Locality is of critical significance to craft beer drinkers, and no beer event in Western North Carolina is as dedicated to the concept of celebrating local terroir as Morganton-based Fonta Flora Brewery’s State of Origin Festival. Now in its fourth year, the gathering’s unique concept remains the same — every beer poured must be crafted from ingredients sourced within a limited radius surrounding the brewery that created it. But this year’s festival will see a few noteworthy changes.
In addition to new breweries, including Greenville, S.C.’s Birds Fly South Ale Project and Legion Brewing out of Charlotte, Fonta Flora has partnered with Asheville’s Buxton Hall Barbecue to host a special beer dinner featuring a handful of heavy hitters from the festival lineup.
“It’s exciting for us to be in our fourth year, which is pretty incredible to think about. We’ve worked really hard to cultivate this festival in the right manner, and we want to continue to have predominantly North Carolina breweries, but also celebrate folks from around the country that are really doing a great job with keeping things local,” says Fonta Flora brewmaster and co-owner Todd Boera. “We love what Buxton’s doing, their commitment to local food, so it seemed like a good fit.”
Fonta Flora and Friends, which is set for Thursday, June 8, from 10 p.m.-1:30 a.m., will serve as both a pre-party for State of Origin and the next installment of the Buxton Presents monthly series of industry-focused late-night beer and food events. Conceived by Buxton Hall bar manager Brandon Grogan and fellow Buxton bartender Teddy Bourgeois with coordinative assistance from Zaq Suarez of Asheville marketing and SEO firm Craftpeak, the unticketed, a la carte event will feature a grill-inspired menu from Buxton chef Tyler Schwerzier.
The evening’s beer menu is composed of selections from Fonta Flora, Birds Fly South, Salud Cerveceria and Free Range Brewing (both based in Charlotte) and Jester King Brewery of Austin, Texas. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Asheville-based nonprofit Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project.
“The idea of this series of events is to bring breweries, bartenders and chefs to Asheville that people may not have a chance to encounter otherwise,” Grogan says. “We were originally going to call it Terroir Takeover — we’re bringing food and drinks that are popular in other places here. Fonta Flora’s always been one of my favorite North Carolina breweries, and with State of Origin happening right down the street and their badass lineup of breweries, it just made sense.”
While there’s no set schedule for future Buxton Presents events, an evening featuring Atlanta-based Creature Comforts Brewing Co. — which will also be pouring at State of Origin — is scheduled for Thursday, July 6. Breweries and restaurants from Charleston, S.C., and Boston are likely candidates for subsequent events.
According to Chai Pani Restaurant Group brand director Michael Files, the late-night schedule is geared toward industry professionals who would be unable to attend an event scheduled earlier in the evening. He also notes that Fonta Flora’s focus on creating beers rooted in the terroir of Western North Carolina and celebrating other breweries that do the same in their respective corners of the nation was an important factor in Buxton’s desire to work with the brewery.
Bourgeois adds: “People are screaming to try beers that they can’t ordinarily get, so we’ll bring them here along with the help of Fonta Flora and all the bridges they’ve built around the country. We can’t all get everywhere we want to be, so we want to bring a little bit of what’s rad from around the country here to Asheville.”
The 2017 State of Origin will take place at the historic Courthouse Square in downtown Morganton on Saturday, June 10, but this year the event will run from 5-9 p.m. rather than previous years’ 3-7 p.m. schedule in order to avoid the intense summer heat that dogged 2016 festivalgoers. State of Origin will feature unique brews from Asheville-area breweries Burial Beer Co., Zebulon Artisan Ales and Highland Brewing Co. as well as notable breweries from throughout North Carolina that focus on local ingredients, such as Fullsteam Brewery, Haw River Farmhouse Ales and Free Range. Attendees may also expect a few major out-of-state breweries, such as returning visitors Scratch Brewing Co. of Illinois, Carolina Bauernhaus from Anderson, S.C., Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. and Jester King.
“For us, it’s an important time to come together and celebrate small, independent breweries that push the boundaries of what can be accomplished with local ingredients,” says Boera. “We want to put ourselves out there, and bring our friends as well to show off to people that this is what genuinely local beers can taste like.”
Fonta Flora and Friends runs 10 p.m.-1:30 p.m. Thursday, June 8, at Buxton Hall Barbecue, 32 Banks Ave. No reservations or tickets are required. Visit the event’s Facebook page for details.
State of Origin happens 5-9 p.m. Saturday, June 10, in the historic Courthouse Square, downtown Morganton. Details and tickets are available here.