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Charlotte Oktoberfest 2001

October, 2001

By Bobby Bush

Last year’s Charlotte Oktoberfest, organized by Johnson Beer, was a well-conceived, properly run beer festival lacking only one ingredient. People. With Johnson gone and all but forgotten, the local homebrewers club, Carolina BrewMasters, willingly took on the task of organizing and running the 3rd annual Charlotte Oktoberfest. Planning and publicity started months before the mid-October event. Sponsors were enlisted, including Mellow Mushroom and Hops Restaurants. A worthy cause was identified- The Charlotte Trolley, a non-profit group dedicated to returning streetcar operation to city streets. And a new site was selected, a sizable parking lot immediately south of Southend Smokehouse & Brewery.

Most importantly, there was beer. Twenty-two brewing entities made camp around the lot. Local breweries were all represented, including Rock Bottom, Carolina Beer & Beverage, Hops and Southend. From elsewhere in the state came Catawba Valley (Glen Alpine), Front Street (Wilmington), French Broad (Asheville), Greenshields (Raleigh), Red Oak (Greensboro), Weeping Radish (Manteo) and Williamsville (Farmville), all with brewery employees, often the owner, performing pouring duties. From Greenville, SC, Thomas Creek worked behind their new handmade festival bar. Dogwood Brewery made the trek from Atlanta to pour their delicious brews. From Dollywood country in Sevierville, Tennessee, Rocky River brought four great beers.

Beneath tents staffed mostly by local distributors, regional breweries touted their wares, including Abita (Louisiana), Red Hook (New Hampshire), Rogue (Oregon), Flying Dog (Colorado) and Three Floyds (Indiana). All were welcome additions to the fest list, providing contrast and comparison to our Southern brewed beers.

What would an Oktoberfest celebration be without genuine German beers? Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr both had imported, traditional Munich Oktoberfest lagers. Greenshields, French Broad, Rock Bottom, Southend and Weeping Radish offered their own Oktoberfest beers in comparison. They fared quite well in the match-up.

Brewed in London, Fuller’s IPA was smooth and hop-inspired, though not as hoppy as Americanized IPAs. An array of beers from Herold Brewery, including Czech Republic Bohemian Lager, on draft, and Bohemian Black from the bottle was also available for sampling.

Outstanding beers? They were all outstanding, but those of particular note included French Broad’s Flanders Field Brown Ale, Greenshields’ Pilsner, Rocky River’s Smokey the Beer, Three Floyds Alpha King Pale Ale, Front Street’s Cackling Goose Dark Wheat Lager and Carolina Beer’s seasonal Cottonwood Spiced Pumpkin Ale.

The warm, breezy weather was perfect for an outdoor event. Music - bluegrass to oom-pah to blues and rock - streamed continuously from the stage during the fest’s entire six hour run. Hidden behind a neighboring building, porta-toilets were plentiful enough to handle the roughly 1,000 people in attendance. The fun that a beer festival should always become had a perfect backdrop. And fun it was!

For too many years, North Carolina’s largest city has had a difficult relationship with craft brewed beer. Brewpubs and microbreweries have struggled, many closing in frustration. That list of defunct breweries includes Dilworth, Lake Norman, The Mill/Queen City and Johnson Beer, all shuttered for a variety of reasons.

It takes years to build a successful festival, especially in terms of attendance. (The 6th rendition of the World Beer Festival in Durham, held one week prior, attracted over 6,000 beer lovers). The Carolina BrewMasters are dedicated and determined to make Charlotte an even friendlier beer city. Based on the success of the 3rd annual Charlotte Oktoberfest, only bigger and better fest will follow.

For more festival photos, see www.BeerSouth.com.

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

© Bobby Bush

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