I am pleased to announce that tickets to 16th annual Charlotte Oktoberfest went on sale today. This event will be held Sept. 27 at the N.C. Music Factory, the host for last year’s festival as well. As of this writing, over half of the VIP tickets have already been sold, costing $65 apiece (general admission $45). Over the last 16 years, this Carolina Brewmasters-run event has donated nearly $500,000 to local charitable organizations. This year’s charity benefactors include Classroom Central, Kids Rein, and Camp CARE.
I am also pleased to mention the first Charlotte Beerfest, taking place at BB&T Ballpark on Sept. 20 — the week before Oktoberfest. VIP tickets to this event are $100 (general admission $50), with proceeds benefiting Grin Kids Children’s Charity and USO.
These beer festivals are two completely unrelated events, but there has been considerable confusion between the two (not to mention online animosity). Allow me to help to clear the air.
Oktoberfest has traditionally been a wonderful educational resource for beer drinkers. There is an overwhelming local presence at Oktoberfest, with regional and Charlotte-based breweries making it a point to attend each year. It would be easier to mention which Charlotte breweries aren’t attending Oktoberfest instead of list who are — as of this writing, only newcomer Sugar Creek. Historically, up-and-coming local breweries have also used the event as a launching pad for their wares.
Beerfest, on the other hand, advertises on its website the offer of unlimited tastings of “100 craft beers” — yet few of the beers mentioned on its social media pages are actually craft. Featured brews include Guinness, Red Stripe, Newcastle, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Stella Artois, Blue Moon and Pacifico. Also, it’s much easier to mention Charlotte breweries that are attending (OMB, Sugar Creek) versus those that are sitting out.
Of course, Oktoberfest is not 100-percent craft; neither does it pretend to be. In fact, many of the Beerfest breweries mentioned above will be pouring at both events. Organizers of both events realize the importance of bringing a wide spectrum of beers for attendees to sample, but only Beerfest tries to pass their offerings as things they are not.
Both festivals offer patrons the ability to enter the festival early, with Oktoberfest charging a $20 premium for the privilege versus Beerfest’s $50 increase. At Beerfest, VIP ticket holders get to partake in select beers; general admission ticket holders will miss several offerings. Contrarily, beer offerings at Oktoberfest do not discriminate between ticket holders. (Additionally, Beerfest VIP holders also get premium seating for the live entertainment, access to the home plate and upperdeck clubs, and a T-shirt, while Oktoberfest VIP get to enjoy a guided beer tour.)
Beerfest has also announced the Charlotte Beerfest 2014 Craft Beer Week, happening Sept. 17-20; details on “great restaurant and bar specials” have yet to be announced. This is not to be confused with the Charlotte Craft Beer Week, which celebrated its 5th anniversary this past March.
There's more than enough room in this town for multiple beer festivals and events. It's a shame the organizers of Beerfest couldn't book a date with more distance from an already popular beer festival. Doing so might have saved potential attendees from getting the run-around. Then again, Blues Traveler is Beerfest's headliner.