Elkin’s inaugural Big Elkin Brewfest had an astounding turnout Saturday night that surpassed the expectations of the planners. The municipal park was packed with guests eager to get a taste of the best of North Carolina’s craft beers.
“I enjoy craft beer. I used to brew a long time ago,” said Richard Everhart from State Road. “I was just up in New York coming in the Adirondack Mountains visiting breweries up there. I just got back and found this going on. There’s a good crowd, lot of variety. I think it’s excellent and I hope it’s successful enough to continue. North Carolina has a good number of breweries so we can bring a whole lot more of them next time.”
“We weren’t expecting this kind of turnout this year and everyone seems very happy and kind to each other,” said Misty Matthews with the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce. “People have come up to me and have said this is a great festival and want to have it again next year. With this turnout, how can we not!”
Kevin Stainback with Angry Troll Brewery in Elkin was thrilled with the turnout.
“It’s been awesome. It’s been everything we’ve asked for and have wanted to see this year,” said Stainback “The crowd has been great. We’ve had a lot of people sampling our beers. For our inaugural event, it’s just been unbelievable. We’re going to have an annual event for sure.”
Local breweries Skull Camp and Angry Troll weren’t the only crafters at the festival. Breweries from all across the state, including Raleigh, Asheville, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Boone and Asheboro, also arrived to promote their beers to a thirsty public.
“Folks have been really receptive and seem to really enjoy it,” said Bruce Corregan with Nicklepoint Brewery. “We’re based in Raleigh in the Five Points area which is why we’re called Nicklepoint. It’s been a real good turnout and the hosts are wonderful.That’s the neat thing about this industry, everybody kind of knows everybody. I would like to come back again next time. The setting down here by the river and under the trees, it’s just a cool place to have a festival.”
“We go to a lot of beer fests and this is really nicely run,” said Lynne Mason who was with her husband Andrew Mason representing Lost Province Brewery in Boone. “It’s been a fun afternoon for us, very relaxed and well organized.
“Breweries are in a community so there’s friendly competition with people working together. It’s important for the community and getting visitors and tourists. I think we would definitely come back to this festival. When you look at it, it’s the boutique setting. You have many local breweries so this is a craft-beer event. It’s showing the finest of craft brews. There are so many different styles of beer.”
Members of Beer Army, a charity organization, were at the festival holding a silent auction for chances to win several prizes, including pictures, trips to Ireland and Las Vegas, Beer Army merchandise, football team paraphernalia, jewelry, and more. All proceeds went towards scholarship funds for students.
“We do a little bit of everything when it comes to our fundraisers,” said Cristi Smith with Beer Army. “The organization was started by a retired Marine who started it with a group of friends. We used to brew and we still have two of our beers on tap. I think this festival has had a great turnout. I love seeing the different breweries. Most of them I have tried before. I’m a big beer connoisseur. If you drink beer, you’re in the beer army.”
Other organizations also were given a chance to treat the community such as the Elkin Jaycees, who were out selling pretzel necklaces and water while raising money for their future activities.
“It feels great supporting the first event,” said Lauren Meek, president of the Elkin Jaycees. “This is a fantastic event that the town of Elkin has put together and we’re fortunate to be able to be a part of it. I think it’s a great turnout. I can’t guess how many people are here. It’s a neat idea and I think it was great to have it on the same day as the pumpkin festival. Several of our members were on the planning committee. I hope that this becomes an annual event and I like the direction that they’re going in. Yes, the wineries around here are fantastic, but we have some good craft beers in the area, they deserve to be promoted.”
One of the great things about the brewfest is the chance it gives craft breweries both young and old — a chance to expand their audiences and introduce people to their beers.
“We’ve got some great local places in the area,” said Everhart. “People are doing things that are unique. The deal is to just encourage people to get out and get together as well as to encourage local business. Some places are opening up in Mount Airy and who knows, maybe they’ll be here next year. I guarantee, places like Lost Province up in Boone, will be places that I’ll search out now. It’s good for these small businesses in getting their word out.”
Part of the success of the Big Elkin Brewfest has come from the commitment of the community and the organizers’ work to pull everything together.
“We had an amazing committee who went out to sell tickets, speak to organizations, and make sure people knew about it,” said Myra Cook, president of the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce. “It wasn’t just my office doing it, it was the whole community. Good advertising, great weather, and we have an amazing community willing to support organizations and events like this.”
“It has surpassed what we anticipated,” said Jeff Yockel, one of the organizers and an owner of Skull Camp. “Yesterday, the chamber said we sold over 500 tickets and 200 were given to volunteers, so we knew that people would sign in at the gate. Last night I got on the phone and was calling all the breweries saying ‘bring more beer.’ It was a perfect scenario today. I can’t tell when a line for a brewery ends and where it starts.”
Yockel and other members of the committee are looking into the possibility of making this an annual event as well as looking at what they can do to make it even better.
“We hope to do it again next year and get bigger,” said Yockel. “We’re going to meet on Tuesday and think about what we can improve on and compare notes. We started in February and the biggest thing we ran into is that you need to get your food trucks nine months ahead of time because they can get pretty busy.”
“It has been way above and beyond our expectations,” said Cook. “The breweries are so happy. We wish we had been able to get more food vendors, but next year we’ll be able to after seeing the number of people here. I’ve already seen quite a few of my board members here asking if we’re having it again next year and I said, ‘oh yeah.’”
Troy Brooks can be reached at 336-258-4058.