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Monday, October 08, 2007

From Munich to Durham and Charlotte to Denver, It's Beer Festival Season

Even if you were unable to get to Munich for the 174th Oktoberfest that wrapped up on Sunday or cannot break away to get to Denver for the 26th annual Great American Beer Festival that kicks off on Thursday, you don't have to feel left out of the beer festival scene.

Germany's Oktoberfest was attended by 6.2 million visitors this year, down by about 300,000 from the record set in 2006. Those who did show up were thirsty, consuming 6.7 million liters of beer, up 10 percent.

In Denver, they are getting ready for the GABF, which runs from Oct. 11-13. The GABF will pour more than 1,800 beers from 474 American breweries to more than 40,000 beer fans.

While I am not earning any frequent flyer miles going to Germany or Colorado this year, my beer festival card has been filled the last two weekends.

On Sept. 29th it was the ninth annual Charlotte Oktoberfest at the Metrolina Expo Center just north of Charlotte, N.C. The festival was presented by The Carolina BrewMasters and Creative Loafing, a local alternative weekly newspaper. These photographs were taken by my Son-in-Law Mike Wirth at the event.

The Charlotte Oktoberfest featured a nice range of southeastern beers, along with other brews from around the U.S. and the world. The King Don's Pumpkin Ale from Catawba Valley Brewing, Atlanta Brewing's Oktoberfest, Old Hickory Brewing's Barleywine, Rock Bottom Brewery's Keller-fest Cask Oktoberfest and Terrapin Brewing's India Style Pale Ale were among my favorites. A highlight of Charlotte Oktoberfest is the chance to sample beers made by homebrewers from around the region. This year among the beers being poured was Tom Nolan's Baltic Porter, which was brewed last year by Foothills Brewing and won the gold medal in the GABF Pro-Am category.

On Saturday, it was the 12th annual World Beer Festival in Durham, N.C. at the historic Durham Athletic Park. This event is put on by the good folks at All About Beer magazine. I spoke at both the afternoon and evening session, as did fellow beer writers Gregg Glaser and Lew Bryson. I found some fantastic pumpkin beers at this festival including Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Big Boss Pumpkin and Dogfish Head Punkin. The coffee beers also hit the spot, with King Mocha Java Stout, Meantime Coffee Porter and Kuhnhenn Creme Brule Java Stout big favorites.

One of the special treats at the World Beer Festival is the Pop the Cap Cask Tent, where for a donation to the group you get the chance to sample some great cask aged brews. This year I really enjoyed the Liberty Steakhouse Barleywine and several of the other specialties they served up.

I did not have to pass through airport security to attend these two festivals, but it was still a happy trip.

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