Carolina Brewsfest and Half Marathon

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I was up bright and early on the morning of May 2 preparing myself mentally for the task of completing a half marathon followed by Carolina Brewsfest, a six-hour beer fest.  Crazy, right!!?? but it was a beautiful spring day, so I made good use of it.

Let me first say that my half marathon performance was NOT pretty to say the least.  I had no idea that High Point, NC was actually ON a mountain!  I have never in my life completed such a hilly course!  This was my 4th half marathon, so I have learned a few things in my treks thus far, but I was not at all prepared for this one.  Months of bronchitis kept me from training AT ALL…literally 6 miles of running done in the six months prior to this half marathon.  I was determined to finish this race!  After all, I DID have on my Beer Vixen tank!  Thank goodness I had my bestie, Jones, with me to pull me through.

IMG_1475IMG_1474Yes…in all of our post-race glory, the Beer Vixens (AKA Casino Vixens) crossed the finish line before being picked up by the cart of shame (this is a golf cart/car/any vehicle that rides at the back of the race to pick up those who will not finish before designated cut off time).  NEVER….I’d die. After our exciting race, it was time to move on to better things….BEER!!  Home for a quick shower and back to the beer fest we went!

IMG_1460Beer fest day was also Kentucky Derby day, so we had to pay homage with our fun hats.  We arrive to the beer fest around 1, fashionably about an hour late.  To my dismay, some breweries and/or tables were already packed up or out of beer!  Really!!??

The selection of food trucks at the event was AMAZING!! I tried the Korean tacos from Bulkogi Truck.  DELICIOUS amazingness and it was quick, which was a bonus after I just trekked 13.1 miles.  Some of the food trucks had food wait times of half an hour or more.  I got mine right away.  I grabbed a table in the VIP area and dove into my amazing tacos, wholeheartedly hoping no one would shoo me away from the tables since I was not a VIP.  I then took my tiny 2 ounce

I was able to try several new brews that made me very happy. Participating breweries included: Gibb’s Hundred, Bombshell Beer Company, Hi-Wire Brewing, Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, Steel String Craft Brewery, Liberty Brewery, D9 Brewing Company, The Unknown Brewing Company, Fortnight Brewing Company, Frog Level Brewing Company, The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, Pig Pounder Brewery, BruePrint Brewing Company, Flat Top Brewing Company, Carolina Brewing, and Dirtbag Ales.

A few favorites of the day:

Bombshell Brewing Company Lemongrass Pale Ale -These ladies are awesome!! Bombshell was founded and is run by 3 lovely ladies in Holly Springs, NC. I found myself back in this line many times throughout the day.

Fortnight ESB-  Head Brewer,  Derek Garman, was kind enough (even amongst all the crowds) to talk to me a bit about the brewery and the beers.  I am looking forward to my first visit to Fortnight as well!

Frog Level Cinco Ranas Picante- Yes, I know I just talked about this beer in my last Asheville post, but I love it!  It’s spicy and as you all know, I like it HOT!  I was glad to see this beer again because I had already consumed my growler at home and thought I had seen the last of this one until my next trek West.

At the conclusion of the festival, we discovered a statue of jazz legend John Coltrane right by the parking area, so we couldn’t resist a picture with him!

IMG_1461All in all, a decent festival, great venue, great beer, and lots of fun.  The band, Disco Lemonade, was AMAZING and kept us dancing all day long.

And just when you think you’ve reached your fill of fun for the day….you spot this guy!!!  Had to snap a picture with this scary beast.  A great ending to a most FABULOUS day!

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March MADNESS!!

And….the updates continue!  Here’s a recap of my adventures for the month of March.  I attended some great events, so enjoy the journey!

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Geeks-n-Taps, Foothills Brewery, Winston Salem, NC

On March 9, I attended the Hip Hops event hosted by Geeks-N-Taps.  During this event, I gained a new understanding of the intricacies of hops.  The flow of this event was much better than the first, as the group was divided into two separate seating times.  This allowed participants to have more time at the stations to interact with the scientists. The stations at this event included a table featuring local hops farmer Ben Sunderman of Cedar Ridge Hops Farm in Lewisville, NC.  Cedar Ridge Hops Farm provides fresh, hand-harvested hops to several breweries along the East Coast.

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At another table, I was able to taste 9 different hops (Sorachi Ace, Citra, Simcoe, Amarillo, Chinook, Hull Melon, Nelson Sauvin, Fuggle and Cascade), each of which I mixed in a cup of Carolina Blonde to taste the differences between the hops. With each sample, I took time to appreciate both the taste and aromas of each hop. Other adventures included sampling a skunked beer and comparing to a non-skunked beer; randalling beers with selected ingredients, such as anise or cinnamon; and guessing the ABV and IBUs of a few beer samples. It was a fun and educational evening…and the best part was that I was able to drink while learning!  I am looking forward to the next event offering!

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All Ale to the Queen Beer Festival, Charlotte, NC

March 28, Amos’ Southend hosted All Ale to the Queen beer festival, which boasted 2 tasting sessions with over 1700 attendees.  Imagine craft beer + beer competitions + a carnival.  That describes my experience at All Ale to the Queen.  The location was an ideal spot for this event, with two floors of craft brews, food samples, artisan crafts, and 2 stages featuring aerialists, midget performances, live music, hula hoopers, and belly dancers.  Although there were many attendees at this event, it did not feel crowded and there seemed to be enough beer to go around for all.  Some new and noteworthy breweries that were in attendance included Thirsty Nomad, Ass Clown, Granite Falls, Carolina Bauernhaus, and Blind Squirrel, just to name a few. The festival also featured a Queen’s Twin Challenge, where homebrewers attempted to replicate known brews. I was quite impressed with the quality and likeness of these brews.  This was a great event!  No wonder it is listed as one of the top beer festivals in the US by Beer Yeti and Beer Fests.

One of my FAVORITE food samples was the hummus.  There were 9 delicious flavors of ROOTS hummus available for sampling.  My favorites were the mango sriracha and Thai coconut curry. These yummy, locally-made packages of hummus are available in the Charlotte area and at fine retailers such as Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, EarthFare, and Ingles.

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While at the festival, I was fortunate enough to meet and talk with NC Beer Guys.  I love these guys’ site and I frequent it often to find out about breweries in NC, upcoming festivals and events, and other fun beer info.

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Cardinal Directions Beer Festival, Carrboro, NC

Oh yes I did go to 2 beer festivals in 1 weekend….and Sunday, March 29, I attended the inaugural Cardinal Directions Beer Festival in the parking lot of Steel String Brewery.  Proceeds from the festival benefitted Farmer Foodshare, a local hunger relief organization. For a mere $12, one could sample 5 different beers, with additional tickets available for $1. The event featured over a dozen local craft breweries boasting their freshest spring seasonals.  Five Orange County breweries including Mystery Brewing, Steel String, Carolina Brewery, Top of the Hill, and Starpoint, participated in a collaboration beer, where each brewery took the same recipe and put their own spin on it.  It was great to see the creativity and innovation displayed by these brewers.

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A few of my favorite beers from the day included a Sweet Tea Saison from Raleigh Brewing and Year of the Wood Goat by Fonta Flora, a unique beer brewed with Charleston Gold and aged on Tumeric and Miso.

Private Open House, Copper Barrel Distillery, North Wilkesboro, NC

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I was fortunate enough to receive an invite to the Private Open House for Copper Barrel Distillery in North Wilkesboro on March 30. I was very excited to try one of the newest moonshines to hit the North Carolina market before the location opened on April 11. Among the attendees were city officials, other media representatives, and community friends and family.  We were greeted with a delicious array of hors d’oeuvres to accompany moonshine samples.

Located within a historical site which houses Key City Furniture’s wood-fired boiler (which is located within the facility), Copper Barrel is full of character and a look into the history of Main Street.

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The interior and exterior of the facility emit an ambiance and character that reminds you of an old friend.  The history and distinctive character of Copper Barrel is reminiscent of the roots of Wilkes County, the Moonshine Capital of America.

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Copper Barrel prides itself on making 100% moonshine, which is distilled using local, North Carolina grains and produce.  Copper Barrel’s line of moonshines includes White Lightning (pure moonshine) and blueberry currently, however they plan to also produce red cherry, black cherry, strawberry and apple pie flavors soon.  Copper Barrel’s fruit moonshines are not sweet like other flavored moonshines I have tried.

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The entire process, including bottling, takes place in the facility.  The bottles are filled manually by one of the Copper Barrel staff.

I got a chance to catch up with Buck Nance, master distiller and the heart of the distillery. Buck is a second-generation distiller who has been a part of the moonshine business since he was 8 years old.  Buck remembers helping his father haul bags of sugar needed for the moonshine. The equipment Buck’s family used was the first distilling equipment in America run by steam. Buck’s father saw the equipment design while in the service in Germany.  He wrote down notes on how the equipment was designed and from his notes, he crafted the first steam powered distilling equipment.  The equipment in Copper Barrel is fashioned after his father’s design and skillfully mastered by Jeff Davis, a local craftsman who literally welded the entire facility together piece by piece.

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Copper Barrel produces over 200 gallons of shine a day in its 650-gallon still.  Copper Barrel Distillery is a true combination of the history of moonshining in Wilkes County, the best of NC local ingredients, and a piece of the Nance family distilling heritage. The distillery is now open for business and welcomes visitors to sample moonshine and enjoy an afternoon on the front porch in a comfy rocking chair.

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Yes, Barrel Aged Babe has been very busy these past few months!  Stay tuned for tales of my April Adventures!