Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Where and what to eat and drink at this year’s Cape Fear Craft Beer Week

Over nine days participating restaurants, bottle shops, and breweries will host a range of beer-centered events, starting with the Ultimate Brewing Championship and ending with a dinner at Airlie Gardens on the banks of Bradley Creek.

(Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Brian Lantz Photography)
Brewer Kevin Zelnio’s Wrightsville Beach Brewery team took home the Ultimate Brewing Championship belt last year. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Brian Lantz Photography)

WILMINGTON — The Cape Fear region’s craft beer industry continues to grow — kombucha maker Panacea Brewing recently joined the ranks as the area’s 20th craft beer producer — and the breweries are ready to celebrate.

The third annual Cape Fear Craft Beer Week (CFCBW) kicks off Saturday, March 22, with the Ultimate Brewing Championship. Brewers from 18 city and regional breweries recently selected two ingredients, drawn from a hat, and used them to brew any style of beer they wished to brew. 

According to one of the event’s organizers, Front Street Brewery’s Ellie Craig, this year’s ingredient combinations included sweet potato and pecan, blueberry and lavender, squash and lemongrass, and strawberry and spruce. Brewers will come to the event, held at Hannah Block Community Arts Center, dressed in wrestling-themed attire. After blind tastings from the public, the UBC belt will be awarded to the team with the most votes.

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The 2018 champion’s belt went to the brewers of Wrightsville Beach Brewery, led by then-head brewer Kevin Zelnio. 

Over the next eight days participating restaurants, bottle shops, and breweries will host a range of beer-centered events, ranging from tap takeovers to beer and food pairings to even a “beer church” at Waterman’s Brewing.

Craig, who has been with Front Street Brewery for nearly 11 years, said CFCBW is an exciting way for the region to spotlight an industry on the rise.

“It’s been incredible seeing the growth and development of this industry from the ground up. We were the only brewery in town from our opening in 1995 until 2014, when Flytrap opened,” Craig said.

Although the growing field of competitors — and increasing options for tourists traveling to the region’s beaches — has forced Front Street Brewery to adapt their business model, Craig said the collaborative spirit that has taken shape has only been a good development. 

“The ultimate effect for us is — there are now more people to collaborate with … That’s what’s been exciting for us. Where we used to be the only game in town, now we have a lot more people to play with,” Craig said.

She also said the post-2014 growth has led to the creation of a craft beer tourism industry that greatly benefits the local economy — one that can compete with the big national breweries in Asheville.

“It’s exciting to see the number of people who are traveling to the beach to drink beer versus the number of people who used to travel to the mountains to drink beer,” Craig said.

Jeremy Tomlinson, president of the Cape Fear Craft Beer Alliance and owner of the Port City Brew Bus (a brewery shuttle tour is also on the week’s line-up), said the week was a time to “show off the local craft beer community”. He also pointed to the cultural impact that a healthy beer scene brings to the economy as a whole.

“When a city is trying to attract young professionals, and trying to get business, there’s usually a good beer community that exists. When you look to those places, it’s something young professionals really like to see,” Tomlinson said.  

The week is capped by a dinner at Airlie Gardens on the banks of Bradley Creek that features 28 brewers and 28 chefs. Craig said 300 tickets have already been sold and few remain, a testament to the dinner’s growing reputation as one of the state’s premiere craft beer and culinary experiences.

“That’s what’s really cool about this event: It’s spotlighting the fact that you can come to Wilmington and have an amazing craft beer experience. And you don’t have to go to Asheville or Richmond or Tampa to experience that, you can that right here in Wilmington,” Craig said.

She said event organizers are looking for volunteers, who can apply here, and more events may be coming. Here’s a rundown of the week’s festivities:

Ultimate Brewing Championship

  • When: Friday, Mar. 22 from 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Where: Hannah Block Community Arts Center (120 S 2nd St)
  • Tickets: $26 (purchase here)

The official launch of CFCBW features the third annual head-to-head competition between local breweries, each challenged with brewing a small batch using unique, local ingredients. Bill’s Brewing food truck will be serving throughout the event.

Tap Takeover with Edward Teach Brewery

  • When: Friday, Mar. 22 from 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Where: Hops Supply Co. (5400 Oleander Dr)

End of Season Oyster Roast

  • When: Saturday, Mar. 23 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Where: Wrightsville Beach Brewery

North Carolina’s 6-month oyster harvest season comes to a close as environmentally-minded Wrightsville Beach Brewery celebrates with local fresh and steamed products. Musician David Dixon will play from 3 to 6 p.m.

Hop on, Hop Off Brewery Shuttle with Port City Brew Bus

  • When: Saturday, Mar. 23 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Where: Bombers Bev Co. and New Anthem Beer Project

The Port City Brew Bus will be running two free routes between downtown breweries with pick-ups and drop-offs at Bombers Bev Co. and New Anthem Beer Project. Stay tuned on their Facebook page for specific routes. Rules do apply: passengers must be 21, no open containers on the bus, and no visibly intoxicated persons on the bus.

The Port City Brew Bus will be offering free rides from brewery to brewery. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Port City Brew Bus)
The Port City Brew Bus will be offering free rides from brewery to brewery. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Brian Lantz Photography)

Reggae Sunday with Selah Dubb

  • When: Sunday, Mar. 24 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Where: Wrightsville Beach Brewery (6201 Oleander Dr)

Special CFCBW Beer Release: “Muddy Buddy”

  • When: Sunday, Mar. 24 from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Where: Salty Turtle Beer Co. (103 Triton Ln, Surf City)

Pender County’s lone brewery will be releasing their Muddy Buddy peanut butter chocolate stout especially brewed for CFCBW.

Beer & Hymns

  • When: Sunday, Mar. 24 from 6 to 7 p.m.
  • Where: Waterman’s Brewing Co. (1610 Pavillion Pl)

Great Spring Gose-Off!

  • When: Tuesday, Mar. 26 from 5 to 8 p.m.
  • Where: Waterline Brewing Co. (721 Surry St)

The 2nd annual Gose-off pits Waterline’s brewhouse and taproom staff against each other to create different batches of gose beer, a top-fermented beer style light on hop bitterness. Guests will be able to sample four of the finalist’s recipes before casting their votes.

Tap Takeover with Wrightsville Beach Brewery

  • When: Friday, Mar. 22 from 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Where: Hops Supply Co. (5400 Oleander Dr)

Tour Across America Beer and Wine Pairing Dinner

  • When: Wednesday, Mar. 27 from 6 to 9 p.m.
  • Where: Wrightsville Beach Brewery (6201 Oleander Dr)
  • Tickets: $55 (purchase here)

A five-course surf and turf dinner will be paired with WBB beers and wines from Empire Distributing.

A Feast of Pirates

  • When: Wednesday, Mar. 27 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
  • Where: Hops Supply Co. (5400 Oleander Dr)
  • Tickets: $45 (purchase here)

Drink Edward Teach beers paired with dishes by Chef Rex Horrell. The first course will be a charcuterie plate paired with the Cutlass German Lager; second, roasted duck street tacos with Teaches Peaches Ale; third, bacon-wrapped pork loin with Devil’s Son IPA; and fourth, salty caramel apple galette with Peg Leg Chocolate Porter. Tickets are $

Bacon, Booze & Beer

  • When: Wednesday, Mar. 27 from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
  • Where: Front Street Brewery (9 N Front St)
  • Tickets: $30 (purchase here)

Celebrate CFCBW with the region’s first active brewery in their Beam Room as the brewmaster, bar manager, and FSB staff curate pairings of their ales and lagers with fine whiskeys. Bacon comes in as a salty palate cleanser between each pairing station. Each guest will receive a Glencairn whiskey glass, five three-quarter ounce samples of whiskey, and plenty of bacon.

An Evening with Southern Pines Brewing

  • When: Thursday, Mar. 28 from 5 to 10 p.m.
  • Where: Fermental Beer & Wine (7250 Market St)

Ogden’s craft beer bottle shop will feature a full rotating draft list from Southern Pines Brewing Co. The beer list will include: BBA Lemon Rye Smash Sour Ale, Capri IPA, Duck Hook Cream Ale, White Russian Imperial Stout, Dupont Circle Travel Imperial Stout, Man of Law IPA, and Malty By Nature Scotch Ale. NYO Tacos food truck will be set up at 6 p.m. and live music from Mark Herbert will play at 7 p.m.

Tavern Night in the Old City Jail

  • When: Thursday, Mar. 28 from 5 to 9 p.m.
  • Where: Burgwin-Wright House Gardens (224 Market St)

Wilmington’s only open-to-public colonial-era museum house will feature beer from Front Street Brewery, wine from Silver Coast Winery, and music from the Beehive Blondes in the house’s gardens. A&M Food Truck will be on site to provide tacos and sliders throughout the evening. Front Street Brewery will be serving the Fig Sour, made with figs from Burgin-Wright House trees.

Beach Boots: An Evening with the Pink Boots Society

  • When: Friday, Mar. 29 from 5 to 10 p.m.
  • Where: Fermental Beer & Wine (7250 Market St)

Join for an evening dedicated to beer brewed by women in the craft community, including batches brewed by Brookes Musser at Bill’s Brewing and Dani Bearss at Waterline. Other “featured females” come from Bold Missy Brewing, Raleigh Brewing, Bombshell Beer Co., Mother Earth Brewing, and Alchemy Mead.

Sweet and Salty: A Candy and Craft Beer Pairing

  • When: Friday, Mar. 29 from 6 to 9 p.m.
  • Where: Bombers Bev Co. (108 Grace St)

Surf City’s Salty Turtle Beer Co. will bring Hey Zay NEIPA, Betio Blonde, Seaview Saison, and Muddy Buddy Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout while The EnBrewsiast will match with candy. Comedy will start at 9 p.m.

Cape Fear Craft & Cusine

  • When: Saturday, Mar. 30 from 6 to 9 p.m.
  • Where: Airlie Gardens (300 Airlie Rd)
  • Tickets: $85 (purchase here, almost sold out)

CFCBW ends with a dinner on the banks of Bradley Creek, featuring more than 28 local chefs and 28 breweries. Chefs and brewers will be on site to discuss their pairings.


Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com

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