Beer Scout: Asheville Brewers Alliance hosts a different breed of beer festival

ALL TOGETHER NOW: The inaugural AVL Beer Expo, hosted by the Asheville Brewers Alliance, will bring together more than 30 Western North Carolina breweries for an intimate festival. Image courtesy of Asheville Brewers Alliance

These days, there’s scarcely a weekend when Asheville isn’t hosting a beer festival or tasting. That makes it hard to stand out from the crowd.

Accordingly, the Asheville Brewers Alliance aims to make the upcoming AVL Beer Expo a little bit different.

“We feel that folks want an alternative to the experience that most beer festivals provide,” says Kendra Penland, the group’s executive director. “The traditional festival is still a lot of fun, but we wanted to give craft beer lovers an opportunity to experience a closer connection with the brewers who make the beers they love, and a better understanding of the process.”

Bringing together more than 30 breweries and 30 different beers, the Feb. 27 expo will also feature multiple panel discussions followed by audience Q&A.

Besides sampling the beers, says Penland, festivalgoers will gain “a better understanding of the nuances of the brewing process and a more in-depth understanding of what it takes to start, run and grow a thriving craft brewery.”

The event will be divided into two sessions offering different sets of panels, so attendees will either have to decide which topics they’re most interested in or spring for tickets to both sessions.

The first one, which will run 1-4 p.m., will include panels on the origins of Asheville’s brewing scene, raw ingredients and lagers, and a special tasting of limited-release “big and bold” beers.

Session two (5-8 p.m.) will include perspectives from brewers elsewhere in the state, as well as panels on North Carolina-grown ingredients and starting a brewery, and a special tasting of limited-release wild and sour beers.

“It’s a festival run by craft beer people, for craft beer people, with brewers, industry people and also consumers in mind,” says Burial Beer Co.’s Jess Reiser, one of the event’s coordinators. “We want to showcase the ABA and its members.”

The nonprofit alliance, whose members range from breweries to bottle shops, advocates on behalf of craft breweries, promotes the region’s brewing industry, and seeks to improve industry standards, methods and working conditions.

“We’re a very highly regulated industry,” notes Reiser, and her organization helps educate members about legislation, Alcohol Law Enforcement regulations and “the processes breweries need to go through, from throwing events to label approvals.” At the end of the day, she continues, “The ABA is trying to build and help businesses that make up a significant part of the local economy.”

Vendors and partner organizations will have educational booths “where people can see the process from raw materials to distribution and into the hands of the beer drinker,” Reiser explains.

And to give the expo a more intimate feel, each session will be capped at 300 attendees. “We don’t want there to be a table in between the people and the brewers — the people behind the beer,” she says.

For $25, attendees will get an 8-ounce commemorative glass, tokens for five 4-ounce pours or food samples, and access to all of that session’s panels. Additional tokens will cost $2 each.

The beers themselves will be divided into five flavor profiles: malty, hoppy, roasted, tart and funky, and fruit and spice.

The beers will include Blind Squirrel’s Nut Brown Ale, Innovation’s SoulVation IPA, Burial’s Triumph of Death Saison, Boojum’s Graveyard Fields Porter and Lazy Hiker’s Winter Porter.

The Aloft Hotel is offering discounted room rates for festivalgoers, and Asheville Taxi will be giving out vouchers good for $1 toward the cost of a ride home.

AVL Beer Expo hits The Venue (21 N. Market St.) on Saturday, Feb. 27.

Hi-Wire catches the sour bug

Sours are big and getting bigger as more and more craft beer drinkers embrace the funk. Hi-Wire Brewing is about to join the party as it transitions its South Slope outlet to solely producing sour and wild-fermented beers. No release date has been set yet, but Hi-Wire’s first sours could come as early as this summer.

“Sour beers need time to age and perfect,” head brewer Luke Holgate said in a press release. “We want to let the barrels and the bugs do their jobs fully before we release a beer. As we continually taste our barrel-aging sour beers, as soon as we come across barrels that are just how we want them, we will bottle and condition them until we are absolutely sure they are ready for the public. We have always been committed to quality at the brewery, and our sour program will be no exception.”

Hi-Wire will continue to brew its core beers at the Big Top facility on Huntsman Place.

With Hi-Wire’s sour program, Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium and Burial’s announcement that its Collier Avenue location will soon go exclusively sour and wild, Asheville’s South Slope is quickly transforming into a funky hot spot.


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