There are many ways to enjoy AVL Beer Week, but the biggest celebration is always the Beer City Festival showcase of Western North Carolina brews.
The festival, now in its eighth year, goes from noon-5 p.m. Saturday, May 27, at Pack Square Park’s Roger McGuire Green in the heart of downtown. Dozens of beers will be available, most of them by members of the Asheville Brewers Alliance, the nonprofit organization that represents area breweries.
The festival will include some out-of-market guest breweries, plus craft soft drinks made by the Mountain Ale and Lager Tasters homebrew club. Raleigh funk/soul band Strange Lady, Asheville funk rockers Travers Brothership and Nashville-based jazz fusion group Dynamo are booked for the afternoon.
Attendance is limited to 2,500, says Kendra Penland, ABA executive director. ”We typically sell out. It’s hard to say if there will be any tickets at the gate,” she says, recommending that potential attendees secure access in advance.
The festival again benefits Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Western North Carolina. In 2016, the nonprofit received $9,000 in festival proceeds.
Penland says the festival location, just in front of Asheville City Hall and the Buncombe County Courthouse, is perfect for big gatherings. It’s the same space used by the popular summertime Shindig on the Green series and includes the Splashville fountain for cooling off. “It’s easy to get there,” she says. “Folks who are staying in the downtown hotels can just walk over.” There is also plenty of parking nearby, and the site will be gated to help control the festival.
Several dozen breweries are taking part. Those that are confirmed are Asheville Brewing Co.; Appalachian Mountain Brewery of Boone; Bhramari Brewhouse; Bold Rock Hard Cider of Mills River; Boojum Brewing Co. of Waynesville; Burial Beer Co.; Catawba Brewing Co.; Currahee Brewing Co. of Franklin; Ginger’s Revenge; Green Man Brewery; Hi-Wire Brewing; Highland Brewing Co.; Hillman Beer; New Belgium Brewing Co.; Noble Hard Cider; One World Brewing; Oskar Blues Brewery of Brevard; Pisgah Brewing Co. of Black Mountain; Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. of Mills River; Thirsty Monk Brewery; Twin Leaf Brewery; Wedge Brewing Co.; and Whistle Hop Brewing Co. of Fairview. More breweries are being added to the lineup, Penland says.
The festival also has a strong lineup of guest breweries. Those are Bond Brothers Beer Co. of Cary (makers of such beers as Blonde Roast Strong Ale and Cary Gold Cream Ale); Brown Truck Brewery of High Point (known for using primarily locally sourced ingredients); Foothills Brewing of Winston-Salem (products include Pilot Mountain Pale and Torch Pilsner); Lo-Fi Brewing of Charleston, S.C. (owned by former Pisgah brewer Jason Caughman); and Yee Haw Brewing Co. of Johnson City, Tenn. (which makes a pilsner and Eighty Shilling Scottish ale).
“This year, we are adding a couple of elements to the festival,” Penland says. “We will have a small-batch tent for some of the guest breweries and local breweries. They will switch out on the taps (through the afternoon).”
Also, the AVL Beer Week collaboration brew, a Mellonball IPA that was brewed at Boojum, will be tapped at the festival. About 20 barrels of the collaboration beer have been canned and will be at sold at local breweries. Cans will not be available at the festival. All the ingredients for the beer were donated to the ABA, Penland says. The ABA will also have a tent and will sell memberships in the Asheville Beer Fan program.