Carolina Beer Guy: Popular winter beer festivals return

CHEERS INDOORS: Attendees enjoy the inaugural Brew Horizons Beer Festival in 2019. This year's edition takes place Feb. 29 at Harrah's Cherokee Center — Asheville. Photo by Pat Barcas

Beer festival season is cranking up for 2020 with two sudsy celebrations lined up for the end of this month and early March. On tap are plenty of beloved beers along with many breweries making their debuts at established events. And, given that it’s still winter, both of these festivals are thankfully indoors.

First up is the second Brew Horizons Beer Festival on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2-6 p.m. at the newly renamed Harrah’s Cherokee Center — Asheville (previously known as the U.S. Cellular Center and the Asheville Civic Center). The event is produced by the nonprofit Green Built Alliance.

Brew Horizons will have about two dozen area breweries and cider-makers, plus live music by Pretty Little Goat and Lazybirds and food for sale, says festival spokeswoman Sophie Mullinax. The $46 general admission ticket includes unlimited samples. There’s also a $62 Very Important Taster ticket that provides early entry at 1 p.m. A designated driver ticket is $18. Those can be ordered online at

According to Mullinax, last year’s inaugural Brew Horizons attracted about 500 people. “We’re hoping to get more than that this year,” she says.

Look for beers by such regional breweries as Wicked Weed Brewing Co., Twin Leaf Brewery, Pisgah Brewing Co., UpCountry Brewing Co., Bhramari Brewing Co., Ecusta Brewing Co., Ginger’s Revenge, Mica Town Brewing Co., Mountain Layers Brewing Co., Guidon Brewing Co., Whistle Hop Brewing Co., the Collaboratory, Appalachian Mountain Brewing Co., Flat Rock Cider, Bold Rock Hard Cider and Noble Cider. Invitees from beyond Western North Carolina include Primal Brewery from Huntersville and Birdsong Brewing Co. from Charlotte. Also in the mix is import Newground Hard Dutch Latte and Wehrloom Honey and Meadery of Robbinsville.

Mullinax says the only changes to Brew Horizons from last year are the vendors and brewers who are taking part. The festival was launched to fill the slot once occupied by the old Winter Warmer beer fest and is a fundraiser for the Green Built Alliance’s Blue Horizons Project, which she says works “to create a cleaner energy future,” including supporting a significant amount of weatherization in Buncombe County.

One week later, on Saturday, March 7, is Hi-Wire Brewing’s fourth annual Carolina Small Batch Beer Festival, taking place noon-6 p.m. at the brewery’s Big Top location near Biltmore Village

The festival is all about new beers brewed just for the event, says spokeswoman Courtney King. “It is by far the most popular festival we host in Asheville,” she says, adding that she expects a turnout of 800 people.

Previous editions of Carolina Small Batch focused on North Carolina breweries, but this year it has expanded to include South Carolina. Each business will bring a one-off beer that King says isn’t available in the market. Participants include Ben’s American Sake, Bhramari Brewing Co., Birds Fly South Ale Project, Burial Beer Co., Lazy Hiker Brewing Co., Fonta Flora Brewery, Full Steam Brewery, DSSOLVR, Eurisko Beer Co., Highland Brewing Co., Zillicoah Beer Co., Homeplace Beer Co., Pisgah Brewing Co., Hillman Beer and others.

Breweries are free to bring whatever beer styles they wish, as long as it’s a one-off. “We get a wide variety of beers, from Belgians to sours,” King says.

Entry is $12 — available in advance online, or at the brewery as space allows  — which includes a tasting glass and two tokens for beer pours. Extra tokens can be purchased on-site. Foothills Meats will offer food for purchase, and the festival also features live music by Asheville bands Blaze the City, Supa Tight and Lotion.


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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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