Beer scout: Get ready for the fests

SHARE THAT ALE: The Highland meadow will be even busier than usual for the brand-new Ale Share Beer Fest. Photo by Warner Photography, courtesy of Highland Brewing Co.

Brewgrass, the original Asheville beer fest is officially back for its 18th year. Tickets are now on sale for the Sept. 20 event, to be held at Memorial Field, at

In years past, there was little but Bele Chere when it came to Asheville festivals ahead of Brewgrass in the hot summer months. But this year promises to be different. While there will be no Bele Chere, we’ve already had our first new fest with the action-packed debut of Burning Can from Oskar Blues in Brevard. Below are three more to look forward to.

Highland’s Ale Share Festival — July 26

When Highland Brewing found out Bele Chere would be no more, it quickly moved to fill the void.

According to Highland Vice President Leah Wong, this new festival, dubbed Ale Share, will “further the community-minded spirit of craft beer in Asheville,” with most of the 20-plus participating breweries coming from WNC. Every brewery will bring at least one flagship and at least one harder-to-find specialty beer, according to Wong.

The sharing comes into play because 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the Asheville Parks and Greenway Foundation. Many of the breweries taking part also offered to donate their beer. “We offered to pay [for the beer] … but we’re thrilled by the generosity of our brewing community,” says Wong. It means that even more money from the festival goes to charity.

Highland hospitality manager Grant DaSantos spearheaded the idea for this new festival, and he says to expect plenty of live music in the Bele Chere spirit — including, perhaps, some of the bands that have played Bele Chere in the past. Tickets will be $35 for standard admission, $50 for VIP (with early entry and a commemorative T-shirt), and $15 for designated drivers. They are available now at the brewery and online at

Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Across America — Aug. 3

If you’ve been anxiously awaiting a glimpse of Sierra Nevada’s new North Carolina brewery, this next festival is for you.

From July 19 to Aug. 3, Sierra Nevada’s team is traveling across the country for Beer Camp Across America. Every craft brewery in the United States — more than 2,700 — has been invited to take part in the massive multi-city fest.

“We’re about to open a second brewery in North Carolina, and while that’s exciting for us, it’s an even greater reason to celebrate the future of craft brewers everywhere,” says Ken Grossman, Sierra Nevada’s founder. “We’ve watched and learned from each other for decades, and together we’ve seen tastes change and craft’s momentum snowball. Beer Camp Across America is our way of reflecting on this — with thousands of brewers, fans and great beers. It should be pretty fun.”

The first stop will be at Sierra Nevada’s original brewery in Chico, Calif., on July 18, and the last stop will be the first big event at the company’s new facility in Mills River on Aug. 3. The event will double as the official launch of the Mills River brewery.

Every festival will feature a roster of guest breweries, including however many regional breweries want to attend and pour. So far, 63 North Carolina breweries have decided to take part in the Mills River edition of the festival, with even more from other Southeastern states joining the party.

Food vendors will be on hand, and every festival will feature live music from the MarchFourth Marching Band. The $65 tickets ($30 for designated drivers) are on sale now at Proceeds will go to the state brewers guild, and to hops and barley research.

Sour Fest at Thirsty Monk — Aug. 4-8

Thirsty Monk will be taking part in the Sierra Nevada opening excitement in a couple of ways. There will be Sierra Nevada Pint Nights every Wednesday July 9-30 at the various Monk locations, and each night will offer attendees a chance to enter a raffle for tickets to the Mills River event. Then, on July 31, the Biltmore Park location will host a tap takeover with the dozen official Beer Camp Across America Beers. (While there will be hundreds of beers at the Beer Camp Across America Festivals, there is also an official 12-pack of bottles and cans featuring collaboration beers between Sierra Nevada and breweries like Russian River, Ninkasi, Cigar City, Oskar Blues and more.)

Thirsty Monk is also throwing its own August event. Sour Fest, a celebration of domestic and imported sour beers, will run Aug. 4-8. This year, expect everything from Boulevard’s Saison Brett and The Bruery’s Sour in the Rye to Birrifico Del Ducato and BFM Vintage Bon-Chien. As in past years, it will be a pay-per-beer event, rather than unlimited sampling for an entry fee.



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About Thom O'Hearn
Thom O’Hearn is a writer, book editor and homebrewer. Twitter: @thomohearn

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