Come October, the N.C. State Fair will no longer be the country’s only state fair to not allow any alcohol sales.
For the first time in the fair’s 164-year history*, you’ll be able to buy beer and wine. Not a lot of beer and wine, but some beer and wine, and some beer and wine is better than no beer and wine.
“It took a few years of trying,” says Margo Knight Metzger, who as the executive director of the N.C. Craft Brewers Guild convinced the fair to allow beer sales. As of about a month ago, Knight Metzger is now the marketing director of Our State magazine, which is sponsoring the fairgrounds’ new Public House, where samples of North Carolina-produced beer and wine will be available for purchase.
For the last several years, craft breweries and state wineries could give out samples in Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. Horse Complex. But that only drew a small percentage of fairgoers, and, like any other agricultural product vendors, the state’s 225 craft brewers and 185 winemakers wanted a bigger showcase for their wares. So the Brewers Guild and the and the N.C. Wine and Grape Council approached agriculture commissioner Steve Troxler with a pitch to sell samples in what fair manager Wesley Wyatt calls a “controlled environment.”
Here’s how it’ll work: Between noon and eight thirty p.m. inside the newly erected Public House—which dates to the nineteenth century and was originally was the stage coach office for Rockingham County—you’ll be able to buy a $10 ticket that will entitle you to a flight of four four-ounce pours; essentially, ten bucks for a pint. Alternatively, that same ticket will get you four 1.5-ounce wine pours. (If that seems steep, some of the proceeds will go toward marketing the state’s beer and wine industries, so at least that’s a worthy cause.) The bad news? Only one ticket per person.
The Public House will feature forty breweries and forty wineries from across the state, though they haven’t yet been named.
*Technically, while the fair started in 1853, this year will be the 150th fair, as the state skipped several years during wars and what not.