The 2016 High Country Beer Fest Experience

When travelling, it’s funny how you learn the local quirks regarding weather. The week before the High Country Beer Fest on August 27th, we checked the weather app and it kept saying rain for the day of the festival. The percentages rose and fell during the week and finally locked in at 60% chance of rain. Outdoor festivals aren’t as much fun in the rain, especially when it’s held in an open field. Packed with ponchos, we were set to handle the inclement weather if it approached. Funny thing with local quirks, as we were heading into the festival and mentioned the rain chances, we were told that IF it rained, it would be for about five minutes and then gone – that it’s been doing that all summer. Rain gear put away, we’re heading in!

The High Country Beer Fest benefits the Appalachian State University Fermentation Sciences Program. They just recently moved from the Broyhill Center to the Appalachian Panhellenic Hall where they’re expected to upgrade the already state-of-the-art equipment. Programs like these around the state fortify the breweries with top-notch talent. Students come out of the program with a wealth of knowledge and experience and, from what we’ve seen at breweries, assimilate well with the brewhouse systems.

The key to attending beer festivals is to take advantage of VIP tickets if they offer it. Most VIP tickets will give you early access to explore the festival and a lot of times that’s priceless. A few will give extra perks like upgraded bathrooms, t-shirts, exclusive tasting of beer not offered during the general session, etc. This year’s festival had 10 more breweries and the total ticket amount lowered from last year. Last year the lines were a bit long but with the changes for this year, it was just right. Beer festivals give you a chance to check out a new brewery or one that’s not in the area and their inventory isn’t available. A perk is when they bring a cool one-off or randall their beer. A randall is a filter that they send the beer through and it infuses the beer with flavor-enhancing ingredients. They can get very creative with the ingredients and it adds a new fresh flavor to the beer.

We enjoy coming to this festival every year – truly a favorite of ours. It’s a laid back atmosphere, exceptionally well run and we get the chance to talk to the Boone-area brewers we infrequently see. At some of the busier festivals, the brewers are too busy pouring beer and usually have no time to chat or questions. Festival exploration is not only about finding new breweries/beers but also to get information about them from the brewers themselves and not the volunteers. There’s nothing wrong with volunteers if they’re completely knowledgeable about what they’re serving but when they’re not, it’s really unfortunate.

Food trucks and tents, Bands on the stage, food and beer pairing sessions, great weather and plenty of NC beer – all the makings of an awesome festival. Oh, and let us not forget – Bubbles. You have to have someone with a bubblemaker roaming around – it’s just a cool thing.

A cool piece of info we can share about the App State Fermentation Sciences program is their quarterly beer collab they are going to do with Booneshine Brewing. Booneshine is adding three tanks to their equipment inventory and one of them will be owned by Ivory Tower LLC, the non-profit that helps fund the Fermentation Sciences program. Be sure when you go to Boone to stop by Basil’s Fresh Pasta and Deli and ask if the the collaboration is ready and enjoy a great pint!

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