Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Oh the places you'll go...with beer!

Quitting my job and moving to Asheville to pursue writing full time has proven to be most advantageous. Among my favorite new projects is writing for the Asheville Beer City Guide.  Seriously, check it out!

I began my exploration of all that Beer Week has to offer by starting the day at Mellow Mushroom. At 11am Tuesday they offered specials on Southern Tier; all two styles available. I enjoyed a 2XIPA, but that wasn’t the most exciting part of the experience. Talking to a colorful gentleman visiting from Atlanta about jail and leather bondage gear was way more fun. There is no limit to the things you might discuss with strangers in Asheville.

There are several more projects that I am very excited about and I can't wait to share them with you!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

First Big Asheville Beer Adventure

I just moved to the Asheville area on Wednesday, May 9th. The move had been planned, to one degree or another, for about three years so it is super exciting to actually be here and settled in.  You can read about that adventure here.

Now that we're here, we decided to spend our first Saturday on a grand beer adventure to the great city of Black Mountain NC, home of Pisgah Brewing.

The day actually started out pretty early with a trip to the Asheville City Market - a farmer's market. We had signed up for a CSA before our move and this was the first day they would be set up at the market. It started at 8am but we figured we'd get there around 9ish, so we did.  But once we were out we didn't want to go back home.  We put our findings in a cooler and made our way out to Black Mountain.

The town is only about 20 minutes east of Asheville so it didn't take long. We parked in the little downtown area and just wandered about. We stopped at a couple little shops including the general store and then just kept walking until lunchtime. At this point, we found a new place called Trailhead.  It is owned, in part, by one of the owners of Pisgah Brewing so they had a lot of Pisgah beers on tap. We sat down, ordered a beer and some food.  Matt got the Pisgah Pale, a beer that is pretty popular in this area.  I ordered the Riverbend Brown. But out of curiosity, we couldn't pass up a tap labeled "Bacon". I'll tell you a little more about this beer soon, but when we tried a small sample glass as Trailhead we were surprised that is was kind of good. I'm not a fan of smokey beers, which seem to be very popular these days. In fact, I have written about how much I disliked smokey beers in the past. I wouldn't drink a pint of the Pisgah bacon, but it really wasn't that bad.

After lunch, we found a little walking path around a lake near the downtown area and went for a stroll. The ultimate endgame for the afternoon was to end up at Pisgah's tasting room but it was too early right after lunch to head out that way. We walked and talked and enjoyed the slightly overcast day in the mountains. We started to make our way toward the brewery, but since we had only been there once over a year ago, we couldn't precisely remember how to get there.  So we drove around a lot, mostly making wrong turns. Eventually we called for directions and finally we made it to the brewery.  We bellied up to the bar and each ordered an IPA when a gentleman walked up to us to let us know a tour was about to happen. Awesome! As soon as we got our beers we caught the back of the tour line and walked into the belly of the beast.

As a home brewer, small commercial breweries fascinate me. While I use couple pounds of malts, I love to see the bags and bags and bags lining the walls of a production facility.  We were told that they muscle all of the grains by hand into the mill and then into the mash tun.  You could tell from the tour that Pisgah was truly a labor of love.  And what makes Pisgah truly unique is that everything they brew is certified organic.  And that, my friends, is why it tastes so damn delicious.

It was at this tour that we learned more about the Bacon Stout. They used a chocolate stout base but added 60 pounds of USDA certified organic bacon to the secondary fermentation. Yes, you read that right. Real, actual, bacon. They seasoned and smoked it up before adding it to the beer process and then let it do the magic.  When it was ready, everyone at the brewery tried a glass and quickly realized that while it wasn't bad it was also about half grease. They let the beer sit a little longer until the grease separated out and then it was ready for the public. 

I failed to get the name of our tour guide, but he was very informative and fun to listen to.  I was glad we accidentally stumbled in right as the tour started.  Because it is a pretty small brewery, the presentation didn't last too long so we were able to sit in the outdoor area for a while enjoying our beers.

We eventually made it back to Asheville and stopped at Barley's Tap Room for some pizza and a couple more local beers - this time favorites from French Broad. We were still back at our little mountain home before dark to put away our stash from the farmer's market and settle in for the night.
The beer scene in Asheville is super inspiring. Lots of fun events coming up, including the Beer City Festival in just a couple of weeks. I suspect that this sadly neglected blog will be getting some additional attention now that we live in Beer City USA.