By Laura Dunbar
The Outer Banks is a popular destination in the North Carolinian summer months, and a common misconception holds that there isn’t much to do come the off season. Though there are many less tourists and the Atlantic isn’t exactly swimmable, there isn’t a lack in activities. Among these autumn activities is the OBX Brewtag Festival, which took place on October 28th this year.
The Brewtag festival is modeled after Red Bull’s annual Flutag festival, which occurs in multiple cities around the world. Flutag is German for “flying day,” and the event features competitors attempting to fly home-made, human powered flying machines. Brewtag takes its own twist on this concept. Instead of flying machines, teams are challenged with the task of building a contraption to fly a one sixth keg barrel.
Participating teams, made up of four or more people hailing from all different states, worked for weeks on their keg-flying machines. Most resembled planes, with two wings coming out of the keg, while others had a totally different design, such as one board atop the keg. The teams all had quirky names and wore costumes to go along with it. Their excitement was palpable as they climbed the flight deck and launched the kegs into the air.
Though the concept seemed a bit bizarre to me, I was surprised to find myself getting caught up in the excitement of the crowd as the kegs went flying. Before launching, team members danced around, riling the crowd up, and by the time the keg was launched the crowd was going wild. Some kegs soared; others went crashing, face first into the ground. No matter the outcome, I found myself cheering, awe-ing, or laughing with the crowd, becoming a part of the exciting atmosphere.
The keg flying competition, though the main attraction, wasn’t all the Brewtag Festival had to offer. The festival was from 1:00-5:30, so there were a lot more activities to occupy our time. We ate from two food trucks catering the event from local restaurants, which had something for everybody— from tuna tartar in an ice cream cone to beef tacos and cheeseburgers.There were two bands performing live during the event as well, and after the keg competition we sat on the ground in front of the stage and listened to the music with other festival-goers. The first band seemed to be more of background noise to everything else, but the second band— a reggae style— had everyone dancing along. Though the event was centered around beer, it was very kid-friendly, and families seemed to be the most common of the attendees. There were many children’s activities, including a rock climbing wall, face painting, a mechanical shark, a bounce house, and an arts and crafts station. There were also many local vendors selling souvenirs and apparel, including funny graphic t-shirts that went along with the event, like a bear hugging a mug of beer saying “Beer Hug.” Because it was halloween weekend, many people were wearing costumes, which were judged in a costume contest at the end of the festival along with the awards ceremony for the keg competition, though we weren’t there to see the results.
The Brewtag also had a record number of 25 breweries in attendance, housed at their own tables under a large white tent. At the entrance to the festival you were able to purchase a punch card for 20 dollars each, good for either four beers or 12 beer tastings. The breweries had IPAs, blonde brews, ciders, etc. There was something for everyone, and there were large crowds underneath the tent for the entirety of the festival.
It was the third annual OBX Brewtag, and after talking to other festival-goers, it seemed that it was the best, despite a disagreement about whether the competition was cancelled the year before due to a hurricane. Some argued that it was, but others claimed that was a different weekend, and that the show did in fact go on. This year, though, the weather was warm, the music was great, and the entertainment was definitely unique. All in all, the OBX Brewtag was a great time and I would definitely recommend it to anyone heading to the Outer Banks during the off-season!