Illustrated by Untappd’s “Trending Places” column on Monday, Rockfish Seafood Grill in Durham, North Carolina, was the place to be for craft beer enthusiasts. Why was this unassuming seafood restaurant at The Streets at Southpoint so popular? Again, look no further than Untappd and its “Trending Beers” section—casked brews from Haw River Farmhouse Ales, Mystery Brewing, and Steel String Brewery were all checked-in from one place, due in no small part to Rockfish’s General Manager Michael Hayek.
On Monday, October 24, 2011, Rockfish hosted “Casks for a Cure,” a fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen Foundation that featured casks from North Carolina’s three newest breweries-in-the-making. From social media chatter, blog posts, and word-of-mouth, Hayek knew that the event was going to be well-attended, but he did not imagine that over 215 craft beer lovers from around the Triangle area would descend upon his restaurant and bar on a Monday night for the chance not only to sample new North Carolina beer, but to support the fight against breast cancer.
Upon arriving to the charity event, attendees were greeted by Rockfish employees in pink Rockfish t-shirts, the same shirts that came with a $10 donation to the Komen Foundation. Further, attendees received a plastic sampling cup and a sheet of paper that listed the Twitter handles of the three breweries that brought casks to the event. The casks were set up in the outdoor patio area of the restaurant, where beer fans were free to roam from station to station while sampling brews and talking to the attending brewers.
Ben Woodward and Dawyna Bohager of Haw River Farmhouse Ales in Saxapahaw donated a cask of their Winter Harvest Dark Saison that was appropriately named for its ingredients that are now in season—pumpkin, butternut and acorn squash, sweet potatoes, honey, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and allspice. Attendees must have similarly shared in the appropriateness of Haw River’s casked beer in the cool weather because it was the first to run out during the course of the night.
Also on the patio that night, Erik Lars Myers and Chris Shields of Mystery Brewing in Hillsborough brought two casks—Gentlemen’s Preference, a blond ale that was steeped with hibiscus flowers, and Thornfield’s End, a brown ale aged on smoked bourbon chips with vanilla. Fans appeared to be particularly surprised about the bright pink color of Gentlemen’s Preference—a toast, thanks to the hibiscus, in support of the fight against breast cancer.
Similarly supporting the cause, Steel String in Carrboro served samples of their black wheat ale made with cocoa nibs at the other end of the patio. Attendees seemed to congregate around Steel String’s cask, waiting for a chance to talk with the brewers from the Triangle’s newest player in the craft beer community at their largest public serving to date.
While the outdoor patio was crowded, lines for the casks were never long as beer lovers mingled and chatted about the brews they sampled, often referring to each other by their Twitter handles. As a further testament to the presence of social media at the charity event, Larry Jones, a beer and cigar enthusiast from Knightdale, set up his iPad at the bar and entered the details for all four beers on hand into Untappd to allow attendees to check-in and comment on the brews they tasted.
In addition to the donated casks, Rockfish offered free hors d’oeuvres, such as chips and spinach dip, to attendees. The restaurant’s full food and bar menus were also available, which included drafts of Olde Hickory’s Death by Hops, New Belgium’s Snow Day, and a bourbon barrel-aged version of Thirsty Dog’s Siberian Night.
Though the fundraiser had started only at 6:00 p.m., Hayek declared that by 7:40 p.m., over $2,000 had been raised for the Komen Foundation. Attempting to be heard above the excited crowd, he then announced the winners of the raffle items that were donated by local businesses such as Bottle Revolution, TJ’s Beverage and Tobacco, Fullsteam, and Big Boss.
As the event came to a close, some attendees stayed at Rockfish to enjoy dinner and a rare pint of Siberian Night, while others journeyed home, pleased to have been some of the first to try beers from North Carolina’s newest breweries, all in the name of a great cause. Perhaps the happiest person of the evening, however, was Hayek, who raised over $2,400 for the fight against breast cancer by simply doing what he enjoys with the North Carolina beer community that he loves. By the next morning, he had already started planning his next charity beer event with a rather ambitious goal—”mak[ing] the next one better!”
Casks for a Cure photos