When the North Carolina Botanical Garden celebrates its 50th anniversary on April 10, it will do so with pint glasses raised.
To bring in the garden’s golden birthday, the Carolina Brewery has brewed a one-off Indian Pale Lager called the Rattlesnake Master, named after the wildflower of the year.
“Fifty years is a good long time,” garden director Damon Waitt said. “For a botanical garden in the states, that’s pretty old.”
While the North Carolina Botanical Gardens officially opened on Arbor Day in 1966, its history can be traced back to 1903 when professor William Chambers Coker began planting trees and shrubs on UNC’s central campus. Today, the area is known as the Coker Arboretum.
Along with managing the arboretum, the botanical garden also manages Battle Park, the Mason Farm Biological Reserve and several other nature areas in Orange County.
In 1971, the North Carolina Botanical Garden hired its first full-time employee, former UNC student Ken Moore.
After graduating with a master’s degree in English in 1964 and serving in the military for two years, Moore decided working at the botanical garden was the best option for him.
“I knew early on that I didn’t want to spend my days in the bowels of Wilson Library,” Moore said. “I’ve always been very much happy outdoors.”
Moore began working part-time at the garden in 1968. Once he was hired full-time, he served as superintendent and later as assistant director until his retirement in 2003.
Moore has also been visiting Carolina Brewery since it opened on Franklin Street in 1995.
While he won’t take credit for thinking up the Rattlesnake Master collaboration, he did pass along the idea to Jon Connolly, the director of brewing operations.
“My friend Johnny Randall came up with the idea,” Moore said. “I kept saying to myself, why didn’t I think of that?”
The Carolina Brewery decided to make a beer they’ve never tried before for the anniversary, an Indian Pale Lager, not to be confused with an Indian Pale Ale.
“The beer will be dry-hopped like an IPA, the difference being the type of yeast used during fermentation, which in this case is lager yeast, not ale yeast,” Connolly said.
The brewery and botanical garden have worked together in the past. According to Carolina Brewery’s owner Robert Poitras, many of the garden’s business partners have been long-time customers at the brewery.
“It’s a fun project,” Poitras said. “Anything we can do to help bring awareness to them as an organization is great.”