Cape Fear Craft Beer Week kicks off March 24, marking the beginning of a 10-day celebration of the region’s thriving craft beer scene.
Dating back to 2016, the Cape Fear Craft Beer Alliance’s annual event aims to attract craft beer tourists from beyond the Port City to enjoy the breweries, bottle shops and other beer-centric businesses that abound in the area.
“The purpose of Craft Beer Week is to showcase the fact that we’ve got some amazing craft breweries on the coast. A lot of people think of North Carolina craft beer and they think of Asheville because it’s been Beer City USA for so long,” said Ellie Craig, president of the Cape Fear Craft Beer Alliance. “But we’re trying to draw attention to the fact that you can come to the beach and get some amazing craft beers right here in the Cape Fear region.”
From March 24 to April 2, many of the region’s breweries and bottle shops will offer specials, including the release of a limited-edition collaboration brew called Future Fuel. Several area brewers worked together on the American-style pale ale crafted with whole cone Mosaic hops and Idaho Gem hops. The result, Craig said, is a drinkable style with fruit-forward hop characteristics.
“It’s very light-bodied, very easy drinking – crushable for Craft Beer Week,” she said.
While there’s no actual fruit in the beer, the use of fruit-forward hops was an intentional nod toward the beer alliance’s partnership with NourishNC, a local nonprofit providing meals for food-insecure children in the community. Net proceeds from the sale of Future Fuel will be donated to the organization, whose work Craig described as “phenomenal.”
“We always try to work with them as much as we can because of the work that they do in feeding our area youth,” she said.
Other highlights of the week include the Ultimate Brewing Championship at 6:30 p.m. on March 24 at the Hannah Block USO Community Arts Center. Eighteen breweries will participate in the wrestling-themed competition by submitting a brew crafted with two unusual ingredients for a blind taste test to name the winner.
“It’s a way for our brewers to get together and celebrate and drink together,” Craig said. “We all make craft beer, but that event is unique because we can actually drink beer together, and I think everybody really enjoys that.”
Some of the ingredient combinations this year include peach and pecan, blood orange and ginger, coconut and peanut butter, and yuzu and cardamom.
“There’s a lot of interesting pairings this year,” Craig said.
Limited tickets for the Ultimate Brewing Championship, priced at $25, are available. Typically, the only guaranteed way to sample the brews submitted for the competition is at the event, although Craig said some breweries put their selections on tap or feature them at Craft Beer Week’s capstone event, Cape Fear Craft & Cuisine.
Scheduled to take place from 7-10 p.m. on April 1 at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher, this year’s Craft & Cuisine will feature 19 food and beer pairings from local chefs and brewers plus a handful of additional beer stations for participants.
Each dish at the event was inspired by its paired brew, served in a 2-3 ounce pour alongside the culinary offering and intended to be the star of the show.
“The focus is on the beer,” Craig said.
Brewpubs tend to curate their own beer and food pairings; for example, Bill’s Brewing Company is serving Fat Cap, which Craig described as a German dark lager, with a beer-braised duck confit with blueberry-jalapeno compote, Andouille sausage and hominy grits from the kitchen of Capt’n Bill’s Backyard Grill. The exception to this rule is Front Street Brewery, who’s pairing their Featherweight Apocalypse Doppelbock with a braised short rib slider topped with gruyere cheese and sunchoke mustard from PinPoint Restaurant.
Standalone breweries are partnered with participating restaurants; for example, Rebellion is serving a fresh catch ceviche laced with strawberry, lime, radish, cilantro oil and Hatteras Saltworks sea salt to complement a limited edition beer from Waterline Brewing Company.
For all pairings, the chef and brewer will be on-site and available to talk about their pairing for the evening. Tickets for the event, priced at $100, tend to sell out.
More information is available on the Cape Fear Craft Beer Week website.
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