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BeerFest 2.0

By Frank Ruggiero (

Article Published: Aug. 8, 2013 | Modified: Sep. 1, 2013
BeerFest 2.0

Southern Tier Brewing offers some samples at the 2012 High Country Beer Fest, now called the High Country Craft Food and Beverage Festival. The popular celebration returns to Boone Saturday, Aug. 31.

Photo by Frank Ruggiero


Beers to You

Some of the breweries joining the 2013 High Country Craft Food and Beverage Festival include:

Boone Brewing Co. (Blowing Rock)
Appalachian Mountain Brewery (Boone)
Buchi Kombucha (Asheville)
Carolina Beer & Beverage (Statesville)
Catawba Valley Brewing Company (Morganton)
Foothills Brewing (Winston-Salem)
Flat Top Brewing Company (Banner Elk)
Highland Brewing Company (Asheville)
Ivory Tower Brewery (ASU, Boone)
Natty Greene’s Brewing Co. (Greensboro)
Olde Hickory Brewery (Hickory)
Top of the Hill (Chapel Hill)
Blind Squirrel Brewery (Plumtree)
Hi-Wire Brewing (Asheville)
Howard Brewing (Lenoir)
Starr Hill Brewing Company (Charlottesville, Va.)
Founders Brewing Company (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
Merchant du Vin (Lenox, Mass.)
Sierra Nevada (Chico, Calif.)
Stone Brewing Co. (Escondido, Calif.)
Left Hand Brewery (Longmont, Colo.)
Doc’s Draft Cider (Warwick, N.Y.)
Oskar Blues Brewery (Longmont, Colo.)

Roll out the barrels — and the food carts.

With a new name and a fresh batch of activities, the High Country Craft Food and Beverage Festival is on tap for Saturday, Aug. 31, from 3 to 7 p.m.

Formerly the High Country Beer Fest, the annual celebration of fermentation at its finest is back for its sixth year at the former Broyhill Events Center on the Appalachian State University campus.
Fans can expect a happy (and hoppy) variety of beer samples from 50-some breweries, a healthy heaping of craft foods and snacks, a frothy curriculum of educational seminars and new surprises by the gallon.

“It’s still the same event everyone is used to,” said Brett Taubman, festival co-founder, organizer and associate professor of chemistry at Appalachian. “Unfortunately, there’s a stigma attached to anything with ‘beer’ in a name. People automatically think ‘keg party,’ and that’s not at all what we’re trying to accomplish. We’re really trying to be an education-first event.”

The new name, he said, better reflects the scope of the university’s fermentation sciences program, “which is not just about beer, obviously, but also fermented foods,” such as pickled items, cheeses, bread and mushrooms.

“It’s definitely something we wanted to do,” Taubman said of the name-change, “but the university was happy, too.”

And, according to Taubman, festival regulars won’t be disappointed. “They’re not going to miss out on anything they’ve grown accustomed to.”

Although they just might discover some new favorites, he said, such as the festival’s stronger emphasis on craft food.

“We’ll have more craft food vendors coming in, selling food and setting up booths for sampling along with the beer vendors,” Taubman said, adding that there will be more food-oriented seminars, as well, including the aforementioned fermented foods. “That’ll be a highlight.”

The entire seminar lineup has yet to be announced, but will be posted on the festival’s website upon completion. “They’ll be kind of crossing the bridge between beer and food,” he said.

Also crossing that bridge is live music, courtesy of Cary Hudson of Blue Mountain and Boone’s own Worthless Son-in-Laws.

New to Brew

One of the Craft Food and Beverage Festival’s newest features, the Rare Beer Tent will house samples of special brews from a select number of breweries.

“This is where they’ll have some of their more funky sours, one-offs, barrel-aged, that kind of thing,” Taubman said. “It’s just some really fun stuff that brewers like doing.”

The festival is also rolling out the red carpet with a VIP experience. With the purchase of a VIP pass, ticketholders gain access to a Friday night pre-party with the brewers and a full-fledged Carolina pig pickin’.

In addition, VIPs gain entry to the festival 30 minutes earlier than standard ticketholders, exclusive access to the Rare Beer Tent for the first two hours of the event and exclusive access to the Ivory Tower Lounge in the Broyhill Center —complete with tasting room and private bathrooms.

Friendly Advice

For all festivalgoers, though, Taubman has a bit of advice.

“Don’t try to taste everything,” he said. “Focus on some breweries or styles you’ve never tried before. Use this as an opportunity to branch out.”

He also suggested that tasters start with the lighter varieties and work their way up to dark beers. Either way, they should save hoppy beers for last.

“If you start with the hoppy beers, you’re going to kill your palate for the most part and not be able to taste what you’re sampling after a while,” Taubman said.

Festivalgoers should also pace themselves. More than 50 breweries are participating, he said, and each is bringing two to four beers to sample, meaning there will be — at the bare minimum — 100 varieties of beer to taste.

“There’s more than you can ever possibly sample,” Taubman said, “so that’s why it’s good to have a strategy going in. Look at the different breweries that are going to be there, and try to focus on the ones you’re interested in hitting. Either way, take lots of breaks, drink lots of water, and enjoy the seminars.”

Exit Strategy

More important than a tasting strategy is the exit strategy, and festival organizers are going above and beyond to ensure festivalgoers get home safely.

As such, the festival offers a variety of options, including a free tow from Bill’s Garage with up to four passengers within Boone city limits, a free ride with Tipsy Taxi to anywhere in Boone, a special “Brew Route” from the AppalCART and $10 tickets for designated drivers.

“There’s absolutely no reason why people need to drive,” Taubman said.

Brews for a Cause

In keeping with festival tradition, proceeds from the High Country Craft Food and Beverage Festival will a number of nonprofit or education-based organizations, including Mountain Alliance, ASU’s fermentation sciences program (which houses ASU’s student-run Ivory Tower Brewery), the 2014 Solar Decathlon and the N.C. Brewers’ Guild.

For Taubman, the festival serves yet another noble purpose.

“Breaking down the stigma that’s unfortunately attached to beer,” he said. “Showing people that this is not about keg parties and over-consumption and binge-drinking. This is really about education and showing people that beer can and should be appreciated, just like wine is — but beer is so much cooler.”


The High County Craft Food and Beverage Festival runs from 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, at the former Broyhill Events Center, located at 775 Bodenheimer Drive in Boone.

Tickets cost $35 for general admission, $10 for designated drivers and $100 for VIP designation and are available online at Attendees are also encouraged to bring cash for the festival’s many food offerings.

Nobody younger than 21 years of age will be admitted to the festival, except for children younger than 12 when accompanied by a parent or guardian. IDs will be checked upon entry.
For more information, visit

Additional Images

Southern Tier Brewing offers some samples at the 2012 High Country Beer Fest, now called the High Country Craft Food and Beverage Festival. The popular celebration returns to Boone Saturday, Aug. 31.
Photo by Frank Ruggiero

Volunteer Jenn Pillow pours a draft for Triangle Brewing at 2012's High Country Beer Fest, now called the High Country Craft Food and Beverage Festival. The popular celebration of all things fermented returns to Boone Saturday, Aug. 31.
Photo by Frank Ruggiero

Approximately 2,000 people attended the 2012 High Country Beer Fest. Organizers anticipate a similar crowd for the 2013 event, now called the High Country Craft Food and Beverage Festival.
Photo by Frank Ruggiero

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