This year’s World Beer Festival – Durham has a few surprises for Triangle beer lovers.

To begin with, we’re making some changes for the North Carolina breweries. We’ve set up a special tent just for our state’s own breweries with the help of Anna Lockhart, the President of the North Carolina Brewers Guild. Also, we will be making a donation to the Guild for every beer brought to the Festival from North Carolina breweries. If you really want to get a slice of drinking local, be sure to check out that tent.

Secondly, we have a couple special guests visiting our part of the world. Roger Protz, editor of the Good Beer Guide and author of more than twenty books on beer, will be joining us from England. On a research trip for his next book on barrel-aged beers, Roger will be giving a couple presentations on the history and the aesthetics of IPAs in the Beer Education tent

Along with Roger we have another very special guest, a long time friend of mine, Doug Odell of Odell Brewing, Ft. Collins, CO.  Brewer of some of the country’s finest and most intriguing beers, Doug will be behind his booth providing samples of his beers and insights into his magic. These are really extraordinary beers and not easily found east of the Mississippi River.

A third guest will also be flying in from Boulder, CO—Julia Herz from the Brewers Association and Julia will be putting together a beer/food “smackdown”: four brewers will try to pair their beers with a special food item prepared by local beer/food restaurateur Charlie Deal of Dos Perros and Jujube fame.

We also have a few surprise guest breweries joining our list of presenters. Once again, Deschutes will have several of its much sought after beers for sampling. For years I’ve tried to describe the special characteristics of Deschutes beers, without luck. They simply have a profile that is highly complex, very well integrated and exceedingly bright. Hailing from Bend, OR, Deschutes has balanced a deep portfolio of classic styles with a wide range of exotic and innovative. Known for their skills with hops, Deschutes beers are coveted by beer lovers across the country.

Sure to catch dedicated any beer lover’s eye is the inclusion of Kuhnhenn Brothers Brewing Company. A former hardware company-turned-brewery, these brothers have been putting out some seriously interesting beers, building an almost cult-like following in the Michigan beer world.

Another brewery joining the festival line-up is the well-known Wynkoop Brewery, from Denver, CO, who have been thrilling beer drinkers for 20 years with their unusual Rail Yard Ale. A favorite brewpub for everyone making the trek to the Great American Beer Festival, Wynkoop also was the springboard for Colorado’s present governor, John Hickenlooper and the home of the annual Beer Drinker of the Year competition.

A perennial favorite of mine, Boulevard Brewery, Kansas City, MO, will make its inaugural trip to the Triangle. An early pioneer in the craft beer renaissance, Boulevard Brewery built a business around some very assertive classic styles before venturing out into the beer magic with their renowned Smoke Stack Series, a collection of very intriguing beers. I tend to gravitate to their maltier beers like Bully! Porter and Dry Stout.

Making a return trip from Wisconsin, we have the celebrated New Glarus Brewery. Run by an amazing husband and wife team, Deb and Dan Carey, New Glarus rules the roost in Wisconsin with beers ranging from the highly accessible Spotted Cow to the much-decorated Wisconsin Belgian Red. Lip smacking.

Just in, Summit Brewery from Minnesota is joining the festival line-up. Celebrating 25 years in the craft beer industry, Summit has built its business on well-executed classic beer styles like their Summit Extra Pale Ale and Great Northern Porter. To this they have recently added the Unchained series of small batch exotic beer styles.

What makes these guest beers so exciting is the opportunity for us to show them the passion of our beer market. Many years ago, Stoudt’s Brewery came down from Pennsylvania to one of our WBFs and ended up setting up distribution here. Many breweries, like Yuengling, New Belgium, Great Lakes and Full Sail tested the market by sampling their beers at the World Beer Festival.

Let’s show our guest breweries why this market remains one of the hottest good beer markets in the country and how we can help them break into it with success.

Breaking news:  There is a good chance that Wolfram Koehler of Crescent City Brewhouse, New Orleans, LA, might be visiting as part of an RV tour of the Southeast and bring his fantastic Pils.