The Queen City Craft Distillers Showcase is Behind the Bar’s inaugural three-day event and begins next Friday, Aug. 18. It’s a chance for Charlotteans to mix and mingle with representatives from local and national distilleries, learn about various craft spirit brands and try new cocktails while supporting nonprofit organizations.

DiSean Burns and Frank Walton founded Behind the Bar, a nonprofit organization, with two goals in mind: Introduce or reacquaint consumers to craft spirits and raise money for Charlotte’s restaurant service industry.

According to Burns, this is just the beginning for Charlotte. He foresees this event becoming as large as BevCon in Charleston (think Comic Con).

“Shakers and movers from all across the industry get together to promote, educate and spread the gospel about the different facets of the food and beverage industry,” he said of BevCon.

Burns thinks the Charlotte community is ready to expand its knowledge to include spirits.

“We find a lack of education on the consumer and industry side as it pertains to spirits,” he said. “This is a great way of filling a niche that is not available in our market and raising a lot of money for charitable purposes.”

Events in Charlotte begin at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18 at Stoke Bar at Charlotte Marriott City Center with a Meet the Distillers Cocktail Hour.

Burns said, “You are able to get in front of the people who are putting the juice in the bottle. It’s a great opportunity to get intimate with those individuals. You get to sip, savor and repeat with the person who makes the juice and ask them all kinds of questions.”

QC Distillers Showcase Expo at C3 Lab in South End on Saturday, Aug. 19 will feature more than 25 local, regional and national vendors from the artisanal craft spirit brands. It runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with giveaways and a dessert bar. Guests may sample products from North Carolina brands like Muddy River Distillery in Belmont, Southern Grace Distilleries in Mt. Pleasant, Outerbanks Distilling in Manteo and Pinetop Distillery in Raleigh.

Back Bar Takeover at uptown’s Tilt on Trade promises to be a party atmosphere starting at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 19.

The showcase closes with a Sunday Brunch Social at 204 North Kitchen and Cocktails from noon until 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 20. DJ Jamie Overcash will play rhythm and blues and top 40 music.

Proceeds from the weekend’s events will be donated to national nonprofit organizations, CORE and United States Bartender’s Guild (USBG), and designated for North Carolina families. CORE supports the children of the food and beverage employees after a life changing event. USBG provides advocacy and education to promote collaboration and career advancement for bartenders. Burns’ goal is to raise $20,000 for CORE and the local Charlotte chapter of USBG. Titos Vodka will match up to $5,000.

This fundraising effort is close to Burns’ heart. He’s worked in restaurants since he was 19 years old. Later, when he worked at a national insurance company, he approached the people he knew in the service industry about selling them insurance. He quickly realized that restaurant and bar service professionals could not afford health care.

“I realized just how terribly underserved and underappreciated our industry was on that side of things as far as health care, insurance and things of that nature,” Burns said.

Behind the Bar is his way of raising awareness and highlighting the needs of this community of restaurant and bar employees.

Tickets may be purchased through the Behind the Bar event website. Individual event tickets are $20 and the VIP package is $60 for all four events. Two drink tickets are included for the Meet the Distillers Cocktail Hour, Back Bar Takeover and Brunch Social. Drink samples will be given out by vendors at the QC Distiller’s Showcase Expo. Light food will be complimentary at the Friday night event and Sunday Brunch.

Photos: Courtesy of DiSean Burns, Mollie Mathis/Charlotte Observer

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