I will admit, I have attended many World Beer Fests before in Durham and Raleigh, NC. However, none were like this. This year, All About Beer Magazine, who promotes and puts on the World Beer Fest, went all out to provide an experience tailored to the true beer connoisseur. They did this through many changes to the event itself this year. Those changes included:
-35% less tickets sold, which was designed to have shorter lines and smaller crowds.
-A brand new sampling glass, which was actually glass and not plastic, and resembled a miniature Belgian snifter. The new glass allowed for up to 4oz. pours, when 3oz. were the maximum sample sizes in the past.
-Of the over 200 beers represented, ALL were distributed and available in North Carolina. For once you no longer sampled beers that you could not actually buy in this state, which provided for a “try before you buy” culture more than ever before.
-Last but not least, a brand new tent reserved exclusively to rare and unique Belgian beers. Many of those beers were the highest rated in the world.
Check out my interview with Dan Benthall about Belgian beers here:
I asked Dan Benthall why there was this new and unique Belgian beer program this year at the World Beer Festival and he said: “There was a move to go with less hoppy stuff, the World Beer Fest wanted to explore different flavors and what better way than the Belgian style of beers which range more on the malty side.” He stated that Belgian beer making was a long tradition: “The Belgian brewers have been aging and bottle conditioning their beers this way for 300 years now.”
The World Beer Festival also had two sections which focused on the exponentially growing North Carolina beer market. I interviewed one of the brewers from those local breweries, Ben Woodward of Haw River Farmhouse Ales in Saxapahaw, NC. Though this was his first World Beer Festival as a licensed commercial brewer, he had been to numerous World Beer Festivals in prior years as a homebrewer who had donated his beer to advertise his coming soon brewery. He stated that it going to prior Festivals was “Nice because people all know who we are by now. The extra time to get licensed allowed us to be fully privately funded.” Haw River Farmhouse Ales sported a unique setup for the event, with handmade beer taps that were repurposed cotton spindles that were found in the warehouse space that they are renting out for their brewery. Haw River Farmhouse Ales will have their grand opening on October 24, 2014. If you make it out to their grand opening, I suggest trying their Regent’s Rye Tripel. I had some at the World Beer Festival, and I was amazed at its mouthfeel and complexity, the Belgian spicy sweetness met an American rye whiskey bite. That beer certainly was distinguishable from anything else in the aforementioned Belgian beer tent, and that is a good thing.
All in all, the changes this year to the World Beer Festival made it a resounding success. There was a much smaller crowd, fewer lines, and overall a more relaxed experience. That experience was exactly what All About Beer was looking for in their premiere event, the kind of experience that allows one to truly savor and enjoy beer.
By Chandler Vatavuk, Insight NC Correspondent
October 17, 2014