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2nd Gov's X Fest

June, 2000

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 fest-ward.

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 waterworks.

This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush

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