World Beer Festival
Saturday, Oct. 11 | $55–$70
Durham Bulls Athletic Park
409 Blackwell St.

At age 32, Adam Harold is right where he wants to be in life: surrounded by craft beer. Harold is Business Development Manager for All About Beer Magazine and Director of Beer Programs for the magazine’s World Beer Festivals. On a sweltering late summer evening in Durham’s Surf Club we chatted all about beer (lower case).

He sipped a Goose Island Beer Co.’s Rambler, the company’s seasonal red IPA. “It’s more aggressively hopped than I expected, ” he says. “And has a very floral nose.” I had a Bell’s Lager, a Bohemian-style pilsner.

Asked what his first craft beer was, Harold laughed and rolled his eyes. “Ohhh boooy …, ” then he paused to think. “I remember the first beer that I drank that I thought ‘Beer can be like this?’ It was Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale,” he says. The Delaware-based brewery’s ale is a pumpkin ale brewed with brown sugar and spices. “But I couldn’t tell you what the first one was.”

As Director of Beer Programs for the World Beer Festival, he has plenty he does have to remember. He has to keep breweries happy, distributors happy and attendees happy. It helps that Harold has seen the festival from all sides: The last two years as an employee, the three previous years as a brewery participant working for Carolina Brewery and as a patron for several years before that. It gives him a fuller perspective on the event.

“There is more of an emphasis on the experience,” Harold says. To attain this experience the festival has several presentations during both the afternoon and evening sessions. Wanting to build off of the presentation aspect of the day, new elements were added. “We’ve got food and beer pairings, homebrewing demos and people like Farm Boy Farms to come in and address how the ingredients [like roasted malt and hops] translate to beer,” he says. “There’s more of the technical side now to the beer fest experience.”

Recently, the festival brought in Newlands Systems, a brewing equipment manufacturer, to help with the educational mission. “They bring in a scaled-down version of a brewery and talk about the commercial brewing process,” he says. “It is a model on how the brewery works. We call it the ‘Barbie Brewery’ because of its scale and size.”

The festival will again have a cask area with infused beers but for the first time in Durham it also will have a Belgium beer garden. “There’ll be 12 to 14 different Belgian beers and styles,” he says.

The festival has reduced its attendance cap by a third and raised the general admission price by $10. “Reducing the crowd size will shorten the lines,” he says. “But it will also create an atmosphere for consumers to interact with brewery reps and brewers.” The goal is a more relaxed and enjoyable experience.

An even bigger change is that the festival is buying the beer for the event. Previously, it relied on breweries and distributors to donate beer. That had long been a source of contention in the craft beer community. “Moving to that model,” Harold says, “puts the power of selection back into the World Beer Festival’s hands.”

One thing you won’t see is out-of-market beer. This means you won’t see names such as Deschutes, Lost Abbey or Odell’s making an appearance like they have in the past. So who would Harold love to see come into the market so he can get them on the floor at the festival? “I would love to see Cigar City Brewing [from Tampa, Florida] for one. They should be in the market within the next year,” he says. “Of course I’d love to see Deschutes. Lost Abbey. The list is long …. “

This article appeared in print with the headline “Putting the beer in beer festival.”