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Governor's Crossing Fest

July 1999

By Bobby Bush

Recent weather had seen extremes, torrential rains followed by hot steambath humidity; in other words, typical Southern July and August climate conditions. But this was the last Saturday of June, the date set for head brewer Ron Downer's first attempt at festival organization, Governor's Crossing Brewers' Festival. Held in the back forty at Rocky River Brewery & Grille, the beautiful new $7 million brewpub in Sevierville, TN, the setting and organization couldn't have been better. The Pigeon River ran quietly behind the brewers' tents. Straw had been scattered to cover wet soil. Sunglasses and sunscreen were practically required fest accessories.

Skies were clear and the thermometer pushed 90 as the 3:00 starting time arrived. Scheduled to run until 11:00, the crowd was slow to arrive, but the weather was not. By 5:00 a monsoon arrived, reducing the straw surface to a mud bath. Yet, where there's beer, there's a way. And the party proceeded as rain varied from drizzle to waterfall. Crowding beneath the long tents, festival patrons joined employees from 18 breweries. It was like having a backstage pass at a rock concert. Cozy but dry, everyone mingled, happily sharing comments on beer and flood control.

It was not unusual that an eastern Tennessee festival would be well populated by Tennessee breweries. Along with host Rocky River, joining the watery event were Blackhorse Pub & Brewery, micro New Knoxville and Great Southern, all from Knoxville. Smoky Mountain, a Calhoun's facility in Gatlinburg, Johnson City's Sophisticated Otter and Blackstone Restaurant & Brewery from Nashville were also on hand. Three brewers drove over from North Carolina: Cottonwood Brewery (Boone), Olde Hickory Brewery and, from coastal Wilmington, Williamsville Brewing Company.

Yet there were six other states represented. Joining the crowd of reddish-brown socks and shoes, were unsuspecting brewers from Atlanta Brewing Company, McGuire's Irish Pub (Pensacola, FL), Bluegrass Brewing (Louisville, KY) and Turoni's Pizzery & Brewery (Evansville, IN). Micro Acadian and regional Dixie Brewing companies drove all the way from New Orleans. Ohio license plates adorned the vehicles of two breweries: Barrelhouse from Cincinnati and Miami Trail from Xenia. When asked to explain their long distance travels to such a foreign market (with the exception of Dixie), responses varied from "we needed a vacation" to obligations for a reciprocal visit (Rocky River made an appearance at their festival). There were several no-show breweries.

Between cloudbursts, local radio personalities Phil & Billy entertained with their wit and contests. Soggy music was provide by David Landeo and Rick Rouse & Bootleg Blues. Food vendors lined one side of the tent layout, from Barley's pizza to Fuddrucker's burgers. The Hillbilly Hoppers, a Knoxville homebrew club, conducted a brewing exhibit and poured tastes of their all-grain American Amber. And Beverage Control, a Knoxville-based beer distributor, offered samples of bottled imports like Corsendonk Pale Ale, Frambozenbier, Mai-Ur-Bock and Skull Splitter.

Sixty or so different beers from eight states- whatever the reason, the mix was unique. The beer was grand. And the weather, well this is the South, isn't it? Ron Downer is already planning next year's Governor's Crossing event, looking for a May date that will hopefully be cool and dry.

Top Ten
According to Canadean's Beer Service, a UK research and publishing concern, the world's ten best selling beers in 1997, representing 29% of all beer sold, were: 1) Budweiser, 2) Asahi Superdry, 3) Brahma Chopp, 4) Coors, 5) Miller Lite, 6) Corona, 7) Heineken, 8) Antaractica Cerveja, 9) Skol (Brazil), and 10) Kirin.

This article first appeared in Focus Magazine of Hickory, North Carolina.

Bobby Bush

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