Brewgrass, held at Martin Luther King Park in Asheville, North Carolina, is one of the most anticipated festivals in the Southeast. Tickets go on sale in February and sell out within a week. The Brewgrass people know what they are doing. Scarcity creates buzz.
Brewgrass 2009 was my beer festival experience. I was like a kid in a candy store. Dozens of new beers to try, new breweries to explore and new friends to meet. It was an awesome time.
Now that I’m a grizzled veteran of seven beer festivals, (Wow, it was a busy year.) I wondered how my experience would be the second time around. Over the past year, I’ve spent a lot of time in North Carolina and have had the chance to sample the wares of most of the breweries in the region.
I wondered how that would affect my experience. Would the excitement and newness wear off? Would Brewgrass turn into another ho-hum festival with the same-old-same-old?
I’ve discovered that if you’ve made the effort to get to know people within the beer community, (It’s not that hard. Beer people are some of the friendliest, most accessible people you’ll meet.) festivals become family reunions. So even if you’re not too excited about the beer selection or the venue, you still come out to reconnect with friends and hopefully meet a few more.
That’s how Brewgrass 2010 was for me. I certainly wanted to get my hands on any new beers I could find, but it was more about hanging out and having fun.
To be truthful, I thought the beer selection in 2009 was better than it was in 2010. Last year, I remember sampling several barrel-aged brews, casks and other rare goodies. I didn’t feel like there were very many unique selections to be had this year. Then again, it’s possible with 40 breweries represented that I didn’t find the diamonds in the rough.
Here is the short list of my favorite noteworthy beers:
- Olde Hickory Death By Hops – Gets my vote for best use of hops. And they used a lot of them.
- Coast Brewing Event Horizon – A dark IPA or whatever you want to call it. Intense hops perfectly balanced by dark malt. Another winner. Then again, we’re all winners here.
- Thomas Creek Up the Creek Extreme IPA – They ran it through a randal of Sorachi Ace hops. Crazy awesome blend of citrus flavors: grapefruit, lemon and orange all just smack you in the face.
- New Belgium Eric’s Ale – The only sour I found at the festival. New Belgium has this sour thing down.
I’m already looking forward to next year. Even though I’ve gained a lot of festival experience in the past year, there are still a couple things that I need to keep in mind for next year:
- Half-pours are key, as 8 oz. sample pours add up in a hurry. We don’t need any heroes.
- I shouldn’t attempt to finish the cask of Dopplebock at the Thomas Creek tent at the end of the festival. Hungry children wouldn’t get the dopplebock anyway.
Remember, boys and girls, it’s a seven-hour marathon, not a sprint.