Charlotte Oktoberfest 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
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