Hickory – On Saturday, April 15, more than 2,000 festivarians attended the Hickory Hops beer festival in downtown Hickory, NC to enjoy beer, camaraderie, and beautiful summer-like weather. The 19th annual beer fest, featuring craft brewed beer from 47 breweries, was the reason for the assembly and a good time to recognize over 100 medalists and three Best of Show winners in the 16th Carolinas Championship of Beer. All but one brewery hailed from North Carolina, scattered from Wilmington to Asheville and beyond. Well-established Michigan bred Bell’s Brewing, sister to New Belgium (of Ft Collins, Colo., and Asheville), was the welcome outsider.

The CCB started with craft brewed beer. Each Hickory Hops brewery participant is encouraged to send bottled or canned beer in for judging. Three weeks prior to the festival, over 70 volunteers gathered at Olde Hickory Brewery to judge the unmarked beers for adherence to specific category characteristics. The beers, which totaled 199 entries from 35 breweries, were judged in 169 styles and sub-styles. When the first round finished two hours later, 27 beers had been awarded gold medals. 41 silver and 48 bronze winners were also identified.

For CCB round two, a smaller group of certified judges convene to determine the best of the gold medal beers. Called the Best of Show round, three beers were identified as the best of the best.

And now the winners: Joseph Ackerman, head brewer at downtown Morganton’s Sidetracked Brewery, received a shiny engraved First Place plaque for his Belgian-style Florere, a pink, dry, slightly tart cherry ale.

Primal Brewery brewer Aaron Thomas was on hand to receive the Second place Best of Show award. His winning beer, Pink Grenade, a contemporary Gose German-style ale, slightly sour and salty, was also available for tasting, though the keg didn’t last long. Primal has breweries and taprooms in Huntersville and Belmont.

From Chapel Hill and Carrboro, long-lived Carolina Brewery took 3rd place for its Mexican-style lager Costero. Sales Manager David Miller couldn’t get away from his pouring role and accepted Carolina’s 3rd Place Best of Show from behind his serving table.

Proceeds from this year’s CCB will be donated to the North Carolina Brewers Guild for use promoting the State’s 450+ craft breweries.

Joseph Ackerman, head brewer at downtown Morganton’s Sidetracked Brewery, receives 1st Place plaque from Bobby Bush