BrewTag battle yields record-setting beer flight

By on October 29, 2019

By Kip Tabb

A perfect launch by Team Late For Work and a shattering of the old world record for beer keg flight. (Kip Tabb)

For the Fifth Annual BrewTag at Nags Head on Saturday Oct. 26, conditions seemed as good as they could be. There was a steady breeze from the east; the temperatures hovered around 70. The beer was flowing; the Kid’s Zone was filled with kids; and the music was great.

All of it designed to answer the one burning question — if mankind can fly, why not beer?

BrewTag is a competition like no other. The object is for a team to construct a glider that will, with a small keg strapped to its frame, soar into history from a 20-foot tower.

A key point — the kegs are empty. Probably because it would make the kegs too heavy, or even more likely, because no one wants to chance wasting that much beer.

Team Toy Story 4 revving the crowd up. Teams were encouraged to celebrate their flight. Toy Story 4 took home top honors in team spirit. (Kip Tabb)

There were 15 teams this year — a record number of contestants. Some were spectacularly unsuccessful — the 2019 shortest flight was 12’6,” barely edging out the second-shortest flight at 12’7”.

Kitty Hawk Kites sponsored and organized the event and Kitty Hawk Kites owner John Harris explained why it is so difficult. “It’s really hard for the team to launch at the right angle of attack,” he said.

Launch too high and too much air gets under the wings and the nose lifts straight into the air in a stall. Gliders cannot recover from that. Too low, and the aircraft plummets earthward ending its life in a frame-shattering crash.

But…get the angle of attack right on a day like Saturday, and there is real competition.

Team Blue Crab Tavern, representing the bar perched along Colington Road, showed their skill. Their 66’4” flight was a new world record for beer keg flight and the team celebrated with abandon.

The joy was short-lived.

Three flights later, Team Late For Work smashed the Blue Crab Tavern record with a flight of 96’7”, a distance that left even the experts stunned

“I wasn’t surprised by the 66’4” flight. We’ve had flights in that range before. I was surprised by the 96’7.” I was very surprised by that,” Harris said.

The Bruce Goose takes flight. (Kip Tabb)

One of the more pleasant moments of the day was the flight of the Bruce Goose, named for Bruce Weaver who was VP of Recreation for Kitty Hawk Kites until he and his wife moved to Colorado earlier this year.

The glider, designed by Weaver and patterned after the Wright Brothers biplane design, has flown every year, but never very successfully.  The fifth time, evidently, was the charm

It didn’t set a record, but it’s grace in flight and soft perfect landing was beautiful.

“It did fly well. That one surprised me, that it did have such a good flight. It always had the potential for that,” Harris said.

For all the fun, BrewTag is a fundraiser, and this year especially what was raised will have an impact on people’s lives.

In the past the Rogallo Foundation has been the beneficiary of BrewTag. A NASA engineer, Francis Rogallo, with his wife Gertrude, invented the Rogallo wing that is used in hang gliding, paragliding and modern parachutes. The goal of the Rogallo Foundation is to preserve his papers and research as well as publicizing a remarkable life.

“He would have really gotten into it. He would have been excited by the designs, people’s approaches,” Harris observed.

This year, though, because of the needs in Ocracoke, half of the proceeds will be going to disaster relief there.

A final figure is not yet available, but Harris is confident it will be the most ever raised.

“We hope to report a really good number by the end of the week,” he said. “It will definitely be better than all the years past.”

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