ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County residents will soon have their first opportunity to enjoy a craft beer festival without having to drive to a neighboring county, thanks to the chamber of commerce and several businesses joining to sponsor the event.
But for Robeson County folks wanting to quench their thirst, a one-hour drive down U.S. 74 awaits.
“Hoptoberfest” will take up the entire parking lot of the Richmond Plaza Shopping Center from 4 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 10. Parking will be available at the parks and recreation center a short walk from Richmond Plaza. There will also be parking in the lot of the shopping center across U.S. 74, with free shuttle service provided to get people across safely.
Railhouse Brewery of Aberdeen and the Southern Pines Brewing Company are among the regional breweries and wineries that plan to bring their unique flavors to all who attend.
Rodger Moore, chairman of the committee for the upcoming Hoptoberfest, said the first year’s turnout will determine the number of tickets that will be sold for next year’s event but that as of now, the number of tickets is limited.
“This year we are not going over 400,” Moore said. “And we’ve sold more than 100 of them already, so anyone who wants to attend should purchase tickets soon. It’s unlikely there will be any left at the gate.”
Early bird tickets sold through Sept. 25 are $30 per person, but the price jumps to $35 per person beginning Sept. 26. For an additional $10, revelers can hire a designated driver.
“Of course, no one under the age of 21 will be admitted,” Moore said.
With your ticket, you’ll be able to taste 4-ounce samples from each of the brewers and will have the opportunity to buy more beer or wine directly from the vendors.
A burgeoning interest in craft beer nationwide has sparked a brewers’ renaissance in North Carolina. With more than 100 breweries and brewpubs, the Tar Heel State claims the largest number of craft breweries in the American South.
Including “breweries-in-planning,” the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild established in 2014 has more than 120 members on its roster. A brewery map is available on its website at www.ncbeer.org.
North Carolina’s beer industry, which includes craft and large commercial breweries and beer distributors, employs 26,000 people and has a $3.8 billion effect on the state’s economy, according to the North Carolina Beer Wine Wholesalers Association.
The state’s largest brewery, a MillerCoors plant in Eden, employs 522 people.
Hoptoberfest is about more than just beer, Moore said.
“There will be entertainment,” he said. “The Tim Clark Band will be there. And we’re also having a wing cook-off contest. When we came up with that, with Perdue being in Rockingham, it seemed like a good thing to do.”
Moore said anyone wishing to participate in the contest will have to sign up during the event. No one should bring wings from home.
“You get issued your wings,” he said. “And we’ll have judges there. The wings must be ready by 4 p.m., and visitors to Hoptoberfest will sample the wings as well. They will be given a card to mark their favorites.”
The winner as determined by the judges will receive a $750 cash prize, and the Peoples Choice winner will receive a trophy.
“The top wing cooks will be invited back next year to defend their titles,” Moore said. “It’s something we will refine over the years.”
Moore said there is room for many more vendors than have already signed on, although there is a limit to the number the venue can support.
To become a sponsor or vendor, or to purchase tickets, call 910-895-9058.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.