams and the Lighthouse crew since the beginning have played a major role in strengthening the craft beer movement in Wilmington, especially in Wrightsville Beach.
Typing about the greatness of the Lighthouse Beer Festival and raving about the over 90 participating breweries and 300 plus beers, I am compelled to confess something: I still have not been to any of the Lighthouse Beer Festivals in the past, and due to a business trip, I am not going to make it this year either. It’s the sad truth, my fellow beer aficionados, and I do not know if this may invalidate a lot of what I have to say about this event. Perhaps a little, but it cannot be denied how important Lighthouse is to our craft beer culture. They have supplied our town with a hearty selection of beers, and when the temperature drops and the leaves start changing, the Lighthouse Beer Festival gathers Wilmingtonians and those from around the world together for a day of brews and entertainment.
Every time I have missed this festival, I hear the aftermath from other citizens and beer drinkers: It’s one of, if not the best, beer events our city offers. While I will miss it this year again, I can take comfort in knowing that there will be more beer enthusiasts there this year, and it will only continue to grow and spread the beauty of craft beer and community.
Tickets for the Lighthouse Beer Festival are $35 for regular entry at 1 p.m., or folks can enjoy $45 VIP entry early at noon to beat the lines and get a head start on the indulgences. Designated driver tickets are $13 and are available for those that are 21+ non-drinking volunteers. All money raised from the festival will, per usual, be donated to The Carousel Center, a non-profit organization committed to aiding abused and neglected children. The center provides critical care in 15 counties in southeastern North Carolina.
Tickets can be purchased in the store at 220 Causeway Boulevard on Wrightsville Beach, or on the website, www.lighthousebeerfestival.com. With entry, attendees receive a glass that will be used to sample as many beers as they can handle throughout the event. Food vendors will be available, selling snacks and water. As always, Lighthouse ensures safety first with a free shuttle service available to the greater Wilmington area starting at 3 p.m. and running through the festival’s close. Last, but not least, don’t forget those ID’s!