Do’s & Don’ts for a Great Charlotte Oktoberfest

Ryan Self has attended his share of beer festivals, on both sides of the taps. With Charlotte Oktoberfest quickly approaching, he dropped by to share his “do’s and don’ts” to get the most out of the festival. (This post was written prior to the 2012 festival, but the advice is timeless.)

Once again, Charlotte Oktoberfest is just around the corner. The organizers of this fest have consistently made this event one of the best in the region, but that doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily have the great time you should. When faced with a seemingly endless array of craft beer options, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. That’s why I’m here with a beer festival veteran’s do’s and don’ts of a successful Oktoberfest experience.

  • Do spring for the VIP tickets. Unfortunately VIP tickets are already sold out this year, but make it a point to spring for them next year. Depending on the festival, these can add significantly to the price, but if you truly want a beer education and not just a healthy buzz, it’s absolutely worth it. During this first hour, crowds are 1/10 of the size, meaning you’ll get your money’s worth spending your time sampling beer instead of standing in line. Even more valuable is the fact that the brewers can relax and talk beer instead of having to rush everyone to serve the backed-up line. If you want to try a beer, find out how it was made and discuss tasting notes with an expert, the VIP ticket suddenly becomes a reasonably priced experience.
  • Don’t waste your time at stands that clearly hired a couple of skinny girls to pour. If a brewery doesn’t care enough to proudly present its beer, why should you care enough to drink it? Here’s an insider’s tip: If a festival is important to a brewery, and the team knows they are bringing some brand new and/or rare beers to serve, it will send educated staff to pour and discuss. If a brewery is sending it’s same old core lineup because they felt like they “had to” attend the festival, they’ll let anyone staff the table. You’re going to get served a beer you can get anywhere, by someone who has no interest.Your time is too valuable for that.
  • Do take notes on beers you love, or breweries that impress across the board. You might try six breweries from Asheville; don’t you want to remember which ones you loved so next time you’re in town you can head right to those breweries? This will also prove useful next time you’re at the bar. Imagine being at Revolution, seeing a brewery’s new IPA and being able to recall “I loved their pale ale at Oktoberfest, I’ll try this.”
  • That being said, don’t be a slave to Untappd (cut to my friends laughing, as I am famous for this). The Untappd app and Web site have made it easier than ever to quickly track what you’ve had and if you liked them. However, the badge and collector aspects of the site make it easy to spend the entire festival with your head buried in your phone. Remember – you probably didn’t come here alone, and there’s a skilled brewery employee right in front of you. Perhaps it would enhance the experience of the day to talk to them once in a while?
  • Don’t feel the need to try everything, especially beers you’ve had many times before. Love Brewery X’s pale ale? Sure, have some as a palate cleanser between new brews. But if you know Brewery Y’s oatmeal stout is consistently mediocre, don’t get trapped in the need to have a sample based on the fallacy that you waited in line for 20 minutes and you’re going to have everything they’re offering. However…
  • Do get out of your comfort zone. You paid for an all-you-can-drink ticket, so if you’ve never enjoyed sours, now is the time to try them again. One sample costs the same as 10, so don’t be afraid to go back to the well. Worst case scenario ? You take some sips and dump, and you feel that much more secure that certain styles just aren’t for you. No one will be able to say you didn’t give them a fair shake. Best case? You open a whole new world when you discover that one beer that is a gateway to you loving that style.

We’d love to hear even more from beer festival regulars in the comments section!

Cheers Charlotte Radio

Cheers Charlotte PodcastIf you have an ear for beer, there’s a new Charlotte beer podcast you’ll want to give a listen. Fresh off the heels of the excellent Charlotte Beercast comes Cheers Charlotte, a new podcast “exploring the world of craft beer, homebrewing, great food and good living in Charlotte, NC.”

Hosting the podcast are Jay Brown (aka “Jay Weezie”), a beer nerd and local radio personality that you may have heard on The Fan WFNZ 610 AM; Cesar Leyva, director of marketing for the Carolina BrewMasters; and Ford Craven, a member of the Charlotte Beer Club, Carolina BrewMasters, and co-founder of the Cabarrus County Homebrewers Society.

In the inaugural episode, the guys discuss:

  • What did we drink? A recap of what everyone drank over the past few weeks.
  • The rise in homebrewing.
  • The Beer Pouch (think a Capri-Sun for beer).
  • Weekly Guest: Rob Adams, a member of the Carolina BrewMasters, talks about his experience becoming a nationally-recognized beer judge.
  • The guys try Franziskaner hefeweizen and go through the beer judge score sheet (aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel and overall impression).
  • Homebrewer Spotlight: Steve Nance.

The guys at Cheers Charlotte welcome feedback. After listening, let them know what you think at Twitter, Facebook, or over at their website.

Fall Seasonal Beers from Charlotte Breweries

Even though the leaves have yet to change color, this past week’s cooler weather reminds us that fall is not far away here in Charlotte. Of course, you could only look to the countless seasonal beers on store shelves around the city to draw the same conclusion, even if some of these “fall seasonals” have been out for two months now. Every year, craft breweries seem to roll out their seasonals earlier and earlier in hopes of getting their beer on shelves before the countless other pumpkin beers and Octoberfests.

Fortunately, our local Charlotte breweries are releasing their fall seasonals in the fall (gasp!), or at least very close to it. Be sure to look for the seasonal beers below around town or out at the breweries.

Olde Mecklenburg Brewery CharlotteOlde Mecklenburg Brewery – Mecktoberfest

If ever there were a locally-brewed beer that most Charlotteans associated with fall, it would have to be Mecktoberfest. Olde Mecklenburg released this one on a couple weeks ago. You can find this traditional, German-style marzen at bars all over town as well as at the taproom. Growlers and bottles are also available at select beer shops and grocery stores. Also, make it a point to stop by the brewery on Unfiltered Fridays to see if an unfiltered version of Mecktoberfest is on — you won’t regret it. Stop by the brewery on Oct. 6 for the actual Mecktoberfest celebration, which will feature food and the 9-piece band playing Bavarian music in the biergarten.

 

Four Friends BrewingFour Friends – Punkin Brewster & Uptown Brown

Four Friends Brewing is rolling out Punkin Brewster this fall. This 6.4% American amber ale is brewed with spices you might typically find in a pumpkin pie. If you’ve been drinking lots of Four Friends I-77 IPA and their newer 24K Belgian Golden Ale, you may not have even noticed that the Uptown Brown — which was one of the first beers Four Friends brewed — has been missing in action. It’s making a comeback this fall, when its notes of sweet toffee and toasted malt will surely be welcome.

 

 

 

NoDa Brewing – Gordgeous Pumpkin Ale / Hope Stout

If you made it to last year’s Charlotte Oktoberfest, you may have been fortunate enough to try NoDa Brewing’s Gordgeous Pumpkin Ale before the brewery even opened its doors to the public. The first week of October, NoDa Brewing will bring this one back as a fall regular. Head brewer Chad Henderson says that this 6.3% pumpkin ale is “brewed with 155 lbs of organic pumpkin caramelized with brown sugar and spiced with ginger, allspice, cardamom, cloves and vanilla beans.”

This fall, you can also Drink with Hope simply by having a pint of Hope’s Stout, which was brewed in partnership with the March Forth With Hope Foundation to honor Hope Stout, a girl who inspired many in her battle with cancer. Hope would have been 21 this year.

 

Birdsong Brewing Charlotte NCBirdsong Brewing – Raise a Ruckus

Taking its name from a song by Old Crow Medicine Show, Raise a Ruckus is a “raisin rye ale” brewed with rye malt from the Riverbend Malt House in Asheville, NC.  This one will be Birdsong Brewery’s first fall seasonal, since they opened in December of last year.

 

 

 

Ass Clown Brewing Company

Ass Clown Brewing – Simcoe Wet Hop IPA

Many associate the word “harvest” with pumpkins, squash and other foods often served at Thanksgiving dinner. For brewers and beer drinkers, however, the word “harvest” calls to mind the fresh hops that are pulled off the bines at summer’s end. Harvest beers are certainly appreciated by Matt Glidden, owner of Ass Clown Brewing. His Simcoe Wet Hop IPA will be the brewery’s first bottled beer. It should be out in October in 22 oz. bombers.

 

 

Triple C Brewing CharlotteTriple C Brewing – Fresh Hop IPAs / Breakfast Porter

Head brewer Scott Kimball has been growing hops for five seasons, and even built an oast that he uses to dry the hops overnight. He grew and harvested Columbus, Chinook and Cascade hops at the new SouthEnd brewery and will be using them in 5- and 10-gallon pilot batches of fresh hop IPAs that the brewery will tap on Wednesdays starting next week.

This Wednesday, Sept. 19, Triple C will also tap a small batch of their Up All Night Breakfast Porter, which Scott says is brewed with “flaked oats and lots of chocolate malt in the mash, honey and lactose in the boil, and then coffee is added in the secondary.” They will be serving this big, 10% porter on nitro.

 


Heist BreweryHeist Brewery – Oktoberfest

In addition to their core lineup, Heist Brewery plans to always keep a seasonal spot open. On Thursday, Sept. 20 at 5 p.m., that seasonal spot will be occupied by Heist’s Oktoberfest, which will be “a true to style German Oktoberfest with low hop bitterness and toasted malt character.” This beer will be premiered at VBGB Craftoberfest on Friday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.

 

 

 

Rock Bottom Brewery CharlotteRock Bottom – Rocktoberfest

Rock Bottom will tap their Rocktoberfest on Sept. 18 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. In addition to Rocktoberfest, the newly-renovated brewery will also have samples of their other beers and new menu items. A dollar from every Rocktoberfest sold will be donated to Camp Luck, a not-for-profit, medically supervised camp for children with heart problems and their families.