Brawley’s Black & Blue back for sixth year
For some, the shift into March brings the familiarity of tournament basketball, warmer weather and longer days enjoyed.
But for the Charlotte craft beer community, this month is all about one of the premier craft beer festivals in the region.
Now in its sixth year, Brawley’s Black & Blue will once again gather more than 30 local, state and beyond breweries in an intimate setting, where rare and hard-to-find beers are poured to the delight of attendees. The sold-out event is this Saturday at Visulite Theatre.
Michael Brawley and Shane Icenhour have been working furiously over the last few months curating the festival, from confirming breweries and beers to ordering glasses (the Black & Blue-themed glassware you get upon entrance is different each year, and spectacular at that) to laying out where each brewery will pour inside the Visulite.
“We’ve been really fortunate to have Charlotte and North Carolina breweries support Black and Blue since we first began six years ago,” Icenhour says. “They’ve come to know what to expect from the festival, and we hear all the time that it’s one of the breweries’ favorite festivals to attend.”
Indeed, Black & Blue has gained quite the following from breweries and attendees alike. After the first couple festivals, word quickly spread each year about who was showing up and what was being poured. The anticipation reached a crescendo this year where, on Christmas Eve, tickets went on sale at 10 a.m. and were gone by lunchtime – without a single mention of any brewery or beer.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised that it sold out in an hour and a half online,” Icenhour says. “The year before, it took at least two or three days.”
This year’s festival will see most of the Charlotte-area breweries (Ass Clown, Barking Duck, Birdsong, D9, Heist, Lenny Boy, NoDa, Olde Mecklenburg, Primal, Sycamore and Triple C) in attendance, along with other popular state breweries such as Foothills, Olde Hickory and Wicked Weed. (Click here to see the complete list of breweries and beers. Once you lift your jaw from the floor, feel free to continue reading.)
Perhaps the greatest part of Black & Blue is the festival’s intimacy. Limiting a small number of tickets compared to other festivals allows for short lines and a chance to roam around to try all of the beers while not bumping into hundreds of people along the way. You also have the opportunity to talk to the brewers and other staff from each brewery, creating more of a gathering with friends’ atmosphere. (As a side note, kudos to Brawley, who could easily sell double or even triple the tickets or move the festival to a larger venue but chooses to instead provide an easy-to-navigate setting and event for everyone to enjoy themselves.)
Along with the fantastic beers, each Black & Blue also features live music on stage. This year’s performers are The Loudermilks, an alt-country/folk rock band out of Charlotte. And as always, expect a surprise or two when you show up to the event. You never know if there’ll be a secret beer(s) that has yet to be announced (Spoiler alert: There most always is.)
This year also marks the first official B&B pre-party, which is Friday at Brawley’s Beverage and co-hosted by the fine folks from the Cheers Charlotte podcast. The party is from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and many of the brewers at Black & Blue along with other representatives will be on hand to talk beer and other topics. Click here for more information and to join the party.