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Whenever breweries hold a tasting at a bar or bottle shop or wherever, it’s usually wide-open to the public. And it involves some sort of high-end, heavily-casked beer that is run dry before you can even put your kids to bed and sprint out of the house. Olde Hickory’s event at Busy Bee this past Thursday night is a perfect example of how to change that.

Instead of opening up the event to the general public, the Bee sold tickets ahead of time ($25 plus Eventbrite fees) and at the door ($30) to ensure the supply of Omega Point, OH’s powerful beast of a barleywine, wouldn’t disappear before paying customers showed up.

Those who bought tickets were treated with a trip upstairs to the Hive where five different Olde Hickory beers were on tap. Omega Point was the highlight of the drafts, but the Hickory-based brewery also offered 2014’s Event Horizon (bourbon-barrel-aged stout), 2014’s Lindley Park (raspberry-infused stout), Daniel Boone (imperial brown), Table Rock (pale ale) and the Hefe-weizen.

A ticket got you three different 8-ounce pours of your choice, a surprisingly impressive group of food choices and a delightful, low-key ambience fueled by a bluegrass band.

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The Beer

Olde Hickory crushed it with their selections for the most part. Let’s rank them because lists are fun.

1. Omega Point — Far and away the winner here. The headliner for the metaphorical concert here didn’t disappoint, playing all the hits, and cranking out a great encore. It’s a dark blend of barleywines with a perfect easy flavor and the sort of ABV impact that sends you swimming after just a single glass.

2. Lindley Park — Surprised myself here! I went with the raspberry and honey infused stout as my third beer for the sole purpose of pairing it with the almond/raspberry cakes being passed around. I chose … wisely. The cakes were delicious and paired perfectly with the luscious, fruit-bomb flavors of the Lindley.

3. Event Horizon — A delicious stout staple from Olde Hickory, the latest version of this beer is better than last year’s. And not just because of the improved label.

4. Daniel Boone — Lighter than I expected, but with plenty of kick (8.5% ABV), this felt less like a brown ale, per se, probably because of the company I involved it with. Smash any sort of ale between a few powerful beers and it’s going to lose some of its kick. Nice flavors however. Nothing wrong with finishing fourth on this list.

(Didn’t try the Table Rock or Hefeweizen because I’ve had them and also, you know, Omega Point was there. I’d go 5 and 6, respectively, for them if I had to.)

The Food

Busy Bee shattered expectations with the grub they provided. The Carolina Pearl Oysters had a caramel black pepper mignonette on top that was absolutely to die for; you got the taste of a fresh, local oyster topped off with this rush of flavors that left you wanting to eat 40 or 50 of them. Olde Hickory beer cheese (made with Table Rock) was sitting on top of a fried pork rind. The Beef Tartare was extremely well done. And the Raleigh City Bruschetta might’ve been the star, featuring local ingredients including chopped radishes.

Long story short, excellent food combined with high-end beer is always fun. When you limit the rush of people who are showing up by going with tickets, it provides a level of exclusivity that really makes it more of a special event.

People might balk at dropping $30, but if you go somewhere for three hours, eat hors-d’oeuvres for dinner, steal some dessert and have three beers (they were pouring generously too, we should add) you’re dropping that anyway. Someone desperate to drink Omega Point can sneak in or out of an event under $10, but there was plenty left over.

Not every event and/or tapping is going to work like this. But the next time you see someone selling tix beforehand for an event like this don’t get scared, get excited.

 

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