Beer Scout: Summer festivals highlight hometown beers and brewers

SPOTLIGHT ON LOCAL: Morganton's Fonta Flora Brewery showcases local ingredients at its annual State of Origin festival. Photo courtesy of The Destination Magazine

Fonta Flora Brewery will host its third annual State of Origin Festival 3-7 p.m. Saturday, June 11, at the historic Courthouse Square in downtown Morganton. State of Origin showcases beers brewed using exclusively local ingredients. Several Asheville breweries will participate along with others from throughout North Carolina and across the country that specialize in beers that highlight their respective region’s unique terroir.

“I would go out on a limb and say that I don’t think there’s another festival in the world with this kind of concept, the exclusive focus on locality. We’re trying to take the concept of what it means to brew with local ingredients and push that even harder,” says Fonta Flora head brewer and co-owner Todd Boera. “It’s a celebration of our core values, but in essence it’s a celebration of all the folks around North Carolina who have been [brewing with local ingredients] all along.”

State of Origin will feature unique brews from Asheville-area breweries Burial Beer Co., Wicked Weed Brewing, Zebulon Artisan Ales, Highland Brewing Co. and Catawba Brewing Co. The festival will also host other notable North Carolina breweries that focus on local ingredients such as Fullsteam Brewery, Haw River Farmhouse Ales and Free Range Brewing. Festivalgoers can also expect a few out-of-state breweries, such as returning visitor Scratch Brewing Co. of Illinois, Carolina Bauernhaus from Anderson, S.C., Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. and Austin, Texas-based Jester King Brewing.

“With the addition of just a few out-of-state breweries, our mission has not really changed. It’s still a focus on North Carolina ingredients,” says Fonta Flora co-owner David Bennett. “These ambassador breweries are there to shed a light on what people around the country are doing in a similar vein to our motto of ‘Local culture, local agriculture.’ That’s what we’re all about, and this is just expanding upon the same theme.” Bennett notes that in the spirit of constant learning, Boera just spent two weeks in Europe studying firsthand what the breweries over there are doing.

“The difference between this year and last year,” notes Fonta Flora event coordinator Brit Josa, “is that last year it was OK if only one of the beers a brewery brought was made with only one North Carolina ingredient, like Riverbend Malt. This year we’ve gotten a lot more strict. We’re asking that every beer, or kombucha or cider, be made with a majority of North Carolina ingredients. It’s gotten more stringent.”

Boera points out that State of Origin is designed to be an intimate festival experience that seeks to emphasize guests’ ability to connect with local beers and the people who craft them. “The folks who end up coming have an incredible time,” says Boera.”It’s a really well-run festival, and it’s really low-crowd in terms of brewery ratio, so you get a lot of one-on-one interaction with the brewers and you have the opportunity to learn a lot about the beers they’re making.”

“It’s a very laid-back and relaxed atmosphere,” adds Bennett. “One of my favorite elements of the festival is that, given the theme, a lot of the attending breweries are making special projects just for this festival, so you’re able to try things that you’ve never had before and may never have again.”

State of Origin will feature live bluegrass music from Chapel Hill’s Mipso and Morganton natives BearWallow, as well as food trucks,m including Farmhouse Barbecue. Tickets are on sale now, with general admission available for $50 and an additional option of purchasing two bottles of Fonta Flora’s latest release, Funk Fuzz Appalachian Wild Ale, along with admittance to the festival for $86. Bennett encourages those interested in attending to purchase tickets early, as supplies are limited and expected to sell out.

State of Origin happens 3-7 p.m. Saturday, June 11, on the Courthouse Square in downtown Morganton. For details and tickets, visit fontaflora.com/festival/.

Just Brew It

A perennial highlight of AVL Beer Week, the seventh annual Just Brew It Homebrew Festival will be hosted by Just Economics and Wedge Brewing Co. 2-5 p.m. Saturday, June 4, at the Wedge. Just Brew It is a homebrew tasting and competition designed to showcase the creations of Asheville-area homebrewers and to support Just Economics, a regional membership-based organization that educates and advocates for a sustainable economy in Western North Carolina.

This year’s festival will feature over 150 unique handcrafted beers from local brewers and will include live music, a scavenger hunt, awards for brewers, food trucks and information about Just Economics. Rather than purchasing tickets for admission, attendees are invited to join Just Economics at three possible membership levels, each bearing unique incentives. A $25 basic membership will provide entrance to the festival and unlimited beer sampling, while a $35 standard membership also includes a raffle ticket and a commemorative Just Brew It tasting glass. Those purchasing a $55 VIP membership will be entitled to the benefits of standard membership as well as lunch and entrance to the festival one hour early.

Mountain Xpress beer writers Scott Douglas and Edwin Arnaudin will be on hand to participate as judges, awarding the Mountain Xpress King or Queen of the Mountain Award. Just Brew It is a unique opportunity to meet up-and-coming local brewers and talk with the Xpress beer team while supporting economic sustainability in Asheville and enjoying some great beer.

Just Brew It happens 2-5 p.m. Saturday, June 4, at Wedge Brewing Co., 37 Paynes Way. For tickets, visit justeconomicswnc.org/just-brew-it/. For more on Just Economics, visit justeconomics.org.

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