It seems every beer event in Asheville has its own distinct vibe. That is particularly true with the second iteration of the AVL Beer Expo, coming up Saturday, Feb. 18, at The Venue downtown.
All the breweries taking part are members of the Asheville Brewers Alliance, and the emphasis is on creating an intimate environment rather than hosting a big crowd. Each of the two sessions (1-4 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. — take your pick) will include panel discussions with some of the area’s leading beer personalities. It’s a chance to talk with these folks and learn more about the beers and breweries. That’s not always possible with some of the region’s bigger beer festivals, where crowds and lines make it difficult to linger for discussions.
Last year’s inaugural expo pulled in about 500 guests between the two sessions, says Kendra Penland, director of the nonprofit Asheville Brewers Alliance, which represents the local brewing scene. “We haven’t made a lot of changes to the format,” she says. But there will be new breweries taking part and some new topics for the panel discussions.
Let’s start with the breweries. There are about 30 on the list right now (view all the participants at avlbeerexpo.com), including two cider makers — Urban Orchard and Bold Rock. Some of the newer players on the list include Ecusta of Brevard; Habitat, which has opened on Broadway; Currahee of Franklin; and Hillman Beer, which is under construction on Sweeten Creek Road. Many of Asheville’s well-established breweries will be there too, including Highland, Green Man, Asheville Brewing, Wedge, Hi-Wire, Wicked Weed, New Belgium and many more.
As for the panels, topics for the first session are “Rising from the Grave: Resurrecting Beer Styles,” “What Really Happens in a Brewery Lab?” “Let’s Work Together: The Logistics of Collaborating” and “Rare and Special Beers: Big and Bold.” The second session discussions are “Rare and Special Beers: Sour & Wild,” “What Will 2017 Hold?,” “Is it a Race? Breweries Discuss Expansion” and “Embracing the Flavors of Western North Carolina.” Based on last year’s debut event, these panels will provide some real insight into the brewing scene.
Tickets are $30 for either session plus service charge and include a tasting glass and five beer tokens. More tokens can also be purchased on site. It’s a good idea to get tickets in advance because the expo is likely to sell out.
Thinking ahead, there are plenty of parking decks near The Venue, which is across Market Street from Brasilia Churrasco Steakhouse (the old Magnolia’s).
The expo will help promote the Asheville Brewers Alliance’s Beer Fan program, which offers is a way for the public to get involved in the group. Beer Fan membership includes a T-shirt, a bottle opener, monthly meetups and events, insider contests, a newsletter and soon, a Beer Fan store stocked with items that are available only to those enrolled in the group. Memberships are $40 and available at the expo or at the ABA website.
Beer Fan members can also hang out at the expo between the first and second sessions, have a few more beers and talk to brewers.
The AVL Beer Expo takes place in two sessions — 1-4 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. — on Saturday, Feb. 18 at The Venue, 21 N. Market St. Tickets are available at avlbeerexpo.com.
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