On Saturday, April 21, nearly 3,000 festivarians attended the Hickory Hops beer festival in downtown Hickory, NC to enjoy beer, camaraderie and beautiful summer-like weather. The 16th annual beer fest, featuring craft brewed beer from over 50 breweries, was the reason for the assembly and to recognize nearly 300 medalists and three Best of Show winners in the 13th Carolinas Championship of Beer.
The CCB starts with craft brewed beer. Each Hickory Hops brewery participant is encouraged to send bottled or canned beer in for judging. Two weeks prior to the festival, more than 120 volunteers gathered at Olde Hickory Brewery to judge the unmarked beers for adherence to specific category characteristics. The beers, which totaled 463 entries from 44 breweries, were judged in 162 styles and sub-styles. When the first round finished three hours later, 83 beers had been awarded gold medals. 107 received silver and 109 bronze winners were also identified.
For CCB round two, a smaller group of certified judges convened to determine the best of the top-40 gold medal beers. Called the Best of Show round, three beers - first, second, and third places - were proclaimed the best of the best.
Clayton, NC's Deep River Brewing claimed First Place - Best of Show for its Cottontown Lager in the American Light Lager category. Founded in 2013 by Paul and Lynn Auclair, Deep River was the first legal brewery in Johnston County. Brewer Steven O'Neill was on hand to receive the engraved Best of Show plaque and congratulations from many. Coincidentally, Cottontown Lager took Second Place in last year's CCB competition.
Second Place and Third Place - Best of Show recognition were awarded to Olde Hickory Brewery for its Old Fashioned and Maple Syruption, both entered in the Barrel-Aged Strong Beer style. Also a regular on the Best of Show stage, head brewer Steven Lyerly and co-owner Jason Yates happily accepted Best of Show plaques for the OHB team.
Proceeds from this year's CCB will be donated to the North Carolina Brewers Guild for use promoting the State's 240+ craft breweries.