Public House at NC State Fair served up NC wine & craft beer

The brand new Public House at the N.C. State Fairgrounds will now feature local craft beer and wine.

The brand new Public House at the N.C. State Fairgrounds will now feature local craft beer and wine.

By Jennifer Primrose and Dathan Kazsuk

It was back in August, during an inaugural event to kick of N.C. Wine Month, North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture, Steve Troxler, announced that wine and beer flights would be available to purchase inside the state fair. The first time in 150 years! We were shocked.

Not because we want to venture to the fair to drink, but because the industry is finally beginning to get some of the attention it deserves. With how much money flows into this state via the wine and beer industries, we're surprised it actually took this long to happen.

And as talk of the fair drew closer, we started reading comments on various platforms – which varied from one extreme to the other. Everything from, "I can't wait," to "This is the worst idea ever." Concerns about public intoxication, throwing up on rides with the addition of beer and wine was going to bring out the rowdy folks to reap ruckus upon the fair's Midway – bringing destruction and chaos.

We were rather perplexed to say the least. Let's hope that those who might have doubted the new addition had an opportunity to check out the Our State magazine's Public House, and were not only able to sample what this state has to offer, but also realize this was not in any way a "bar" atmosphere, but a gathering place to celebrate North Carolina's libations.

And this one goes out to you - the skeptics. This was a controlled setting. Everyone was carded upon entry, had to get their wrist stamped, checked again by an officer on duty, and you are only allowed one flight per person, per day. The beer flights were four samples, poured into 3-ounce cups. And for the wine, four 1.5-ounce pours. So essentially the equivalent of a 12-ounce pint of beer and one 6-ounce glass of wine. No one is getting drunk here – move along. There's nothing to see here!

As far as our review of the Public House, we can only give a review the evening that we attended and what was available to purchase on that Tuesday evening.

The beer selection was pretty weak the evening we arrived. I was considering the "Hoppy" flight, but wasn't keen on two of the beers in the flight, and the other two I've had many times. The "Dark" flight was on my mind from the beginning, but by 6:30 p.m. that evening, that flight was officially sold out. I usually feel "Light" beers aren't worth the price of admission, so I went with the "Sampler." This sampler had a Pilsner, Pale Ale, Brown Ale and Gose - hailing from Ponysaurus, Uptown Brewing, Yester Years and Tarboro Brewing Company, respectively. I liked the diversity, but the beers were a little bit of a let down. Ponysaurus was a nice, light beer, and actually felt like it belonged in the Public House on a night like this. Uptown's pale ale was just that - a pale ale. Nothing bad about it. But then again, nothing great. 

The Brown from Yester Years had a cool name, Münster Mash, but fell flat on taste. My favorite of the night was the Seed Spitter Watermelon Gose from Tarboro. The taste of the beer hit the spot, but the smell was like rotten watermelon rinds. So I had to hold my breath while drinking all this one. With over 40 breweries taking part in the week-long festivities, I'm sure many were able to pick up a great flight of beer – it just wasn't in the cards for me this time around.

My greatest fear became true when I perused the wine flight selections. Muscadine. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it just is not my taste in wine. It's way too sweet. There are so many other amazing wine varietals in our state that I was hoping for more variety that night. Also, as “NC Wine” bloggers, we try our best to help spread the word about our own NC wine country and the variety that this state offers, so to see this lack of diversity in the flight options was disappointing. There were four flights to choose from. The sweet flight I did not even look at the list knowing I am not a sweet wine drinker. The white wine flight I considered, but decided on this cool Fall evening, I just wasn’t feeling like white wine. The sampler intrigued me, but it wasn’t all wine? It was a red Muscadine and three ciders. Now I love my ciders, but I felt like ciders and meads should have their own area and let the wine shine. I was hoping for the sampler to be a white, a rosé and two reds. So, I went to my favorites – the red and rosé flight. I knew what I was getting into but still remained disappointed. And this is why. A flight of four reds; two Muscadine and two drier reds. I drank in order that they were given which meant the Muscadine first. If you’re thinking, so what? I’ll tell you. Coming off the sweet Muscadine to the Childress Three Red Blend did not make this wine taste good. I knew I had tried this wine in the past and was initially surprised by the taste. By the time I got to the last one, the Grove Winery 2014 Estate Block Red Blend, it was starting to finally taste a little more of what was intended.

In years past, and continues today, there are also wineries represented pouring small samples in … the Horse Complex.  We made our way over just as they were packing up for the night. We were able to try some Chatham Hill wines – a Malbec and a spiced wine warmed to perfection and perfect for the upcoming holidays. Not to sound like a snobbish wine aficionado, but why have these wineries feature their wines in a place that – for lack of a better sentiment – smells like horses?  What are the 5 S’s of wine tasting again?  See, Swirl, SMELL, Sip and Savor. I’ll leave that here.

So, as we bid adieu to the 2017 North Carolina State Fair, our thoughts on the new Our State Public House … we actually do give this new venue two thumbs up! It may not sound like it from our critical review, but it’s time this industry was given the attention it so rightfully deserves.

We look forward to 2018 and hopefully options that better suite our discriminating palates!