Thousands To Sample Southern Staples At Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival

By Miriah Hamrick, posted Mar 1, 2023
Between three and five whole hogs will be prepared for the Shrine of Swine at Wilmington’s annual Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival. (Photo courtesy of Drink Eat Relax Events)
Wilmington’s Riverfront Park will host about 3,000 people on March 11, all gathered in celebration of some of the South’s most revered culinary traditions: barbecue and bourbon.
This year marks the fifth year that Wilmington has hosted the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival, an event currently slated to take place in eight different East Coast cities. The festival was first dreamed up by Greg Nivens of Drink Eat Relax Events as a way to quell his homesickness when he moved from North Carolina to Baltimore.
“I didn’t have any of the things I love like sweet tea, barbecue, pimento cheese and bourbon,” Nivens said.
In addition to the opportunity to showcase the Southern cuisine he missed, Nivens envisioned the event as a fun opportunity for people to sample new products and make more informed decisions about what to buy and enjoy at home.  
“When you go to the liquor store, there’s all these bourbons on the shelf and you have no idea how they taste. So I thought if I created an event where people could come in and try all these different bourbons, then they would be able to make an educated guess on what they’re buying,” Nivens said.
Beer was added as a complement to the lineup of Southern classics, he added.
“We threw beer in there as well because it’s a good chaser for the bourbon,” Nivens said.
A souvenir sampling glass is included with each admission, and the event’s website boasts more than 60 beers and 40 bourbons to sample on-site. Nivens said the numbers are usually closer to 70 beers and 60 bourbons, and the list of options changes from year to year.
“We’re always trying to bring hot new bourbons, hot new beers, hot new things so that people can taste and try it, and they can go home and buy it there and they’re not wasting money,” he said.
Five barbecue vendors will provide food, and between them, Nivens promised enough variety to satiate any specific appetites within the wide world of barbecue.
“They offer everything from brisket to ribs, chicken to pulled pork, and everything in between,” Nivens said.
Whole hogs will also be prepared at the event. Once the pigs finish their stint in the smoker, the meat is moved to the Shrine of Swine for pig pickings.
“We parade them from the smoker up to the shrine, and then we sacrifice them,” Nivens said.
Live music, lawn games like cornhole and giant Jenga, and tasting seminars provide entertainment for attendees in-between sessions of sampling provisions.
The Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival will take place from 2-6 p.m. on March 11 for those with general admission tickets, which cost $39. Nivens said the Wilmington event typically sells out about two weeks in advance. For more information about the event, visit their website.
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