Sunday, January 23, 2011

Two Beer Events in One Week

This has been a very good week in the world of beer for both Atlanta GA and Asheville NC.

On Thursday, January 20th we went to the Taco Mac in Kennesaw for the introduction of the California brewery Lost Abbey in Georgia. I learned about Lost Abbey earlier this year when there was some controversy surrounding their summer beer, Witch's Wit.  Throughout the online discussions, I often wondered whether or not the beer was worth all of the attention.  I had wanted to try it, but it wasn't yet available in Georgia, until this past week.

We met some friends at the Kennesaw restaurant and enjoyed dinner and conversation.  Then we dove headfirst into the beer selections.  The bar had several available on tap and a few bottles.  I tried the Lost Abbey Red Barn at first and honestly I didn't really like it.  That wasn't because it was a bad beer, but because it had flavors that I don't prefer.  It is a Belgian style beer with a lot of complexity, but it was heavy with the hops and I'm not a friend of hops. I want to be able to understand the intense flowery taste of hops more, but this beer featured more than my palate could really handle.  In fact, the taste was so strong it lingered after I finished this beer and may have affected my taste of the second beer that I tried. 

Which brings me to that second beer.  I had read about Gift of The Magi back in November and was quite intrigued.  It is brewed with Frankincense and Myrrh for Christmastime.  I wasn't sure if that would be gimmicky or good, so I really wanted to experience it.  As I said before, I'm not certain I got the full flavor profile because the Red Barn affected my taste buds, but I did enjoy the beer.  It was a spicy Belgian style beer that I believe lived up to my expectations.

However, the winning beer of the evening was the Couvee de Tomme which was enjoyed by two of my bar-going companions, Emily and Robin.  As you can see, Emily endorses it highly.   It is a strong wild ale with a heavy secondary fermentation with cherries which made it taste, as my friend's described, like a really good cherry wine.  Lost Abbey does consider several of their beers to be more wine-like than traditional beer, so I can see where this fit that description.  I tried several sips of the beer and while it was fruitier than I typically like my beer to be these days I can agree it is a very good fruit beer.  It is exactly the kind of beer I would have liked when I first started exploring lambics.

The second beer themed event that I attended this week was the Winter Warmer Beer Festival in Asheville.  On Saturday, Matt and I left for Asheville and arrived in town in time for lunch, which we enjoyed at the Twisted Crape.    From there we made our way to the Civic Center for the festival. The event had sold out, but we got there pretty early and were near the front of the entrance line.  Matt and I were both wearing our knitted Beer Hats, which as a side note we had no less than 4 comments on throughout the event.  We even pointed someone to our friend Susan's knitting website and told her to leave a comment about the hats because she wanted a pattern to knit one for herself. 

At the festival were all breweries from the South East.  Mostly North and South Carolina, two breweries from Tennessee and one from Georgia.  I make no excuses when I say that "Local Beer" is my favorite kind of beer.  I love local beer because it is typically the freshest available.  I love tasting local beer wherever I go.  There were some definite highlights.  We tried to start out with beer that we hadn't had before so we purposefully skipped over several of the Asheville breweries.  We had heard about a German-style brewery from Sylva, NC called Heinzelmannchen.  I had their Black Forest Stout which was a crisp beer with caramel and coffee flavors.  We also tried Lonerider from Raleigh.  Matt really liked their Peacemaker Pale Ale and I liked their Sweet Josie Brown.  The real star of the beer festival for us was a Tennessee brewery called Yazoo.  Matt had their Sue and I tried their Sly Rye Porter, which we shared tastes of with each other.  Both beers were premium examples of their styles.  We talked with one of the guys from Yazoo and asked them where they were located (Nashville) and where they were distributed.  He said they didn't distribute at all and the only reason they come to the Asheville beer festivals is because they love the people and the city and it is just fun for them.  I would definitely check out Yazoo if we find ourselves in Nashville. 

Once we had tried several new beers, we went back to some of the breweries that we were already familiar with.  Duck Rabbit Milk Stout is one of my favorite beers, so I couldn't pass that up.  Atlanta brewery SweetWater did not have any of the beers that I like so I tried their flagship beer, 420.  It is a pale ale and as I have mentioned I have not yet cultivated a relationship with hops.  I wanted to try more hoppy beers this year even if in the end I determine that I don't like them.  420 is not bad.  It isn't as hoppy as other beers I have tried and it is all around drinkable. I don't think I would have it a lot, but I might try it again.  However, out of the tried-and-true breweries I have to say I enjoyed Pisgah Porter the best.  This led to a discussion of what makes a really good beer.  One of the reasons I like Pisgah Porter so much is that no matter where I am when I taste that beer I know it is Pisgah beer.  It tasted like Black Mountain NC.  It has some IT-factor that I am not sure I can define.  We came to the conclusion that the flavor is actually "Consistency", but I think it might actually be, as cliche as it sounds, "Love."  Of course, we tried a lot of other beers as well but these are the ones I wanted to share here. 

All of the beer events this week were a lot of fun as well as an educational exploration of beer styles and brands.  This is why I love the art of beer.

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