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Sep 01, 2014

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Johnson's Oktoberfest 2000

October, 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

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