My experience at the second annual Bull City Food and Beer Experience

This past Christmas, I received a gift from my wife: tickets to the Bull City Food and Beer Experience.

I had no real idea what the event was going to be like, beyond (correctly) guessing that it probably involved food and beer. The event wasn’t cheap – something like 80 bucks a pop – which gets you in the door, where they hand you a tiny little glass.

With that, you can get about exactly as drunk and full of food as you’d care to be.

It would be easy to misunderstand this event as a sort of clone of the World Beer Festival, but that’s not really what’s going on. The BCF&BE is deployed (mostly) in the lobbies at the DPAC; this year there were thirty restaurants crammed into the two main lobby areas. The entry level lobby was reserved for VIPS (read: not me) but had some extra stuff, I guess.

The “deal” with the festival is that each of the thirty restaurants was paired with a microbrewery, and they were tasked with coming up with winning combinations of food and beer. Some pairs took this a bit more seriously than others; the Washing Duke, for example, actually incorporated its partner beer into the dish. Most breweries had multiple beers on tap, and some would point you toward the beer that they felt went best with the food. In a lot of cases, though, there didn’t seem to be a lot of coordination – still tasty, but the pairings seemed a bit less deliberate.

I did some napkin math, and at roughly 3 ounces per station, if you tried every pairing you’d consume a respectable 90 ounces of beer. That’s about 7 or 8 beers’ worth, which clocks in at roughly 1125 calories. For the food, I’d reckon about 75 calories per station, give or take, so another 2250 calories, bringing your total to a respectable 3375 calories.

Not an event for those watching their weight, I’d say.

There’s no way I can really do the event justice; there were far too many things going on to describe them all. Most of the restaurants were really good, and I got a chance to try a lot of new (to me) beer.

My favorite bite of the evening probably goes to the WaDuke: some kind of insanely good meat pretzel thing. Also extra bonus points for incorporating the beer into the sauce (and explaining the dish well).

Most “true to the restaurant experience” award clearly goes to Salt Box, which showed up, served delicious food for a little bit to the lucky people who happened to be there at the time, and then promptly closed down before many attendees (myself included) had a chance to grab any.

This event also provided a rare chance to step up on the stage of the DPAC, as some breweries were stationed up there before the Q&A panel punted them (and the crowd) out of the way. The panel itself featured representatives from several of NC’s local breweries, and it was unfortunately rather poorly attended. If I had to change one thing about the event, I’d probably put the Q&A earlier in the night, then starting service afterward. As it was, people were still eating and drinking rather than listening.

All in all, it was pretty sweet! The DPAC proved a surprisingly capable venue for this sort of usage, and it was well worth the cost. I’d definitely recommend it, and hope to hit it back up next year.

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