Beer Festivals, Charlotte, Craft Beer Travel, Travel, United States

Queen City Brewers Festival in Charlotte, North Carolina

Seriously? Another craft beer festival?

Less than a year ago I was saying the same thing about craft breweries. How many is too many? It seemed like every week the Charlotte Business Journal published an article about another proposed opening. Don’t get me wrong, I like beer (just look at my belly), but was the mug about to spillover? While I’ve come to the conclusion that the craft beer market has not yet reached its brim, I was pretty sure that the market for craft beer festivals had. Thus, I rolled my eyes when I was invited to attend the 4th annual Queen City Brewers Festival.

Had QC Brew Fest really been going on for that many years? Here, I thought it was a new one, and I’m relatively in tune with the Charlotte craft beer industry. I guess it just blended in with the other seven festivals in town (that I’m aware of) – Charlotte Octoberfest, Charlotte Beerfest, All Ale to the Queen Beer Carnival, South End Hops Festival, Moo and Broo, Gastonia Grizzlies Beer Fest, and Brew Stash Bash.

Queen City Brewers Festival in Charlotte, North Carolina

Queen City Brewers Festival in Charlotte, North Carolina

Of course, I was also a bit jaded as I had just attended one of the best craft festivals in the country the previous weekend, Raleigh Rare Beer Festival. The 17 confirmed local breweries represented at the QC Brew Fest paled in comparison and rarity to the offerings of Raleigh Rare Beer. Would there even be enough beer sampling to fill up three hours?

Bryan - Ever the Beer Skeptic

Bryan – Ever the Beer Skeptic

I manned up and attended the Queen City Brewers Festival. Because beer…

I was happy I did. The festival was smaller than previous festivals that I’ve attended, but not too small that I ran out of beer to taste (If that’s the case, always go for seconds. Always.) While only 17 breweries attended, most of the exhibitors were also pouring craft beer and some even served snacks for when the beer munchies kicked in.

The amount of both breweries and vendors felt manageable. I was able to make my way around the entire exhibition floor without skipping a corner or row. Although, it would have been nice if the web site had a PDF of the program beforehand with a map in case attendees were on beer seeking missions like last weekend. There was also the right number of tickets sold, and I never felt crowded like at Raleigh Rare Beer.

Terrapin Moo-Hoo Randallized with Mashmellows

Terrapin Moo-Hoo Randallized with Marsh-mellows

Kudus to organizers for keeping it in the craft beer family!

For two weekends in a row, it was refreshing to attend a craft beer festival that said no to big beer. Given the distribution squeeze corporate beer puts on festivals and bars, it takes a set of balls to say no. All of the 17 breweries in attendance were local, and all of the beers being poured at vendor booths were craft beers as well. Nothing fell into the shameful “crafty” category.

The day started out dark and heavy with a He’Brew Jewbelation 18 American Strong Ale poured by Common Market. The beer was a tad higher on the sweet and low on the hop in comparison to other American Strongs. But it still packed a strong flavor punch even crossing into what I would consider to be a barely wine. Next was Triple C’s Cajun Stout. I admire the creativity but really didn’t enjoy the execution. The spice made me cough and I’m a spicy eater. Perhaps if the stout was a bit more malty and chewy it would work. (Don’t worry Triple C, you’re still one of my favorites.)

Another beer of note was Unknown Brewing’s Russian Imperial Stout. Yes, I’m talking about them again! Holy Putin this was an amazing beer. And, dare I say, equivalent to what the Gourmands consider the hallmark of Russian Imperials – Stone Brewing. I was pleasantly surprised by Ass Clown Brewing’s Orange Citrus IPA. (Sorry, but I have trouble taking this brewery serious with their name). It had everything I enjoy in an IPA with strong notes of orange tanginess. Sycamore Brewing presented a Belgian Strong Ale that has me feeling shamed for not visiting the brewery yet.

Unknown Brewing Representing Proud

Unknown Brewing Representing Proud

Speaking of feeling shamed. Thank you NC Beer Guys for publicly embarrassing me on video because I haven’t yet been to Heist Brewing. After what I tasted on Saturday, a brewery visit is definitely in order. The Winter is Coming Seasonal was very unique and very enjoyable with a blend of sour apple, cinnamon, and caramel malt. This could be one of the best winter warmers on the market.

As with every beer festival, I like to point out a sleeper brewery – one that I’ve never heard of but completely blows me away. There were two at QC Brew Fest. Both are new comers, as in not yet open, to the Charlotte market – Wooden Robot Brewery and Three Spirits Brewery. I was impressed with the uniqueness of each of their ales. Wooden Robot poured a Belgian Triple with a housemade Saison yeast. The flavor profile was a balance of bread notes with bubblegum and fruit esters. This was an easy afternoon sipper. Three Spirits served a cream ale spiced with coriander and lavender that was a solid blend of floral and fruit notes with a full-bodied, yet low malt profile. Very sessionable. I can’t wait for both of these breweries to open.

Ass Clown Brewery Company

Ass Clown Brewery Company

Queen City Brewers Festival is not just another beer festival.

I’m also beginning to learn that none of the others are either.  Each serves a twofold purpose to raise awareness and money for a cause and to further spread the knowledge and enjoyment of craft beer. Until either one of those missions is lost, then it’s never just another beer festival.

QC Brew Fest aligns with ACEing Autism, a non-profit which aims to make tennis available to children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. I was heartened to see that the line at ACEing Autism’s booth was several people deep through out the day to purchase raffle tickets or learn more about the organization. All while enjoying locally owned, actually brewed the hard way, craft beers.

Who else attended Queen City Brewers Festival? What were your thoughts?

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Disclosure – Muchas gracias to All About Beer Magazine for inviting me to attend QC Brew Fest.  Sometimes I’m invited to such events and sometimes, I stop by anonymously as I follow my passion. Regardless, readers receive my honest opinions as unlike Yelp, my opinions are not for sale.