Raleigh, N.C. — Brewing beer can be one big fun experiment.
Beer sampling festivals compound the fun. How many tasters? What breweries? Will the weather cooperate? What if we throw a party and no one comes?
Two upcoming Raleigh-area beerfests can confidently check off that last variable. Both the wildly successful Beericana and Natural Selections are back for their third anniversary this summer and beer aficionados are already snapping up tickets.
Natural Selections is first, the evening of Aug. 19 at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. The name is a no-brainer based on the event’s mission.
“We wanted our beer sampling event to not only stand out in a community that loves beer festivals, but to also represent the mission and personality of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences,” said Andrea Jones, special events coordinator for the museum.
“Each year, brewers are encouraged to brew an experimental beer unique to this event inspired by the natural sciences. These beers typically feature a unique natural ingredient found in North Carolina and a name that highlights one of our scientific disciplines or a brewing process focused on environmental responsibility.”
Twenty-two North Carolina breweries are participating this year, and it’s the first time the event includes brewers outside Wake County. Brewers are still predominantly from the greater Triangle area, with the “farthest away” honor going to Bold Rock Hard Cider from Mills River near Asheville.
“Not only have we added more breweries, but we’ve increased the amount of beer donation required for each booth,” Jones said. That’s the logical response to the overwhelming demand at last year’s event, causing frustration for some attendees.
“We’ve taken significant measures to ensure lines keep moving, beer keeps flowing and everyone enjoys themselves,” Jones said. “We greatly appreciate our brewer and supporting brewer sponsors. Each brewery donates their time, expertise and beer to this event annually and we could not do this event without them!”
The event is a fundraiser, with all proceeds benefiting the Friends of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, a non-profit supporting museum programs, research and exhibits. It’s appropriate since the event takes place on all four floors of the Nature Exploration Center wing at 11 West Jones Street.
“Guests are welcome to enjoy their drinks as they explore the exhibits,” Jones explained.
Two panel discussions in the WRAL 3D Theater will expand on the experimentation theme, with Ingredient Hits and Misses at 8 p.m. and Home Brewing at 9 p.m. There will also be a brewing demonstration by Atlantic Brew Supply in Windows on the World and a game room in Explore on 4.
Natural Selections is a taste of the museum’s new series of Adult Nights planned throughout the next year, each with a “fun and funky theme featuring science with an attitude.” They’ll offer a chance for grownups to mingle with friends, grab a drink, listen to some live music and enjoy the museum’s exhibits — all without kids in the mix. Oct. 27 is Halloween-themed “Nocturnal by Nature,” March 23 “Throwback Thursday” celebrating the ’90s, and “Superhero Science” on June 22.
“We expect a sellout since Natural Selections has sold out each year,” Jones said. “There’s still time to get tickets, but I wouldn’t advise waiting until event day.”
VIP tickets are also limited for Beericana on Sept. 10. Although the space is vast — 116 acres of farm land in Holly Springs — only 1,000 VIPs get two hours of early access to the 70 plus brewers, many who are bringing special sixtels to tap at noon and “when it’s gone, it’s gone!” joked 919 Beer’s Adam Eshbaugh.
General admission starts at 2 p.m., and all attendees (they expect 4,000 this year!) receive unlimited two ounce pours until 6 p.m.
Like Natural Selections, Beericana is more than just beer. It’s a music festival too, and music-only tickets are just $15. Twenty food trucks will offer plenty of beer-complementary food options and a few will probably even incorporate beer into their recipes; at least they did last year.
A portion of the proceeds from Beericana goes to support the NC Craft Brewer’s Guild and other nonprofits; it’s obvious that 919 Beer truly cares not only about the festival attendees, but about the craft beer industry, and the people in it. The 919 Beer team goes above and beyond to make sure the brewers are treated like royalty before and after the event, and pay for all the beer.
Last year, Bull City Ciderworks’ CEO and co-owner John Clowney made his view clear. “Beericana is one of our favorite events of the year. It truly showcases craft beverages, and is one of best organized events we attend annually.”
Why experiment when you’ve already achieved beerfest perfection?
Jen Baker is a Sustainability Analyst for the City of Raleigh by day, but writes about Raleigh life by night. Read her articles on Raleigh & Co.