Chartlotte Oktoberfest 2002
By Bobby Bush
In its fourth year of existence, the Charlotte Oktoberfest has been staged at four different sites. Yet Carolina BrewMasters, the local homebrewers club that took over management of the beer festival last year, seems to take it all in stride. This time crammed into a small parking lot off of the weekend-long Art & Soul Festival - a showcase for local crafts and original art - the venue was well-prepared for an onslaught of beer lovers and beer curious.
A warm, sunny October Saturday served the festival well. Beer from 20 different breweries was served as well. Scattered among the tents were 13 North Carolina brewers. From near (Mooresville's Carolina Beer and a trio of Charlotte breweries: Southend, Rock Bottom and Hops) to not so near (Greensboro's Red Oak, Asheville's Highland, Glen Alpine's Catawba Valley, High Point's Liberty Steakhouse and Raleigh breweries Greenshields and Chesapeake Bay) to far (Fayetteville's Huske Hardware, Farmville micro Williamsville and Weeping Radish of coastal Manteo), the Tarheel State was geographically and beerologically represented. Each had a least one brewer present to answer questions and fill the small taster glasses.
Dogwood's new assistant brewer Jordan Fleetwood, who previously worked for Big River in Chattanooga, brought kegs of Breakdown IPA and Dogwood Pale Ale up from the Atlanta microbrewery. Redhook, a micro with facilities in Washington State and New Hampshire, sent bottles of ESB, IPA, Blonde Ale and Blackhook Porter. Charlotte-based Prestige Distributors presented German-brewed Paulaner Oktoberfest - one of three beers actually served at the internationally-recognized Oktoberfest celebration held in Munich each year - along with Paulaner Hefe-Weizen, Massachusett-brewed Harpoon Oktoberfest and London Pride Pale Ale from jolly ol' England.
From Greenville, SC, Tom and Teri Davis brought their family-brewed Thomas Creek beers, including their silky Dopplebock and seasonal Oktoberfest. Mutual Distributing poured New York regional brewery FX Matt's Saranac Bavarian Black Forest Beer, similar in style to the traditional medium-bodied, slightly malty sweet lagers. And the BrewMasters presented their own brewing efforts. Instead of Oktoberfests, the homebrewers offered French Saison, Belgian Wit, Belgian Abbey and a fine German Kolsch.
Of note from the North Carolina contingency was Carolina Beer brewer Don Richardson's smooth and pungent Cottonwood Endo IPA, cask-conditioned and gravity served, and Pumpkin Spiced Ale (soon available in bottles). Attending their first Charlotte fests were new Red Oak brewer Henryk Orlik - who is busy designing the company's new microbrewery - and Germany-raised and beer educated Robert Wilber, who has joined brewer John Satterfield at Greenshield Brewing. The Raleigh brewpub's Oktoberfest lager was right on style, as was Weeping Radish's Fest, a year-round Oktoberfest lager from the outer banks micro.
Plenty of beer, plenty of fun! German wurst on buns with spicy mustard. Live music provided by the adjacent crafts show stage. And friendly hosts, the Carolina BrewMasters. What more could you ask for in an Oktoberfest celebration?
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush