2nd Gov's X Fest
By Bobby Bush
The inaugural Governor’s Crossing Brewer’s Festival, held last year in Sevierville,
Tennessee is already legendary in the history of Southern beer festivals. Held in the low
lands behind Rocky River Brewing Company, bordering on the Pigeon River, the grassy
field was already soggy from a week’s worth of unseasonable rain. Two hours after the
starting gun of a tropical June Saturday sounded, fast moving, nasty black clouds
unleashed a torrential downpour that turned beer fest into mud fest. Nearly all of brewer
Ron Downer’s hard work and preparation became mired in ankle deep muck.
Determined not to be weather beaten this year, Downer and crew had contingency
plans ready for the 2nd annual Governor’s Crossing Brewer’s Festival. Graciously, when
June 10, 2000 unfolded, it left a glorious, cloudless though hot fest day, perfect for good,
clean, dry beer drinking.
With two last minute no-shows, GovX2000 fielded a slightly smaller group of
breweries than 1999’s event. But with over 50 different beers to taste, no one went home
thirsty. Blackhorse Pub & Brewery, New Knoxville Brewing and Calhoun’s
Tennessee Microbrewery made the short drive over from Knoxville. Gatlinburg’s
Smoky Mountain had an even shorter trip, while Rocky River just rolled kegs down from
their multi-million dollar, mega-brewpub on the hill above. Knoxville beer distributor
Beverage Control also made an appearance, pouring bottled Belgian imports Corsendonk
Pale and Dark.
Three North Carolina breweries traverse the mountains to participate. Neither
Highland Brewing (Asheville) nor Cottonwood Brewery (Boone) had more than a two
hour drive, but coastal Wilmington Brewing spent the better part of a day
interstate-bound. Joining the brewery line-up were BarrelHouse Brewing (Cincinnati),
Bluegrass Brewing (Louisville, KY), Frederick Brewing (Maryland), Max Lager’s
American Grill Brewery (Atlanta), and R.J. Rockers (Spartanburg, SC).
A crowd estimated at close to 400, over the festival’s seven hour run of
all-you-can-taste beer, enjoyed a variety of beer styles. Most memorable among the
selection were Blackhorse’s pungent Vanilla Cream Ale; Bluegrass’ Dark Star Porter (a
medal winner at ‘97’s Real Ale Fest); Calhoun’s strong Capricator Bock and ‘99GABF
gold Velas Helles; Cottonwood’s cask Triple Malt; New Knoxville’s XX Pale Ale; R.J.
Rocker’s Buck Wheat; Smoky Mountain’s Kilt Tilter Scottish Ale; and, of course, host
Rocky River’s Fest Beer, a Vienna-style lager.
Downer’s festival layout was drinker-friendly, spacious with ample porta-toilet
access. Some folks took advantage of the sunshine, reclining on lawn chairs and blankets
in the grass. Others hid from those destructive rays beneath the brewers’ tents. Barley’s
sold pizza. Rocky River’s two level outdoor patio, on the hill overlooking the fest, was
jammed with fest-goers taking a break and enjoying live music, which was also beamed
Many people in the crowd appeared to be festival first timers. Give them credit for
trying. I watched undetected as curiosity led to a small, hesitant taste. Before they knew
it, they were enjoying the experience of a world of beer without leaving Eastern
Tennessee. Even that toothy youth with the well worn John Deere t-shirt found
something he could drink. And there wasn’t a Budweiser in sight.
Judging by his beer and the medals they’ve won, Ron Downer is serious about beer
and brewing. That passion, and eagerness to share the beer experience, showed in many
facets of the 2nd annual GovX2000. For a small festival intent on getting bigger and
better, Governor’s Crossing Brewer’s Festival is immense fun, even without the celestial
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush