Although dark clouds occasionally threatened, the rain avoided Roger McGuire Green downtown yesterday, making it a perfect afternoon for the 2015 Beer City Festival.
Always a highlight of Asheville Beer Week, this year’s event featured more than 30 area breweries — all members of the Asheville Brewers Alliance — and at least one from out-of-state (Lagunitas Brewing Co.), and drew a large, jovial crowd.
Participating breweries were pouring unlimited sample-sized portions of their flagships as well as seasonal and one-off specialty brews. Oskar Blues Brewery poured from both cans and taps, offering standards like the Old Chub, Dale’s Pale Ale and Mama’s Lil Yella Pils alongside lesser-known brews such as its Priscilla wheat ale. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. had its Kellerweis wheat ale on tap along with the better-known flagships, and at the Southern Appalachian Brewery tent, a Belgian artisanal amber aged in wine barrels with raspberries attracted a nonstop flow of takers.
Waiting in lines was part of the experience — the queue for a 3 p.m. release of Tipping Point Brewing Co.‘s Passion of Zythos passion-fruit pale ale was at least 30 people deep. And some tents, including Wicked Weed Brewing and Innovation Brewing Co., ran out of beer well before the festival closed at 6 p.m.
Bryan Thurman of Innovation Brewing, who says the last keg of black IPA he had brought to event kicked around 3 p.m., expressed surprise at the large number of guests. “We didn’t expect such a huge crowd,” he says. “Next year we’ll definitely bring a ton of beer.”
Food and music complemented the brews as part of the fun. Lines at the Barley’s Taproom, Mojo Kitchen and Luella’s Bar-B-Que tents were about as long as the beer lines, with beer drinkers waiting to soak up some of the brew with Mojo’s tacos or a Luella’s Smoke Stack (a pint glass filled with smoked pork, slaw and other fixin’s). Throughout the afternoon, local bands, including Empire Strikes Brass, Lyric, Debrissaandthebearking, and Andrew Scotchie & The River Rats, entertained from the stage.
The event gave tourists an all-in-one overview of the Western North Carolina beer scene while allowing Ashevilleans a chance to taste new offerings from favorite breweries or check out places that are a bit off the beaten path or that they hadn’t yet tried.
A portion of the festival’s proceeds benefitted Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina, and organization that seeks to change the lives of children facing adversity between 6 and 18 years of age.