|October 4, 2008|
On Friday afternoon I arrived in North Carolina from London for the World Beer Festival put on by All About Beer magazine. Daniel Bradford and Julie Johnson Bradford had invited me to their event back in April and I was keen to see what North Carolina looked like these days and what changes I’d recognize, having moved to California from Durham twenty-five years ago. I was also giving a presentation and tasting on IPAs during the second session, in the evening. There were a few other writers in town for the same reason, such as Lew Bryson and Rick Lyke. After a brewer’s reception, I retired early, as I had only an hour and half’s worth of sleep the night before and was only able to manage a few catnaps on the plane over the pond. I felt like crap and by all accounts looked even worse. Happily, I woke up the following morning feeling much better.
I went with Lew Bryson to a couple of barbecue places in the area he was keen to try. The first was Allen & Son, in Chapel Hill. It was really down home, without pretense and completely wonderful. My only complaint was that the fries were too dark and soggy, not how I prefer them. But the barbecue was spot on and the peanut butter pie which I had for dessert, though not the best I’ve had, was quite tasty. I have a thing for peanut butter pie and never resist the temptation to sample it if it’s on a menu. Lew had raved about the hush puppies, and they didn’t disappoint. They were amazingly dry and absolutely delicious. For a $1, you could even buy a bone to take home for your dog, which Lew did.
After that, we skirted Durham and headed east to Raleigh for another barbecue joint, Old Time Barbecue. There, the hush puppies were long and thin, unlike the traditional ball shape I was used to, but they were also good in their own right. These were far more juicy with a smoother texture. The fries, too, were a little overdone, wedge-shaped but were at least more crispy. The barbecue seemed a little simpler, just not as many flavors on the palette, but was still some of the best I’ve had in a long time. But after two lunches (or back-to-back breakfast and lunch, as we preferred to view it), it was time to race back to Durham for the beer festival, which started at noon.
I’ve never been to the World Beer Festival before, but was told it had been moved this year from the old Durham Bulls ballpark (which I had been to many years ago) to the new one, which had only recently opened.
The beer tents were laid out right on the field, with a temporary plastic flooring to protect the grass. It was an opaque white so that light still reached the grass, but unfortunately also reflected the sun and made it even hotter than it already was in the bright October sun.
There were essential three groups of two large tents each, as well as a series of smaller one so that almost all of the beer was served in the shade.
Inside the tents it was, by contrast, much cooler, at least until the crowds grew larger.
You may not be able to read the back of the green short, but this was a new one on me, I hadn’t seen this beer quote before. It reads:
“Here’s to five miserable months on the wagon, and all the irreparable harm it’s caused me.”
That’s a line from the film The Shining, uttered by Jack Nicholson’s character, Jack Torrance.
Highland Brewing, pouring several of their beers.
John Pinkerton, from Moon River Brewing in Savannah, Georgia.
Many festival attendees dressed up for the day.
Me and fellow beer blogger Joel Armato, who writes the Grain Bill.
Yet another couple in dirndl and lederhosen. Note the green shoes, though.
The tents by third base.
During each of the two tasting sessions there were three tasting presentations. Here Julie Johnson Bradford introduces Lew Bryson.
Who did a talk on Session Beers. In the evening I did one on IPAs, from Burton to Brutal they called it.
The festival at night.
The evening session actually seemed more crowded than during the day.
Note the colorful party hats.
Yet more dirndls.
Lew Bryson and Rick Lyke.
Even some of the brewers dressed up, as this one from Weeping Radish.