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Southern Brewing

by Bobby Bush

     There must be something in the water. For the third time in the seven-year history of the award, a North Carolinian has captured the coveted title of Beerdrinker of the Year. Ray McCoy is no stranger to Wynkoop Brewing's final finals; his significant other, Cornelia Corey, won the 2001 contest. Ray wowed the judges with his quick wit, varied beer experiences and in-depth brewing knowledge. "It's not the time you spend drinking," he told the judge. "It's the intensity."

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     Another McCoy quip -- "Life is a journey. Pack a cooler" -- nearly cost him dearly. Just 10 days after his Denver BDOY enthronement, Ray and Cornelia were waiting at a Fort Lauderdale port to board a cruise ship bound for the western Caribbean. On its bag-sniffing rounds, a trained dog indicated to its handler that Ray's duffel bags contained narcotics and explosives. With all the fury of a frenzied SWAT team, the port was evacuated. Although a more specialized dog showed no reaction to the suspect bags, port authorities were not interested in Ray's explanation: Each bag contained a five-gallon keg of homebrew. Apparently the first canine was a beer hound. In recognition of his newfound notoriety, Ray was rewarded by fellow shipmates with an "Osama Been Brewing" T-shirt.

Newly Brewing

     Orlando Brewing Partners began brewing in November 2002. Rob Bernys, formerly an apprentice with Shipyard, is head brewer for the 10-barrel micro. The OBP product line consists of contract beers and OPB's own kegged and soon-to-be-bottled beers, including Blue-eyed Blonde, Right-on Red, Olde Pelican Pale Ale, Uptown Brown and Sinkhole Stout.

     Sonny Day has sold Day Brewing Company to brewer David Lindley and company. The south New Orleans micro has been renamed in honor of its newest beer: Big Easy Brewing Company will continue to produce the Day and Lagniappe lines. The new Big Easy Beer is a "true pilsner beer, brewed in that fine New Orleans tradition."

     He said it wouldn't take long. Mark Johnsen, brewer and owner of R. J. Rockers, the Spartanburg, S.C., brewpub that closed last November, has relocated and reestablished his company as a microbrewery. The newly named R. J. Rockers' All-American Ales include Bald Eagle Brown, Patriot Pale, Liberty Light and summer seasonal Buck Wheat. Mark has already lined up a distributor for his keg-only brews.

     Blue Ridge Brewing, a downtown Greenville, S.C., brewpub, has plans for a second edition. Owner Bob Hiller has his eye on a building in downtown Winston-Salem. North Carolina's second-largest city was once home to Jos. Schlitz (1970-1983) and to the recently deceased Stroh's. The planned establishment, to be called Foothills Brewing, will become the former tobacco town's first post-Prohibition brewpub.

     Brewmaster Franz Rothschadl and partners celebrated the February opening of their third Tampa-area Hoppers Grille & Brewery. The new Westchase brewpub joins Hoppers in Palm Harbor and Trinity, Fla. Rothschadl and Head Brewer Tracey Caley have plans for one more Tampa brewpub before setting their sights on Sarasota and Orlando.

     Functioning as a contract brewer for over a decade, Blue & Gray Brewing Company commissioned its first brewhouse in April 2002. Alan Williamson is the Fredericksburg, Va., microbrewery's head brewer. He uses fresh hops direct from Blue & Gray's own hop farm to produce Blue & Gray Classic Lager and Fred Red Ale, distributed throughout eastern Virginia. Bottled B&G beers are available at the brewery and select retail outlets.

     After a four-month hiatus to restructure the corporation, Sophisticated Otter reopened on February 28. Jay Hollingshead returned as head brewer for the Johnson City, Tenn., brewpub.

     One of the few brewers who knows how to use a telephone (just kidding), Jason Weissberg of Mad Boar Brewery in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., called to report that he's ready for warm weather. The brewpub has been remodeled, resulting in a larger bar area. Look for seasonal Carolina Common (i.e., steam beer) and other of Jason's crafty creations on tap.


     Athens, Ga., welcomes the eighth annual Classic City Brew Fest on April 5. Held indoors at the Classic Center, the festival will limit attendance to 2,500 people. Sponsors include gold-GABF-medal-winning Terrapin Beer Company and beer-savvy Taco Mac. Check www.negia.net/~brew for details.

     Celebrating its extreme level of beeriness, my hometown of Hickory, N.C., introduces its first-ever beer festival on April 12. Organized by the Downtown Development Association and sponsored by Olde Hickory Brewery, Hickory Hops will run from 2:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Union Square. Thirty craft brewers have been invited. Three bands will perform. Watch www.hickoryhops.com for additional information.

     Just back from a trip to the Toronado's Barleywine Festival in San Francisco, Tyrone Irby and his Southeastern Microbrewers Association announce the 10th annual Southeastern Microbrewers Invitational, to be held May 3. Chapel Hill will host the festival as well as the Stout, Stogies and Single Malt Affair on May 2, open only to SMA members. For info on membership and both events, consult www.beerhunter.org.

     May 10 marks the date for the second annual Greenville International Beer Festival. Over 125 different beers are scheduled for the 4:00 - 8:00 fest in downtown Greenville, S.C. See www.bearfootsports for more information.

     Two Virginia fests share the same May weekend. On Saturday, May 17, the second annual Virginia Beer Festival takes places in Norfolk (www.virginiaartsfest.com/funoutdoors.html). Almost simultaneously, the ninth River City Beer and Seafood Festival kicks off in Richmond and continues on Sunday, May 18. Over 8,000 people usually attend this Brown's Island event. Learn more at www.downtownpresents.org.

Orlando Brewing Partners (micro)
1401 W. Gore St., Suite 8
Orlando, FL 32805

Big Easy Brewing Co. (micro)
5200 Taravella Rd.
Marrero, LA 70072

R. J. Rockers Brewing Co. (micro)
113D Belton Dr.
Spartanburg, SC 29301

Hoppers Grille & Brewery #3
12227 Linebaugh Ave. W.
Tampa, FL 34677

Blue & Gray Brewing Co. (micro)
3321 Dill Smith Dr.
Fredericksburg, VA 22408

Sophisticated Otter
400 Ashe St.
Johnson City, TN 37604

A native of Hickory, N.C., Bobby Bush is constantly on the lookout for great beer and great beer stories. Send your comments, concerns and beer discoveries to bobbywbush@charter.net.

Copyright 2003, Celebrator No material herein may be reprinted without permission of the Celebrator Distributed On the W3 For personal, non-commercial enjoyment and use only. Cheers!

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