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World Beer Festival 2001

October, 2001

By Bobby Bush

This was my first trip to the World Beer Festival since 1997. Then in its second year, this Durham, North Carolina beer celebration was, and still is, hosted by All About Beer magazine. Keeping with its editorial philosophy, this well-organized event is open to all comers. Without any pretension, the 6th annual WBF was a resounding success.

Even though rain harassed the early October afternoon tasting session and foreboding gray skies hampered the evening program, over 6,000 people joined in the outdoor merry making. With one huge tent straddling the infield, the old Bull Durham stadium proved to be a perfect setting, though porta-toilets to augment the venue’s restroom facilities would have been a thoughtful addition.

Advance publicity boasted “300 world class beers,” but by my count there were 180 plus another 13 non-beer alcoholic beverages like hard cider, spiked lemonade and something called Woody’s Blueberry Ice, also available in cranberry. Yech.

Of the 78 breweries, distributors, cideries, importers and what-have-you, there were 16 actual microbreweries. North Carolina was well represented. From Weeping Radish in the east to French Broad in the west, there were 13 in all. Thomas Creek and New South - brewer David Epstein poured his 2001 GABF gold-winning Lager - were South Carolina’s only entrants, while Williamsburg was Virginia’s sole participant. North Carolina’s only 2001 GABF award-winning brewery, Mash House from Fayetteville, served brewer Zach Hart’s silver-awarded Hoppyhour IPA and three others.

Though Bud, Miller and Coors were nowhere to be found, regional breweries and microbreweries were large in number. The obvious (Boston Beer, Pete’s, Anchor, Sierra Nevada) and the not-so-obvious (Goose Island, Dogfish Head, Shipyard) comprised the total of 25, serving 69 beers mostly from bottles. And there were some good ones, including Old Dominion-brewed Tupper’s Hop Pocket Ale and Hop Pocket Pilsner. Beer impresario Bob Tupper and wife Ellie were there to smile and pour, each adorned with gold GABF medals, won in 1997 (for the Ale) and this past September (Pilsner). Beers like Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale (New Hampshire), Brooklyn Oktoberfest (New York) and Mendocino Red Tail Ale (California) were nice, even though the brewers weren’t there to discuss them.

And for the imported beers, there were 33 breweries and 52 beers. Again, some were quite notable. From England, there was Young’s sensuous Double Chocolate Stout, Belgium’s Moortgat Maredous 6%, German brewery Hacker-Pschorr’s Kristal-Weizen and many more beers for inquiring tongues to savor.

Food was plentiful, delicious and reasonable priced. Live music, from a stage positioned just far enough away so it was not obtrusive, was adequately entertaining. All local musicians, the strains ranged from bluegrass to southern rock to jam rock. The festival program, an 8-page newspaper tabloid, provided interesting editorial, but little information on the beers being served. The program’s helpful list of attending breweries, sans hometown (?), and their location beneath the big top could have been augmented with more information on brewery and beer (though many breweries don’t know what they’re bringing to a fest until they load their van or pickup truck).

With my microbrewery purist tail tucked between my legs, I must admit that I enjoyed this World Beer Fest. Good beer is good beer, no matter who serves it.

See www.BeerSouth.com for more photos of the 2001 World Beer Fest and www.allaboutbeer.com for information about next year’s festivities.

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

© Bobby Bush

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