State of Origin astounding in Year 2

The State of Origin Craft Beer Festival is my idea of the perfect beer event to satisfy the foodie within you. There is no better occasion anywhere, anytime, to experience the terroir of North Carolina as expressed in beer. Nor is there a better event at which to experience the craft brewers’ mastery of incorporating locally-sourced ingredients into beer.

Appalachian Mountain Brewery and Cidery of Boone, NC, brought some fun flavors to the festival. Operating both a brewery and a cidery give AMB a broad range of flavors.

State of Origin Festival is state of the art

Last year’s State of Origin Craft Beer Festival was really good, but this year’s was even better. This year, breweries brought more beers with a wider array of local ingredients.

Organized by Morganton’s Fonta Flora Brewery, there’s no other craft beer festival quite like it.

Todd Boera
Todd Boera, Fonta Flora brewer

Todd Boera, Fonta Flora’s brewer and co-owner, is the spirit of the festival. His passion for incorporating local agriculture shines through in everything here.

“People really pushed the boundaries and did what we asked them,” Boera said when explaining the direction the festival has grown.

“We are excited about pushing the limits of North Carolina agriculture and celebrate what can be grown in the state.”

Echo view and Riverbend
The products of Riverbend Malt and Echo View hop farm give North Carolina brewers a leg up when it comes to sourcing local ingredients.

Top notch local ingredient suppliers

North Carolina brewers are blessed to have the Riverbend Malt House in Asheville that produces a nice variety of barley, wheat and rye malts—all made from North Carolina-grown grains. Boutique US maltings are all the rage right now, but Riverbend has a head start on most of them.

Another important resource for NC breweries is Echo View Farm. Echo View grows Cascade, Nugget, Chinook and other popular hop varieties on its property at Weaverville, NC, just outside Asheville. It is the largest producer and processor of NC hops.

This blind squirrel definitely found a nut with its offerings at State of Origin Craft Beer Festival. Blind Squirrel Brewing Company is located in Plum Tree, NC.
This blind squirrel definitely found a nut with its offerings at State of Origin Craft Beer Festival. Blind Squirrel Brewing Company is located in Plum Tree, NC.

Festival promotes taste bud euphoria

To participate in the festival a brewery must bring beer that has at least one local North Carolina ingredient.

Host brewery Fonta Flora Brewery, of Morganton, NC, offerings included beers brewed with pawpaws, tea, dandelions, and local malt and local hops.

While some of the beers featured Riverbend malt as their only local ingredient, many others stretched the envelope. Birch twigs, honeysuckle, basil, dill weed, lemon thyme, hops, cherries, peaches, apples, pawpaws, elderberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, juniper berries, Kousa dogwood berries, pine needles, dandelion flowers, acorn flour, cucumbers, honey, sea salt, and more: all ingredients grown or foraged in North Carolina.

State of Origin Craft Beer Festival takes place on the grounds of the historic Burke County Courthouse.

About 1,000 lucky souls made it through the gates to experience this sensory delight. Unlike the typical beer festival at which beer fans line up for the highly-rated big-name brews, at State of Origin you dive into the unknown.

Full Steam Brewing
Fullsteam Brewing, of Durham, NC, popularized the farm-to-table-type use of local ingredients in its beer. Calling its concept plow-to-pint, Fullsteam has been an inspiration to many other brewers who are now seeking ways to include a sense of place in their beer. Fullsteam brought a basil beer, a sassafras root beer, a sour mash IPA, and one fermented with wild yeast foraged from Sarah Duke Gardens..

If you are just a big hophead or barrel-aged imperial stout kind of guy, this festival may not be your cup of tea. For those who appreciate a wider palate of flavors, experimentation, and stretching limits, this is a don’t-miss event.

That is not to say that there were not a few beers with a whisky-barrel heritage or a hop-forward profile; however, flavors like basil, dill, and elderberries got more attention. Sours were everywhere.

Burial Brewing Sign
Burial Beer Company, Asheville, NC, is an Appalachian region brewery that emphasizes creativity in its products. One beer was sassafras root beer flavored and the other flavored with birch bark.

Twenty-five breweries and cideries participated in State of Origin this year. Breweries and cideries from the Appalachian region of North Carolina were most dominant, with Charlotte and Triangle area breweries right behind.

Mystery Brewing Company Sign
Mystery Brewing Company brought a fun bunch of beers that use local ingredients in creative ways.

Mystery Brewing Company of Hillsborough, NC, makes its name by being an “all seasonal, all the time” brewery. Their lengthy book of beers may be unmatched in the state. Not unexpectedly, the brewery brought some creatively brewed beers with an experimental edge.

Olde Hickory Brewery of Hickory, NC, brought a cucumber dill beer.
Olde Hickory Brewery of Hickory, NC, brought a cucumber dill beer.

If you can imagine it, someone can brew it in North Carolina. That includes a beer flavored like a dill pickle.

Wicked Weed's specials
Two of Wicked Weed’s special beers for the day.
Asheville’s Wicked Weed Brewing Company samples were probably the most popular of the day. It was the first brewery to run out of beer.

One small North Carolina brewery that has developed quite a national following is Asheville’s Wicked Weed. Known for its experimentation with barrel-aged funky beer, the brewery’s pours  proved popular at State of Origin too. It was the first brewery stand to run out of beer.

Haw River Brewing brought its super Polish-style gratzer, Son of Lemontree, to the event. It includes pine needles, lemon peel, and smoked malt.
Haw River Farmhouse Ales brought it Polish-style gratzer, Son of Lemontree, to the event. The beer includes white pine needles, lemon peel, and smoked malt.


Old and new abide together

At State of Origin room is made for both novice and experienced breweries. Alongside veteran breweries, such as Highland Brewing Company of Asheville, you’ll find a brand new brewery such as Newgrass Brewing Company, soon to open in Shelby, NC.

Highland Brewing
Highland Brewing Co.
Newgrass Brewing
Newgrass Brewing Co.

All day long you see the interactions. Brewers from one place visiting someone else’ booth tasting and discussing how they dealt with a particular set of ingredients. New beer ideas are generated on the spot, expanding the beer universe.

Sierra Nevada table
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company brought an excellent local strawberry ale to the festival that was brewed on its new pilot system at the Mills River brewpub. The ale recipe called for one pound of fresh strawberries per gallon.

Larger breweries use local ingredients too

North Carolina’s largest craft brewery is Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, located at Mills River. Even a large craft brewery with well-established products finds benefit in experimenting with new recipes and ingredients. State of Origin provided the impetus for Sierra Nevada to brew a small batch of local strawberry ale. It was the only the ninth batch of beer brewed on Sierra Nevada’s new pilot brewing system at its Mills River brewpub.


Cideries join their brewing brethren

McRitchie Ciderworks of Thurmond, NC joined the day in a unique way by offering samples of Snakebites. A snakebite is a mixture of apple cider and stout.


Food is not an afterthought

A variety of local food vendors rounded out the offerings.  Pretzel, barbecue, and baked goods were all around.

Music all day long 

A line up of bands ran from festival beginning to end. Styles ranged from alternative, to folky, to bluegrass. Never was the music so loud that it got in the way of conversation of beer enjoyment.

the band Mipso on stage
Popular regional bands such as Mipso entailed the State of Origin crowd.

BurkeSignThe festival takes place in Morganton, NC, on the grounds of the historic Burke County Courthouse. Fonta Flora Brewerythe host brewery, organizes the festival. Morganton is also home base for Catawba Brewing Company.  In addition to brewery visits, Morganton is a good staging place for the numerous mountain and water related activities the region offers.

Catawba Brewing Company.
Catawba Brewing Co. originated in Morganton, and now has two tasting room in Asheville.

Click on the to thumbnail photos enlarge additional photos from State of Origin 2015.

Participating breweries at the festival included:



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