Hickory – The stage is set for the 16th annual Hickory Hops beer festival on April 21. A great way to celebrate North Carolina Beer Month, this popular event, which attracts fest-goers from throughout the eastern seaboard, is staged across the railroad tracks from Union Square in Downtown Hickory. Organized by the Hickory Downtown Development Association and hosted by Olde Hickory Brewery, this afternoon program offers plenty for everyone, from inexperienced beer novices to hardened beer fest veterans anxious for something unusual. Pouring for five hours, the second longest running beer fest in NC begins at 1pm, rain or shine. Live music and plenty of beer is guaranteed for all (age 21 and older). Food is available at many downtown restaurants during the festival. Brewers sell t-shirts, pint glasses, mugs and sundry of other breweriana.

The Tarheel State has over 240 active craft breweries, and counting. All but a handful of the 53 breweries present for the festival call North Carolina home. In addition to perennial fest participants like, of course, Olde Hickory, Highland, Natty Greene’s and RJ Rockers, Hickory Hops 2018 will introduce seven new NC breweries, including the inaugural appearance of D9 (Cornelius), Fainting Goat (Fuquay-Varina), Mountain Layers (Bryson City), Oak & Dagger (Raleigh), Tobacco Road (Raleigh), Southern Pines (Southern Pines) and Rivermen (Belmont).

Complementing the Hickory Hops festivities, the Carolinas Championship of Beer makes its 13th appearance this year. Several weeks before the fest, festival beers are subjected to a blind-judged competition. In early April, over 460 beers, spanning 165 different styles, were analyzed by a panel of certified judges, brewers and experienced judges. Gold, silver and bronze medals in each category will be presented to winning brewers at a private brewers’ dinner held the evening before the festival. During Hickory Hops, engraved plaques will be awarded to three Best of Show winners.

Hickory Hops is a celebration of all things beer. Throughout its history, Hickory Hops has become one of the South’s favorite festivals. This brewer-friendly event, always one of the first of the spring/summer fest season, brings out the best from local and regional craft brewers. Barrel aged and conditioned ales will be featured by many, as will other special or seasonal ales and lagers. Sour beers and India Pales Ales are extremely popular. The Hickory audience has always shown its appreciation and respect for this brewed art. Brewers are available to answer questions, share tasting notes and enjoy the day. Many past fest-goers have described the beer festival as “the most fun [they’ve] ever had in Downtown Hickory.”

Hickory Hops is staged next to the Olde Hickory Station, 232 Government Ave SW. Enter through the main gate across from the Post Office for a day of tasting new brews and the familiar ones you already know and love.

The 54 Brewers featured at Hickory Hops 2018 are: Appalachian Mountain, Asheville, Aviator, Bearwaters, Bird Song, Blowing Rock, Boojum, Booneshine Brewing, Brueprint, Carolina Brewery, Catawba (Palmetto), Crank Arm, D9 Brewery, Deep River, Duck-Rabbit, Fainting Goat, Foothills, Fortnight, Four Saints, French Broad, Frog Level, Front Street, Gizmo, Granite Falls, Highland, Huske Hardware, Innovation, Liberty, Loe’s, Lost Province, Lynnwood, Mash House, Morgan Ridge Railway, Mountain Layers, Mystery, Nantahala, Natty Greene’s, New Belgium, New Sarum, Oak & Dagger, Olde Hickory, Oskar Blues, Pisgah, Preyer, Raleigh, Rivermen, RJ Rockers, Southern Appalachian, Southern Pines, The Unknown, Thomas Creek, Tobacco Road, Top of the Hill, and Wicked Weed.

Tickets may be purchased online in advance with a credit card for $30 (plus $4.95 processing fee) by visiting www.hickoryhops.com or at the main gate on the day of the event for $40 cash only.

Your entry fee gives you a five-ounce tasting glass, a wristband enabling you to leave the festival and return through the gates, and a festival program describing more than 300 beers on tap and the 54 breweries who have prepared them for you. Plus, an afternoon of live entertainment from the Red Dirt Revelators and the Baby Black Orchestra may be heard from the festival stage.

Designated driver tickets are available for $10. Designated drivers are not allowed to taste anything since; after all, they will be driving. Hickory Hops promotes responsible drinking and encourages patrons not to drink and drive. Designated drivers will be able to enjoy water, music from two great bands, and an afternoon of fun with their friends.

Don’t be left out of Hickory’s “funnest” event of the year in Downtown Hickory!

The Red Dirt Revelators play at Hickory Hops on Saturday