Johnson's Oktoberfest 2000
By Bobby Bush
Beer festivals are getting to be just like family reunions. There’s Gary and Martha
Greenshields from Raleigh pouring beer and sharing smiles. At a table nearby is brewer
Christian Boos, down from Greensboro with his Red Oak lager. Friendly Scott and Billy
Pyatt, brewing brothers from Hickory who run a homemade microbrewery in Glen Alpine,
are instant friends with everyone. Manning the gate and security, there’s Juan and John
and Al. All are homebrewers and look so official in their Staff shirts, which they
occasionally hide while unofficially drinking a brew or two. Mark Johnsen and his volunteers drove up
from Spartanburg just to serve their beer. Warm embraces, hearty handshakes, stories and
jokes exchanged, getting down with the home folk. Sharing beer. Telling tales. It’s
work, but not really. It’s fun.
And so the breweries gathered, eleven of them- all but one from in-state, at
Charlotte’s Independence Park for the city’s 2nd Annual Oktoberfest. Sponsored by local
Johnson Beer Company and Carolina Brew Masters, the area’s homebrewing club, the
festival couldn’t have ordered more beautiful weather. All that was missing from this
gorgeous sunny October afternoon were beer drinkers. Left up to another sponsor, radio
station WRFX 99.7, advance publicity was less than stellar. Nonetheless, the several
hundred in attendance didn’t mind non-existent lines, ample beer, plentiful porta-johns and
35 different beers to choose from.
Susan Johnson ran the Johnson Beer table, pouring Oatmeal Stout, Pilsner and
Oktoberfest while her children explored every inch of the neighborhood park. Husband
Tim would show up later, fresh from the brewery, to help out. The brothers Pyatt from
Catawba Valley Brewing, the one-year-old Glen Alpine micro, served up a tasty
selection of Indian Head Red, Brown Bear, Buffalo Nickel and the new Firewater IPA.
The only out-of-state brewery, R.J. Rockers worked the crowd with Downtown Brown,
Panther Ale and two new ones: Daniel Morgan Marzen and Frau Blucher’s Munich Lager.
Boasting their new acquisition, John Stritch from Mooresville’s Carolina Beer Company
served Cottonwood Endo and Great Pumpkin Spiced Ale along side their regular line-up
of Carolina Blonde, Charleston Wheat and Charleston Brown.
Greg Kolander, one of two Southend Brewery & Smokehouse brewers who man
the 15 barrel Charlotte and 5 barrel Lake Norman brewhouses, offered four beers,
including Oryans Oatmeal Stout and their seasonal Oktoberfest. From Raleigh, Rock
Creek brewer Bill Heaton promised their tasting room would be open in early November
while pumping samples of spicy Pumkpkinhead Pumpkin Ale and All-American Ale, a
West Coast-style Pale Ale. Spring Garden brewer Christian Boos spoke of his
company’s expansion plans, never missing a beat as he work the Red Oak and hard-to-find
Battlefield taps. From downtown Charlotte’s Rock Bottom Brewery, brewer David
Sharpe and assistant David Gonzalez talked nothing but beer, pouring Prospector Pilsner
and Sweet Magnolia American Brown, a GABF award winner for the Chattanooga-based
Gordon Biersch brewpub chain. Greenshields Brewing boasted their annual Oktoberfest
lager and a traditional Bavarian Hefeweizen. And all the way from the Outer Banks,
Weeping Radish execs Bart Kramlik and Andy Duck supplied tempting tastes of the
growing company’s Alt, Fest Bier and Pilsner.
Children played in a sand-filled volleyball court. A vendor sold bratwurst and
polish sausage while Magic Keys, a two piece polka band, oom-pahed away. The duo was
followed by Charles Harston and his right rocking band. Fest goers relaxed in the shade,
along a stone wall or perched on picnic tables, enjoying suds and music. No pressure, no
worries, just good beer and good friends. What could be finer?
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush