By Greg Copen | Sep 25, 2013

The first Waynesville Beer Festival was a phenomenal event! The short thundershower didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd or the brewers. Our Virginia Tech Hokie tent provided shelter from the rain and allowed us to serve the best homebrew in town. Too bad the tent didn’t have the power to prevent the inevitable butt-kicking the Hokies received from the Alabama Crimson Tide that night, but I digress.

The festival wasn’t without some behind-the-scenes drama. In the evenings leading up to the festival, I focused my brew-making tasks on cleaning my serving equipment and adjusting the carbonation on my beer. Several years ago, I built a jockey box – a device used to cool a beverage before serving – with an old cooler, some plastic tubing and a party tap. Commercial grade units typically require stainless steel tubing because it cools the liquid better than plastic tubing. However, our beer was already cold, so the box I used was sufficient.

Obtaining the proper carbonation is a key element to serving good beer. Low carbonation may cause the beer to look and taste flat. Over-carbonated beer tastes fizzy and often has too much head, resulting in wasted beer. As a result of all my carbonation adjustments, my CO2 tank was almost empty. I was a little concerned, but figured my Virginia friends would bring a tank with them.

Our brew club arrived at my place late Friday night with three kegs of beer on ice – but no CO2. That was the time to panic! I knew my tank wouldn’t last very long and I didn’t want my friends to have travelled to Waynesville to serve their beer for 30 minutes or less.

Early Saturday morning, we started loading our equipment and making sure we had everything ready. As I was frantically calling gas distributors, I realized that holiday weekends are the worst times to run out of CO2. Distributors that actually answered the phones told me to bring in my tank on Tuesday! I asked a couple of other brewers, but nobody had extra.

After exhausting the list of local gas distributors on Google, I started dialing friends. Luckily, I have a buddy with some awesome connections in the area.  Somehow, he found a fresh CO2 tank and delivered it to the field around noon. He truly saved our day.

The gates opened at 1 p.m.; a few moments later it was five o’clock! It was a wonderful day, but the time flew by so quickly. The people who attended were fantastic. Some asked questions about our brewing process and recipes. Some just wanted to sample and compare our beer. We received some great comments and really enjoyed the opportunity to participate.

I’d like to publically thank Kevin Sandefur for inviting us to serve our beer, and for all the hard work he and others put into this event. I believe it was a tremendous success and I can’t wait until next year!

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