“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
    Those were words that one of America’s favorite sons, Benjamin Franklin, uttered more than 200 years ago. Today, many people still agree.
    Beer and the brewing of it has become a cultural phenomenon in America. Home brews, once the product your weird uncle made in his basement, have now reached the mainstream and can be found on grocery store shelves alongside their traditional counterparts.
    On Saturday, June 7, Fayetteville residents will get the opportunity to celebrate beer and music as the Cape Fear Regional Theatre brings the fifth annual Blues and Brews Festival to Festival Park. The event, according to Cassandra Vallery, the coordinator, has outgrown its former home at Campbellton Landing.
{mosimage}“We loved the location at Campbellton Landing,” said Vallery. “But we feel that we are growing so we needed a little more space. It’s kind of bittersweet.”
Vallery noted that people coming from outside the community to attend the festival found the Campbellton Landing site hard to find — even while they found it beautiful. “A lot of people say, ‘Oh, I loved the river,’” she explained. “But as we continue to grow we had to take a look at a different locale.”
    If the name of the event doesn’t give it away, the event features great blues music and some of the southeast’s best brews. In total, there are 17 breweries participating in the event. While some of the breweries are local, other brewers are bringing their blends from the mountains and the coast. Just as diverse as their locations is the different types and blends of beers the brewers will be offering.
    As a rule, beers fall under two distinct categories: lagers and ales. While there are two categories, there are literally thousands of varieties of beers. What sets the categories apart is the type of yeast used to brew them and the temperature at which they are brewed. Lagers use special yeast that ferments at cooler temperatures, while ale uses yeast that ferments at warmer temperatures. What then separates them into their various varieties?
    It’s the types of hops and barley used. Lagers tend to be light in color as well as in taste. Ales include porter and stout beers. Porters are darker and more full bodied. Porters usually have a more noticeable barley flavor that is reminiscent of chocolate, along with a mild hop flavor. Stouts are the darkest type of beer, almost black in color. They are thick and taste strongly of the barley and hops that they are made from.
    While many people have a distinct taste for one or the other type of beer at the Brews and Blues Festival, they’ll get a chance to taste a variety of both.
    Leigh Rangel, the brew master at the Asheville Brewing and Pizza Company, will bring her offerings from the mountains. Rangel will offer her Shiva, an Indian Pale Ale, as well as Rocket Girl, a golden ale with a light and hoppy finish. Her main offering will be a Ninja Porter, which she describes as a dark ale with chocolate undertones. “It’s very good,” she said. “It’s actually my favorite beer — it’s outstanding. Twice a year we direct 5K races to raise money for nonprofits. Last fall we had the Night of the Ninja. We had 300 people running downtown dressed like Ninjas to raise money for the local food bank. It’s probably one of the most popular beers.”
    Paul Philponne tends to wax philosophical when it comes to his beers. Philponne, the master brewer at the Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery in Farmville, has something of a following in Fayetteville. His beers are sold at two locations in town, including Bob’s Wine Shoppe. Prior to becoming a brewer, Philponne was a philosophy professor. His days in the classroom gave him the idea for the brewery’s logo. The picture came from one of his philosophy books — if you look at it one way, it’s a duck. If you look at it another way, it’s a rabbit. His ability to look at things in a different manner lends itself to the making of his beers.
    Philponne started brewing as a hobby while teaching in Michigan — that was in 1987. In 1988, he chose a different path and left academia to return to school for a different kind of learning — that of becoming a brew master. Upon completion of his brewing education, he went to work at a number of different breweries, which led him south. In 2004, he opened Duck-Rabbit in Farmville. “The stars aligned to allow me to open my own place, and I felt I had the background and experience that I need to go on my own brewery,” he said.
Beers at the Duck-Rabbit run to the dark side.
    “Our flagship beer, the one that allows me to pay my utility bills, is the Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout,” he explained. “The beer is brewed with lactose milk sugar, which gives it sweetness and a full body. It’s really delicious.”
    Another beer that Philponne will be sharing is a traditional English Porter. He said it is an espresso-style dark beer. An American Brown Ale, with a “malty, complex grain” is also on the menu. He said it is heavier on the hops and has a significantly more bitter taste. For this particular beer, Philponne used American hops, which gives it a piney, citrusey bitterness. The last beer he will showcase is an Amber Ale. “It’s the lightest of the beers we make,” he said. “It’s really dominated by caramel malt flavors — there are no sharp edges, it’s a round, full-bodied beer that won’t scare anybody off.”
    Philponne said his participation in the Blues and Brews has become an annual event. “Fayetteville is quite near to us, and this is one of the festivals we attend. It is, in a manner of speaking, in our backyard,” he said. “There are definitely a lot of people who enjoy craft beer, and if the festival promoters are willing to put out an effort to make it happen, we’re willing to pour a little beer and talk about it.”
    You might even get a little philosophy thrown in.
    Closer to home, Julie Bagget, the new master brewer at Huske Hardware House will be on hand to talk about her beers, but won’t have any to offer. Baggett said the restaurant is still in the process of developing its brews and perfecting the recipe, but they are willing to talk about their beers. When the brewery is up and running, the restaurant will offer seven beers: a German Blonde, a Pale Ale, an Irish Red, a Nut Brown Ale, a stout and a French Farmhouse Ale. Baggett said the taps should start flowing some time this summer.
    The Mash House will be well represented with a number of beers, as well as food. Zach Hart, the master brewer, was instrumental in the organization of the first Brews and Blues. Vallery said he gave the theatre a lot of direction and connected them with other breweries. These days, he doesn’t have to worry about that too much, he just concentrates on his own beer. Hart has been brewing beer at the Mash House since it opened in 2001. His love for beer developed in college when he was bar tending. The bar he worked in transitioned to a brewery, and Hart began his love affair with hops. He would tend bar all night and then stay until 4 a.m. when they started brewing. A couple of years later, the owners asked him if he wanted to be the brewer’s assistant. He had to return to school — the American Brewer’s Gill in California — where he learned the necessary skills and then went back to work at his art.
Prior to The Mash House’s opening, he came to Fayetteville to close down the brewery and change over the recipes. “It’s not like a kitchen, you can’t just throw some seasoning on a steak and throw it on the grill,” he said. “You don’t brew for today or tomorrow — you brew for down the line.”
    Hart said the beers are brewing for two to four weeks at a minimum before they are ready to be consumed. So needless to say, he’s been busy preparing for the festival. The Mash House will offer its Summer Brew, which is a wheat ale that is fermented with a Belgian yeast. “The yeast creates a citrus character, so the beer has a tart twang to it,” he explained. “A lot of our regulars compare it to a Corona with the lime already in it.”
    They will also offer an Irish Red, which has a caramel character. “It’s one of our staples,” he continued. “It’s slightly sweet, but very light and refreshing.”
    The star of the show will be their Big Daddy — the brewery’s flagship — which is an India Pale Ale. It is very hoppy, very bitter and higher in alcohol than the average beer. “It has a nice floral, lemony taste — flowers and lemon altogether in smell and aftertaste,” he said.
The restaurant will also be smoking 12 briskets and serving sandwiches with barbecue sauce, baked beans and cole slaw — not your usual fair fare.
    Other breweries participating in the event include New South Brewery from Myrtle Beach, S.C., the Weeping Radish, Foothills Brewing, Rock Bottom Brewery from Charlotte, Old Hickory, Terrapin Brewery from Georgia, Front Street Brewery from Wilmington and Ham’s Brew House from Greenville. Local distributors Harris, Healey and Empire will also be showcasing several beers.
    That takes care of the Brew end, but when it comes to the Blues, the CFRT has you covered as well. Three bands will perform throughout the afternoon, with Chapel Hill’s Jule Brown kicking off the show. They will be followed by Greensboro’s Holy Ghost Tent Revival, with the headliners Elliott and the Untouchables coming from Columbia, S.C. Vallery said the musicians offer a great mix of blues and will put on great show.
    Gates open at 3 p.m., with the first beer pour and entertainment beginning at 3:30 p.m. Vallery said a children’s entertainment area will be set up from 3-6 p.m. “There will be face painting, a bouncy house, puppets and games like sack races and hula-hoop races,” she said.
    Families are encouraged to bring blankets and chairs to sit back and enjoy the music. She added that they can even stay for dinner as a variety of concessionaires will be on hand. “We will have everything from pizza to polish sausage and chicken strips,” she said. “One of the brewers is from the old country. He raises free range pork and makes his own sausages and hot dogs.”
    In addition to the beers, soft drinks, water and ice cream, energy drinks will also be for sale.
    Tickets for the event are $25 and can be purchased at the CFRT Box Office or on the day of the event. With the ticket you get a three-ounce beer glass that can be used to sample beers from all of the brewers. A VIP ticket can be purchased for $40. The VIP Ticket includes parking adjacent to the park, a special VIP tent and free food. Children under 12 are admitted free, and you must be 21 to sample the beers.
    Vallery said while the event does spotlight beer, it is family-friendly. “People don’t get crazy,” she said. “It’s a very relaxed, laid-back event.”
    Funds from the event support the theatre’s operations. Vallery noted that while there are numerous partners who help sponsor shows throughout the year the cost of putting a play on stage is huge. “The money helps us bring talent to the stage and offer programs throughout the year,” she said.
    For more information, visit the theatre’s Web site at www.cfrt.org.

Contact Janice Burton at editor@upandcomingweekly.com

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