This year will mark the 16th year of the Charlotte Oktoberfest and the date for the even is September 27. The festival started as a small affair with the local homebrew club, the Carolina Brewmasters, and has evolved into one of the showcase festivals in North Carolina. Early on the festival struggled to survive and when they did make a profit they gave the proceeds to charity. It wasn’t much money in the grand scheme of things, but as the festival has grown in popularity the annual donation has grown to $75,000. By my calculation over the 16 year history of the event they have given $494,000 to charity. Almost half a million dollars from a volunteer organization and a homebrew club to boot.
The past three years a for profit enterprise known as the Lake Norman Beerfest has been holding an event in Cornelius. This year the owners decided to go big time and move it downtown and rename it the Charlotte Beerfest. Here’s the rub, they set their date on September 20, the week prior to the Charlotte Oktoberfest. Even more disturbing than that is the fact they announced Craft Beer Week is that week, September 17-20. For the past 5 years, Charlotte already has held Craft Beer Week in March. When you look at the beer lineup for the Charlotte Beerfest it reads like a BMC distribution list. I do see nine NC craft breweries represented, but in a state which has over 125 that’s a drop in the bucket. With some of the recent snarkiness by the owners of the Charlotte Beerfest I would not be surprised if some of those local NC brewers dropped out. The saving grace for this festival is the bands and the fact loyal fans of the Charlotte Oktoberfest will never mistake the Charlotte Beerfest for their event.
If the owners of the Charlotte Beerfest catch wind of this little blog post I hope they will rethink a few things. First you don’t take a for profit beer festival and try to compete with a non-profit with a strong history of charitable contributions. Second, separate your festival by weeks, not days from other festivals in the same city. Third, do not proclaim a craft beer week when you have no history of serving a community and craft beer, you live in a different city and have held a festival in a different city, perhaps that is why you were not aware of another festival and a real craft beer week. And finally, you indicate you are giving funds to charity, divulge how much. I’ll bet it will be less than $5k (prove me wrong) and the rest of the money will line pockets.