WEST JEFFERSON — After almost a year of planning, the Blue Ridge BBQ & Brew Festival is finally upon Ashe County Friday and Saturday, Aug. 30 and 31. With 26 competitive cook teams and a host of breweries and distilleries at the Blue Ridge Theater and Events Center, the event will be the largest of its kind in North Carolina.

The event is serving as the official N.C. State Barbecue Championship, after the closing of the Blue Ridge BBQ Festival, which was held annually in Tryon. Initially just a hope for the event, organizer James Killian has a signed proclamation from Governor Roy Cooper for proof of the festival’s importance.

Killian said the planning and organization of the event has been tough, but ultimately the payoff will be worth it. He said the event will bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars to the county, as well as start an annual event like no other in Ashe.

Making its debut at the festival will not be a team or just the event itself, but a new beer from New River Brewing. Under the working titles of Killian’s Reaper, Don’t Fear the Reaper and Don’t Beer the Reaper, the beer is a collaboration with the West Jefferson-based brewery and Killian himself. It uses carolina reaper peppers grown in Killian’s garden, molasses and other ingredients to create a beer with a kick.

NRB brewer Adam Hershner said he used a tablespoon of the pureed peppers for the 30 gal. batch they will debut. He also made a tea from the dried peppers, mixing that in as well, to bring out some of the natural, fruity flavors the pepper masks with its spices. Even though it was not finished at the time, still needing to be carbonated, Hershner said he was really happy with how it has turned out. Whether or not the brewery continues with it and adds it to their menu, Hershner said that will be left up to the customers.

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