Beer Scout: Fall festivals bring the heat

CANTILLON RETURNS: Fonta Flora Brewery co-owner Todd Boera, left, talks to Funkatorium employee Andrew Ross at the recent Zwanze Day event. The celebration marked the return of Belgian Cantillon products to Western North Carolina. Photo by Scott Douglas

Cantillon Zwanze Day

Fonta Flora Brewery, with the help of Proof Wine and Spirits and Shelton Brothers Importers, brought one of the world’s most exclusive beer events to Western North Carolina earlier this month. Brouwerij Cantillon’s annual Zwanze Day was hosted by Fonta Flora in Morganton. It marked the return of Cantillon to this region — a protracted legal dispute kept the majority of the Shelton Brothers’ offerings out of local glasses for half a decade. Massachusetts-based Shelton Brothers manages some of the most sought-after brands in the craft beer industry, including renowned Belgian brewers such as Drie Fontainen, De Struise and Cantillon. The entire portfolio is once again available in the Asheville market.

Zwanze Day is an international event held at 60 locations that celebrates the tapping of a one-off lambic blended specifically for the annual event. This year’s Zwanze was a framboise with blueberry and vanilla, tapped alongside Cantillon’s Classic Gueuze, Kriek, Mamouche and Iris Grand Cru. Fonta Flora also tapped some special brews of its own, as well as beers from friends of the brewery like Jester King and Scratch. Nearly 600 people entered a lottery for 150 tickets to Zwanze Day at Fonta Flora.

Morganton's Fonta Flora Brewery recently partnered with Proof Wine and Spirits and Shelton Brothers Importers to bring the  international Zwanze Day event to Western North Carolina. The event, held at 60 locations worldwide, celebrates the tapping of a one-off lambic from Brouwerij Cantillon. This year's brew was a framboise with blueberry and vanilla. Photo by Scott Douglas
Morganton’s Fonta Flora Brewery recently partnered with Proof Wine and Spirits and Shelton Brothers Importers to bring the international Zwanze Day event to Western North Carolina. The event, held at 60 locations worldwide, celebrates the tapping of a one-off lambic from Brouwerij Cantillon. This year’s brew was a framboise with blueberry and vanilla. Photo by Scott Douglas

The honor of pouring the extraordinarily rare lambics from one of the world’s most esteemed sour beer producers was not lost on Fonta Flora co-owner and head brewer Todd Boera. “This is really special if you give a damn about history and about sour beer,” he says. “Without Cantillon and the traditional lambic producers, there would be no American wild-fermented beers. If you care about those things at all, Cantillon is what you should look to as one of the beers that paved the way for what everybody is doing now.”

The Cantillon celebration was a fitting way to mark the return of the brand to North Carolina shelves, according to John McCarthy, owner of Durham-based distributor Proof. Due to the Byzantine nature of the state’s franchise laws, Proof has been restricted to distributing a small portion of the portfolio in the Asheville market, but the resolution of the lawsuit means Asheville drinkers can expect to see regular deliveries of the previously disputed brands in local bottle shops. “What’s in the past is in the past, and we’re looking forward to making all these beers available. We thought there was no better way to reintroduce people to these beers than bringing Zwanze Day to the Carolinas for the first time ever,” says McCarthy.

A late-September drop from Proof saw new offerings from major breweries including Fantome, Mikkeller, Thiriez and Nøgne Ø that have either never been available in Asheville, or have been absent for years. Zwanze Day was just the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Asheville’s retail beer market, which can finally take its rightful place as one of the best in the world now that years of complex and acrimonious legal wrangling have come to a close.

“This is a great case-in-point for how franchise laws that date back to the repeal of Prohibition aren’t benefiting anyone,” says Dan Shelton, owner of Shelton Brothers. “Those laws need to be changed. But that’s all in addition to how great it is to be back in North Carolina and what we have planned for the future, which is getting people more of the beers that they want at better prices than they were being charged. Zwanze Day is definitely a part of our plans to make up for lost time, and to show some hope for the future and our belief in North Carolina as a market.”

Burnpile Harvest Festival  

With fall in the air, Burial Beer Co.’s third annual Burnpile Harvest Festival is just around the corner. Burnpile has traditionally been one of the brewery’s best-attended events, and with Burial’s exploding popularity, this year’s festival — on Saturday, Oct. 29, from noon-10 p.m. — promises to be a blowout.

According to Burial co-owner Jess Reiser, the inspiration for Burnpile stems from more casual gatherings she hosted with co-owners Doug Reiser and Tim Gormley before they all made the move to Asheville. “When Doug, Tim and I were living in Seattle, we would throw our own harvest celebration with friends — it included seasonal beer, food and just good old-fashioned fun. We translated that love of the season and getting together to our brewery, where community is such an important part of what drives us,” she says.

Burnpile will feature more than 20 breweries pouring seasonal beers, with local stalwarts such as Hi-Wire and Wicked Weed pouring alongside up-and-comers like Zebulon and notable regional breweries such as Fonta Flora. This year’s event will be the first to feature out-of-state breweries, a result of Burial’s extensive collaborative efforts and relationship-building with other craft breweries around the country.

Among the distinguished national guests will be Creature Comforts of Athens, Ga., Brooklyn-based Other Half Brewing, Walland, Tenn.’s Blackberry Farm, TRVE Brewing from Denver and Allagash Brewing of Maine, which is slated to bring a particularly special offering, a sour pumpkin beer known as Goulschip. “It’s a brewery-only release that they brew with pumpkins every year on Halloween night and cool overnight in their Coolship,” explains Reiser. “It ages in oak barrels for many years and then they blend barrels for each year’s release. I know Jason [Perkins], their brewmaster. specifically picked this beer to send to our festival, so it’s a pretty special honor.”

To coincide with the festivities, Burial will release The Coronation Lemongrass Tripel — a classic Belgian Tripel brewed with lemongrass from the brewery’s urban garden and traditionally bottle-conditioned. Bottles will go on sale at noon for $14 each. Burial will also be pouring Skullsaw Harvest Porter, brewed with over 400 pounds of sweet potatoes, along with many of the brewery’s other seasonal favorites.

Burnpile is about more than just beer. Live music will keep the party going from 5 to 9 p.m., with local bands Betaplane and Ouroboros Boys opening for Atlanta-based headliners Twin Studies. Food will also be available all day, with Belly Up food truck serving from noon to 5 p.m. and Salt and Smoke Kitchen delivering a seasonally inspired harvest feast from 5 to 10 p.m.

Admission is $10, which includes two drink tokens and a commemorative tasting glass described by Reiser as “pretty epic.” Beer pours will be in 4 -ounce and 8-ounce increments, and additional tokens will be available at stations throughout the taproom for $2 each. Guests will be able to leave and return throughout the day, and kids and dogs are welcome.

Breweries participating in the 2016 Burnpile are:

Allagash Brewing Co.
Birds Fly South Ale Project
Birdsong Brewing Co.
Blackberry Farms
Boojum Brewing Co.
Burial Beer Co.
Crank Arm Brewing
Creature Comforts Brewing Co.
Fonta Flora Brewery
Free Range Brewing
Full Steam Brewery
Great Raft Brewing
Hi-Wire Brewing
Innovation Brewing
New Belgium Brewing Co.
Newgrass Brewing Co.
Old Mecklenburg Brewing
Other Half Brewing
Pisgah Brewing
Ponysaurus Brewing Co.
Salud Nano Brewery
Starpoint Brewing
Steel String Brewery
Transmitter Brewing
Trophy Brewing Co.
TRVE Brewing Co.
Wicked Weed Brewing
Wooden Robot
Wrecking Bar Brewpub
Zebulon Artisan Ales



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