By the time the High Point Get Down officially began, a respectable crowd had already assembled, lingering in front of a stage in sweatshirts with brews in hand. An hour-long line had formed at one of the entrances alongside the Mendenhall Transportation Terminal, a temporary oasis in a downtown wasteland.
Six North Carolina breweries, including stalwarts from each Triad city, ran booths directly across from the stage where a DJ pumped bombastic tracks, accompanied by a smattering of food trucks and vendors tabling with tie-dye shirts and vapes.
The longest lines formed at Liberty and Foothills, followed by the other Triad lynchpin brewery, Natty Greene’s. But Mystery Brewing still did steady business.
The Hillsborough beermaker has made a name for itself with small-batch productions, and a handwritten sign at the table proclaimed the crew’s most recent success — second place in the Other Belgian category at the venerable Great American Beer Festival. With its LaQuerelle seef bier, Mystery Brewing pushed out the rest of the competition in Denver last weekend, save for craft-beer giant Stone Brewing, which recently flirted with locating its East Coast facility in Greensboro.
The LaQuerelle wasn’t on hand for the High Point Get Down, an event pulled together to fill the void of Hopfest after Ryan Saunders relocated the beer-centric street festival to Greensboro. Instead, a brewery rep offered cups of Mystery’s Rosalind autumnal saison, a hoppier take than most in this subgenre of beer, and a very drinkable 3.4 percent Pickwick English mild ale.
Carolina Brewery and Howard Brewing, the two other out-of-town beer purveyors, helped hold down the backcourt. Howard, with two of their beers on tap, tried to cover the spectrum, with its maltier Action Man beer that is sold at local stores in cans and an enjoyable kolsch that doesn’t even have a name yet.
For some the High Point Get Down provided a chance to try new beers, while others returned to old favorites, be it Foothills’ Hoppyum IPA or Natty Greene’s Buckshot. Todd Isbell, brewmaster for Liberty in High Point, moved a considerable amount of their Blackberry Wheat, one of the brewery’s two most popular beers with the local college crowd. And for good reason: It is more subtle than most fruit beers, which makes sense considering Liberty uses a pure fruit puree instead of an overpowering syrup that makes most fruit beers too trashy to stomach.
By 7 p.m., an all-purpose cover band had taken over the stage, belting out hallmark tracks from the Offspring era and older. The music dominated the landscape and the burgeoning audience lapped it up alongside the beer, though one brewery ambassador noted that the lead singer looked like Guy Fieri with a microphone.
The skies, which had rained sporadically the day before, cooperated, but it was still brisk enough that it was difficult not to feel bad for a poor bastard in a clown suit sitting atop a dunk tank.
But most people paid him no mind, striding towards the heart of the action with tickets in hand, thirsty and ready to play.