Brews News: A bona fide beer rock star and beer fests galore

If you’re a beer geek, you’re probably on a first-name basis with as least one or two local brewers. Brewers often take on the status of celebrities to those of us who spend a lot of time quaffing and discussing their beers, especially in towns like Asheville where support for small local business verges on religious.

That said, there’s a whole level of national, even international, craft-brewer fame, beside which our brewers pale (pale is what you get spending all summer inside next to a brew kettle, y’all). The Sam Calagiones and Larry Bells of the beer biz have become, whether they wanted to or not, brewer rock stars. They’re stars in the suds firmament who are revered by us brewerazzi. Both Calagione and Bell have visited Asheville, which helped solidify our status as an important town in the craft beer world.

Soon we’ll have another rock star in our midst — Garrett Oliver, brewmaster for Brooklyn Brewery, will be in Asheville on Aug. 17. In addition to brewing for one of the most well-known and revered U.S. craft breweries, he’s an author and world-renowned beer expert. Oliver’s book The Brewmaster’s Table offers a salivatory analysis of food and beer pairings. He’s also the editor for The Oxford Companion of Beer, which will be published this fall by Oxford Press in the U.K.

Oliver’s primary public appearance will take place at Pack’s Tavern on the Wednesday, Aug. 17, at a five-course lunch that will run from noon until 2 p.m. The Tavern’s chef, James Balchak, has created the menu, and Garrett chose the beer pairings for the meal. The cost is $50 and tickets are available by calling Pack’s at 225-6944. Tickets will not be sold at the door.

Here’s the menu, which you shouldn’t peruse if you’re hungry (or thirsty): local goat cheese and fresh berries with sourwood honey and Cuvée de la Crochet Rouge (Riesling); fennel-jicama slaw with Brooklyner Weisse; a pork-belly taco with Brooklyn Brown Ale; cinnamon butter-poached trout and fried apple with Brooklyn Sorachi Ace; and stout ice cream with chocolate covered pretzels and Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (2010).

Fall beer festivals galore…

So thousands of you beer lovers missed out on buying Brewgrass 2011 tickets this year. The 3,500 tickets sold out in three hours despite a website that kept crashing from sheer overload. If you’re ticketless, don’t be bitter. There are other festivals and events that will be well worth your cash (and all are less pricey than the big daddy fest, aka Brewgrass).

The fourth High Country Beer Fest will take place in Boone on Saturday, Sept. 4. Fifty-seven breweries represented there last year, and more are expected in 2011. Tickets are $30. Buy yours at www.hcbeerfest.com. As Boone’s a college town, this festival features a strong beer-education component. It should be a nice weekend to get up into the high country mountains.

Clips of Faith Beer and Film Tour sponsored by New Belgium Brewing will take place at Roger McGuire Green on Friday, Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. Though the beer won’t be local, the beer tasting and amateur beer film fest is a fundraiser for Asheville on Bikes and supported by the Asheville Downtown Association. This event is free with donations going to Asheville on Bikes.

The new Oktoberfest is scheduled for Sept. 24 (the Saturday after Brewgrass) over in Kingsport, Tenn. (Different from Asheville’s Oktoberfest, which will take place on Oct. 8 downtown on Wall Street). An all-day celebration that starts with a 5K run and ends with a performance by rockers Velvet Truckstop, this beer fest will be rife with good brews, German cuisine, fun contests, and a special Beer University component (I may have to take my half Dachshund pup up there to compete in the Wiener Dog Brat Trot Race). The Craft Bier tasting portion of the day costs only $29 and includes a T-shirt (while supplies last). Get your tix at www.kingsportoktoberfest.com.

Also on Sept. 24, the long-running French Broad River Fest has added a brand-new fall craft-beer-and-music festival. With a stellar music lineup and nearly 20 local and regional breweries slated to be there, it’s likely to be quite a good time. Festers get unlimited samples at the beer garden tent from 4 to 11 p.m. The Lee Boys headline, along with Yarn, Sons of Ralph, Josh Phillips Folk Festival, Aaron Woody Wood and more. This fest takes place at the Hot Springs campground, so you can stumble back to your tent after the tasting. Admission for camping is $60 and admission to the beer garden will cost $15. You can buy a complete $75 ticket at www.frenchbroadriverfestival.com.

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