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Duck Rabbit Wins Top Honors at Carolina Championship of Beers (Focus 4/22/10)

Hickory - A perfect weekend for Hickory Hops, one of the South’s most popular beer festivals, culminated for some with the announcement of the big winners in the Carolinas Championship of Beers (CCB) competition.  Over 2000 festivarians were on hand in downtown Hickory, NC on Saturday to enjoy beer from 44 breweries and to applaud the three Best of Show winners.

Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery owner/brewer Paul Philippon was on hand to receive the First Place plaque for his dark and delicious Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout. Coincidentally, that same beer took the gold medal in its class at the World Beer Cup, an international competition, held just two weeks earlier.  Philippon also took three other awards back to his Farmville, NC brewery: gold for Baltic Porter and two silvers for Brown Porter and American Brown Ale.

Nearly 300 beers were submitted for judging in this year’s CCB.  Two weeks prior to the April 17 festival, over 50 people convened to blind-judge the beers, entered in 75 categories, based on very precise guidelines.  Of the lot, the gold medal winners, all 29 of them, were judged in the second-round Best of Show by a group of experts certified by the Beer Judge Certification Program, a national program headquartered in Boulder, Colo. Narrowed down to three that best epitomized established specifications, Second Place Best of Show was awarded to Atlanta brewer Dave McClure for his Red Brick Oatmeal Porter, entered in the Robust Porter category.  Last year, Red Brick Brewing’s Bogart Ale took First Place Best of Show in the Best Bitter style.  Along with the gold, Red Brick scored three bronze medals for Blonde, Pale and 15th Anniversary Ales.

Making a repeat appearance in Third Place was High Point, NC brewpub Liberty Steakhouse.  The engraved plaque for brewer Todd Isbell’s Deep River Wheat will be proudly displayed on the wall near his brew house, next to a similar trophy for last year’s Dry-Hopped Kellerbier, an unfiltered German-style lager.  For the second year running, Isbell also entered the most beers for CCB judging.  His English Brown and Imperial Red Ales also scored gold and were joined by four silver and six bronze medals, claiming the unofficial title of most awarded CCB contestant.

Proceeds from this years CCB, totaling over $1400, were donated to the North Carolina Brewers Guild for use promoting the State’s 40+ breweries.

All festival breweries were eligible to enter the CCB competition.  North Carolina was best represented with 31 breweries.  Georgia sent four and SC had three delegates.  Two local distributors – United Beverage and sponsor Best of Beers - entered craft beer from their portfolio.  Along with the 29 gold medals, 62 silvers and 73 bronze medals awarded.  From a high of 16 entries to a low of only one, 40 breweries contested for honors.  The complete list of medal winners follows, gold (g), silver (s), bronze (b):

Asheville Brewing- Scout Stout (s), Ninja Porter (b).  Best of Beers (distributor)- Redhook Barleywine (g), Redhook ESB (b), Widmer Hefeweizen (b), Blue Point IPA (b), Redhook Long Hammer IPA (b) Starr HillDark Starr Stout (b).  Boone Brewing- Blowing rock Oktoberfest (b), Blowing Rock Bock (b), High Country Ale (b).  Boylan Bridge Brewing- Endless Summer (s), South Bound Stout (s), Polar Bear Winter Beer (b).Carolina Beer & Beverage- Strawberry Ale (b), Cottonwood American Wheat (b), Cottonwood Irish Style Red (b).  Carolina Brewery- Imperial Stout (b), Oatmeal Porter (b). Catawba Valley Brewing- Farmer Ted’s Cream Ale (b).  Craggie Brewing- Swannanoa Sunset (g), Battery Hill (b).  Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery- Milk Stout (g), Baltic Porter (g), Brown Ale (s), Brown Porter (s).  Foothills Brewing- Torch Pilsner (g), Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout (s), Bourbon Barrel Total Eclipse Stout (s), India Style Brown Ale (s), Hoppyum IPA (s), Total Eclipse Stout (b).  Front Street- Hellmutt (b), Organic Keller Pilsner (b), Dram Tree Scottish Ale (b). Gordon Biersch- Dampf Bier (g), Golden Export (s), Hefeweizen (s), Marzen (s), Schwarzbier (b), Czech Pilsner (b).

Green Man- Red Star (s), ESB (b), The Truth (b), Porter (b), Stout (b).  Ham’s- Blasphemy (g), Charlie’s India Brown Ale (b), Peg Leg Pale Ale (b).  Heinzelmännchen- Chocolate Covered Gnome (s).  Highland- Black Mocha Stout (g), Kashmir IPA (s), Gaelic Ale (s), Oatmeal Porter (s).  Hops- Pale Ale (s), Flying Squirrel Nut Brown (s).  Huske Hardware House- Filthy Kilt Wee Heavy (s), Sledgehammer Stout (s), Farmhouse Ale (b), Level Headed Blonde (b).  Lexington Avenue Brewery- Whitey (g), Goldie (s).  Liberty Steakhouse- Deep River Wheat (g), Nut Brown Ale (g), Decade (g), Saison de Wall (s), India Pale Ale (s), Drye Hopped Rye (s), Smoked n’ Oaked Robust Porter (s), Blackberry Wheat (b), Miss Liberty Lager (b), Dry Hopped Kellerbier (b), Oaked Decade (b), DeBeen Espresso Stout (b), Oatmeal Stout (b).  LoneRider- Sweet Josie (g), Dead Eye Jack Porter (g), Peacemaker (b).  Mash House- Kristal (g), Red Ale (s), Peach Hefeweizen (b), Raspberry Porter (b), Stout (b).  Moon River- Rosemary Swamp Fox IPA (s), The Captain’s Porter (s).  Mother Earth- Dark CloudMunich Dunkel (g), Endless Summer Kolsch (s).  Natty Greene’s- Cannonball Double IPA (g), Old Town Brown (g), Farmhouse Ale (s), Black Powder Imperial Stout (s), Buckshot Amber (b), Wildflower Wit Bier (b), Guilford Golden Ale (b).

Olde Hickory Brewery- Dopplebock (s), ESB (s), Bardstown Brand (s), Barrel Aged Imperial Stout (s), Piedmont Pilsner (s), Imperial Stout (b), Irish Walker (b), Table Rock Pale Ale (b).  Olde Mecklenburg- Copper (g).  Oyster House- Moonstone Oyster Stout (g).  Pisgah Brewing- Porter (g), German Pilsner (g), Cosmos (s), Hellbender (s), Valdez (s), Solstice (b), Dopplebock (b), IPA (b).  Red Brick- Oatmeal Porter (g), 15 Anniversary (b), Blonde (b), Pale Ale (b).  RJ Rockers- Buckwheat Ale (g), Buckwheat After Dark (s), Light Rock Ale (s), Rockhopper IPA (s), Bald Eagle Brown Ale (s), Black Perle (b), Bell Ringer (b), Patriot Pale Ale (b).  Rock Bottom- Randolph’s Ride Red Ale (g), Irish Red Ale (s), Prospector’s Pilsner (s), Brewer’s Select ESB (b), Winter’s Nip Bock (b), Southern Flyer Light Lager (b), Iron Horse Stout (b), Stingin’ Brits IPA (b).  SweetWater Brewing- 420 (g), Sch’Wheat (s), Black Berry Creeper (s), Happy Ending (s), IPA (b), BSP (b).

Terrapin Beer- Big Hoppy Monster (g), Pumpkin Fest (s), Hopsecutioner IPA (s), The Dark Side (b), Golden Ale (b), Rye Pale Ale (b).  Thomas Creek Brewing- Pump House Porter (s), Appalachian Amber Ale (s), Class Five IPA (s), Dockside Pilsner (b), Deep Water Dopplebock (b).  Top of the Hill- Kenan Summer Lager (g), Iron Mine Pale Ale (s), Ellie’s ESB (b).  Triangle Brewing- White Ale (s), Double Red (s), Habanera (b), Winter Stout (b).  United Beverage (distributor) - Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils (s), Oskar Blues Old Chub (s), Yuengling Bock Beer (b).  Wedge Brewing- 3rd Rail (g), Golem (b), Iron Rail (b).

[Exerpt from] Hickory Hops, By Suds Brewer (Focus 495)


As a participant at over 50 beer festivals, I’d like to provide festers with insight and recommendations. Whatever you may be thinking, a beer festival is not a chugging marathon. It’s not a drunken frat party. It’s not an excuse to get smashed and act stupid. The only award given for public drunkenness comes with handcuffs. Please line up a designated driver before the festival or take a taxi home.

Used in moderation, beer, the most commonly consumed of all alcoholic beverages, is a social drink, inspiring conversation and camaraderie. And what better way to enjoy beer than at an outdoor festival with 1,000+ like-minded souls?

A beer festival is a celebration of beer, a gathering of the brewing clans. With brewers on hand to answer questions, it’s an opportunity for the beer neophytes and curious to learn and enjoy. A variety of beer, spanning almost every style, will be available. Don’t let the selection overwhelm you. There can be a method to this tasting madness.

Hickory Hops' tasting glasses are sized, at 2.5 ounces, to encourage variety. Take advantage of the fest environment to try different beers. Sample as many as you’re comfortable with. In order to try more beers, ask for half a glass. You can always get another. Taste a beer by taking at least two sips. Then decide whether it’s a flavor profile that you like. If it doesn’t make your taste buds sing, determine what flavor in that beer was objectionable. If you don’t feel like drinking more of that beer, empty your glass into the nearest dump bucket. Make note of the distasteful style of beer (usually provided as part of the beer’s name, such as Pale Ale, Brown Ale, Stout, etc). When you try another of that same style, look for the same unwelcome tastes. You may just not care for a particular style of beer. That’s okay - there are over 56 different styles to choose from.

To increase your stamina, plan to sit and relax without a beer at least 15 minutes of every hour you are at the festival. Water and food, available from several vendors, will dull the alcohol effect, as will time. And the music - The Sons of Ralph (featuring Ralph), Cigar Store Indians and The Bob Sinclair Band - will be worthy of your attention as well.

As for tasting method? I suggest starting light and working toward the darker beers. Generally speaking, light colored beers such as Pilsners, Hefe-weizens (wheat beers), Blondes, fruit beers and anything with the word Light in its name tend to be lower in body, alcohol and flavor. There will be no budmillercoors products at Hickory Hops. Move from table to table sampling Light Beers for a while. Then move to the next shade of beer. Ambers, Reds, Pale Ales, Extra Special Bitters (ESBs) and other similarly copper hued beers comprise that progression. Then look for Brown Ales, Scottish Ale, India Pale Ales (IPAs) in the deep copper and brown color/flavor tones. Last on your tasting chart should be Porters and the Stouts- Oatmeal, Cream, Dry and Russian Imperial.

Even when you cleanse your mouth between beers with water, your taste buds have a memory of the last thing you tasted kind of like drinking orange juice right after you brush your teeth. If you start with a big bitter IPA and follow it with a light, lilting Blonde Ale, the latter beer will taste like water in comparison.

Allow yourself to really experience the taste. Take a pen and make notes of your favorites. That way you’ll have a list of beers to search for at retail stores and to ask for at your neighborhood tavern. Make plans to visit brewpubs to see where your newfound favorites are made.

The Catawba Lager & Ale Sampling Society plans to stage a brewing demonstration. Stop by their booth to learn about the club and how easy homebrewing is.

Enjoy the music. Be responsible. Enjoy the beer.

Further Reading:
Watch for information about upcoming festivals. In the Spring and Summer months, there’s almost one every weekend somewhere in the South.

And for the list of beer styles and their characteristics, see