Carolina Beer Guy: AVL Beer Week goes virtual

JUST A CLICK AWAY: With COVID-19 restrictions preventing AVL Beer Week from taking place as planned, the Asheville Brewers Alliance is shifting to digital programming to help keep area beverage fans engaged with local breweries. Photo by Stephan Pruitt Photography

The popular AVL Beer Week celebration will have a different vibe later this month when a virtual edition takes its place in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The week-long celebration, organized by the Asheville Brewers Alliance and a group of volunteers, is set for Friday, May 22-Saturday, May 31.

If state and local social distancing measures are lifted and it’s deemed safe to proceed with the celebration, the in-person AVL Beer Week will return for its 10th edition Sept. 4-10, according to Leah Rainis, executive director of the ABA, which represents local breweries and beer-related businesses. In the meantime, there’s the virtual iteration, which will include trivia, music, beer tastings, panel discussions, brewery yoga and more. Certain event details are still coming together.

With the pandemic crisis making a traditional celebration impossible, Beer Week organizers began discussions on what, if anything, could be done this spring. “Initially, the thought was to postpone until fall,” Rainis says. “But we also thought that the breweries and the beer-drinking community in Western North Carolina needed something good right now. As long as there is beer in Asheville, there should be a beer week.”

Organizing a virtual Beer Week, however, has not been easy. “We are learning on the fly, as most people are [during the pandemic],” she says. “We’re just hoping to bring some fun into people’s living rooms.”

Online beer events have already been offered by state brewing guilds around the country, which prompted Jessica Reiser, co-owner of Burial Beer Co., to suggest doing the same with AVL Beer Week.

“One of our hesitations was that with breweries running on limited staff, wearing a lot of hats and scrambling [to keep their businesses viable], we didn’t want to put an extra burden on them by saying that we wanted to do Beer Week, [now] plan this event,” Rainis says. “But this is an opportunity to put something together, free of charge. We can really promote what they are doing and the cool things they have going on.”

Some events that will be part of AVL Beer Week have already been happening, such as Oskar Blues Brewery hosting music events for its Making a Difference Mondaze series to benefit the Transylvania Tomorrow Small Business Relief Fund.

Other events include Highland Brewing Co. hosting a virtual Hoppy Hour Friday with president Leah Ashburn (Friday, May 22, 5-6 p.m.); Burial, Zillicoah Beer Co. and Hi-Wire Brewing offering an event called the Virtual Beer Olympics (Sunday, May 24, 4-5 p.m.); and separate games of beer-themed trivia, one hosted by Bhramari Brewing Co. (Tuesday, May 26, 7-8 p.m.) and the other a co-venture between Burial and the Asheville Art Museum (Thursday, May 21, 7-8 p.m.).

Burial will also host several virtual editions of its Off Topic discussions, including one with the Asheville Symphony (Wednesday, May 20, 7-8 p.m.), and a virtual stout panel via Zoom with Burial co-owner Doug Reiser in conversation with Cory King of Side Project Brewing, John Wakefield of J. Wakefield Brewing and Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso of Evil Twin Brewing (Saturday, May 23, 8-9 p.m.). Burial’s annual Skillet Six Ways event, featuring six adjunct versions of the brewery’s beloved Skillet Donut Stout, will also move to the virtual realm (Thursday, May 28, 6-7 p.m.), with online sales of the beverages beginning May 20.

Learn about more AVL Beer Week activities at


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About Tony Kiss
Tony Kiss covers brewing news for the Xpress. He has been reporting on the Carolina beer scene since 1994. He's also covered distilling and cider making and spent 30 years reporting on area entertainment. Follow me @BeerguyTK

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