Beer Scout: State of Origin + Burning Can

A TASTE OF TERROIR: Fonta Flora's State of Origin festival puts crops from North Carolina on full display. Photo courtesy of Fonta Flora Brewery

Fonta Flora Brewery’s Todd Boera has made it his mission to brew with local ingredients. He’s one of the biggest advocates for using Riverbend Malt House’s barley, wheat and rye. He also forages for special additions to his beers. So it’s not surprising that the brewery’s festival, State of Origin, shares the same theme.

“For us, this festival is important because it’s about showcasing North Carolina agriculture and how to incorporate their unique tastes and terroir into beers,” says Boera. “It’s a really neat day for folks to sample what can be done with North Carolina-grown ingredients and what our brewers can do with them.”

State of Origin, now in its second year, will take place at the Courthouse Square in Morganton on Saturday, June 13 — starting at 3 p.m. for most attendees and 1:30 p.m. for those with VIP passes.

While the two dozen or so breweries this year will include many from Asheville and Charlotte, most will be serving beers you won’t see anywhere else. By festival rules, all breweries must bring at least one beer featuring North Carolina ingredients. While a few use such products on a regular basis, most see the festival as a chance to try something new.

This year Fonta Flora will also release two of its own beers in bottles — just the fifth and sixth bottle releases for the brewery. Brutus is a saison featuring foraged dandelions, and Carolina Custard is an Appalachian wild ale fermented with pawpaw fruit. “Brutus is such a cool beer this year,” says Boera. “Dandelions are incorporated in the mash, and we used a ton in the boil for bitterness — we actually relied more on the greens than on hops.”

This year will also feature beers from homebrewers going local. Asheville’s MALT homebrew club and MASH, Morganton’s homebrew club, will both be pouring as well. “This is the first year we’re highlighting homebrewers doing the same thing as the brewers — brewing up North Carolina-grown beers,” says Boera. “It’s really exciting.”

Tickets to State of Origin start at $40 and are available now on ticketweb.com.

Burning Can hits the REEB Ranch

Just like State of Origin, Oskar Blues Brewery’s Burning Can operates around a central rule: To attend and serve its beer at Burning Can, the guest brewery has to bring its beer packaged in cans.

This event isn’t brand-new; Oskar Blues held it in the parking lot outside its brewery last year. Yet it’s looking like this year the festival is changing in a big way.

Burning Can 2015 will not only move from the brewery in Brevard to the scenic REEB Ranch down the road, it will turn into a two-day festival where revelers can camp overnight at the ranch — and enjoy not just a beer festival but tons of live music and outdoor sports as well.

The concert portion of the festival begins on Friday, July 17, and is free to attend — meaning you don’t need a festival ticket. The concert will feature Porch 40 and Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band. The music on Saturday is for festival attendees only. Starting at 2 p.m., the lineup will include Travers Brothership, Jarekus Singleton, Rebirth Brass Band and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue.

If you’re more interested in the outdoor action, Oskar Blues is offering plenty of options. The headline event is the Outlaws of Dirt BMX and MTB dirt-jumping competition. It’s the U.S.’s only national dirt-jump series, and the champion will be crowned during the Burning Can festival.

If you want to get in on the action, Pisgah Cycling will lead group bicycle rides — both road and mountain — from the ranch. MountainTrue and the French Broad River Keeper will lead paddling trips down the French Broad River. Or maybe you’re tough enough to sign up for the Beer Relay, which Oskar Blues says is North Carolina’s first six-hour endurance trail running (and drinking) race.

That’s right, you and your friends can run laps around a 5K trail loop, and before each lap you have the option to drink a 12-ounce Oskar Blues beer for a two-minute time bonus.

Tickets to the event, which include festival sampling, live music and the Outlaws of Dirt Jumping competition are $50. Adding in two nights of camping costs an extra $10. Or if you want to package the Beer Relay and festival ticket, that’s $70 per person. Designated driver tickets are available for $25. For more information and to buy tickets, visit burningcan.com.

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

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