This weekend, two Orange County breweries will represent North Carolina at the Great American Beer Festival, a top U.S. beer festival and competition in Denver.
Carolina Brewery in Chapel Hill and Mystery Brewing Company in Hillsborough will both enter beer in the competition.
This is Carolina Brewery’s seventh or eighth year participating, Head Brewer Nate Williams said. It's Mystery Brewing's sixth year, said CEO and brewer Erik Myers. This is the second year Mystery has not only competed, but poured their beer at the competition.
This year, Carolina Brewery will be entering their “core brands” of beer, including Sky Blue Golden Ale, Flagship India Pale Ale, Copperline Amber Ale, Pamlico Pale Ale and Oatmeal Porter, Williams said.
“Those are the five brands that we try to sell the most of, so we’re hoping to garner them some accolades,” he said.
Mystery Brewing is only entering one beer this year: their mild ale called Pickwick, named after Charles Dickens’ first public work, Myers said.
“We have a literary naming theme in general and the recipe is an old-style English ale based off of the 19th century in England,” Myers said. “I was looking for something that was roughly the same time scale for a literary story and Pickwick is about a hundred years off, but it’s still a really good work.”
Williams said Carolina Brewery has participated for the past couple of years because of the honest and quantifiable feedback they receive from judges. Winning medals is also a big deal for the brewing community, and he said Carolina Brewery has previously won a gold medal for their Flagship IPA, along with two bronze medals for the Oatmeal Porter and the Sky Blue Golden Ale.
Mystery Brewing won a silver medal at GABF a few years ago. Myers said winning a medal leads to demonstrable financial upsides, like more beer sales and increased foot traffic.
He said having the medal makes the brewery more trustworthy, so someone who might not have previously known about Mystery will be more likely to come in.
“It’s something that we should wear proudly and say 'Look, we’re making some of the best beer in the country,'” Myers said. “It’s really good proof of it.”
Gibb's Hundred Brewing Company in Greensboro participated in 2015 and won a gold medal for their extra special bitter, “The Guilty Party.”
Mark Gibb, president of Gibb's Hundred, said they won’t be going to Denver but are still entering beer in the competition. He said “The Guilty Party” was their second-best selling beer before the award, but now it is their best seller by a wide margin.
Lisa Parker, membership and operations coordinator of the N.C. Craft Brewers Guild, said the guild supports North Carolina breweries participating in GABF by providing complimentary shipment of beer out to the competition in Denver.
She said every state guild gets a booth where they can highlight 10 local beers from their state and give out samples.
Myers said having breweries from North Carolina win awards at national competitions like GABF shows the rest of the country what a good beer scene there is in North Carolina.
“One of the great things we have going on in North Carolina, and it’s growing all the time, is people coming here just to drink beer,” he said. “They’re traveling from out-of-state and doing tours of a bunch of different breweries and different places. The more we have that going on, the more we all win.”
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