Monday, September 30, 2013

Bell's Oktoberfest at Jack of Hearts in Weaverville

It is so great to go to just about any bar in town and be able to find at least one or two Autumn beers on tap.

It really is Bell's, not Oskar Blues! 
Last week, at Jack of Hearts in Weaverville, I was able to enjoy a pint of Bell's Oktoberfest.

Bell's Brewery is based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which is where Matt and I both went to college. I like to consider Bell's my first craft brewery even though I didn't drink beer at the time. My sister still lives in the area so I get to visit there frequently.

Bell's Oktoberfest is clean, light, and refreshing. But the "refreshing-ness" might actually be its downfall. Bell's is known for its full bodied beers. Even their flagship wheat beer, Oberon, is robust, rich, and flavorful, and very different from most wheat beers. The Bell's Oktoberfest is good enough and certainly drinkable but it isn't their best brew by a long shot.

Even though Bell's is brewed in Michigan they have a pretty expansive distribution area and you should be able to find Bell's Oktoberfest in several bars around Asheville and throughout the South East. And Midwest. And, for some strange reason, Arizona. Happy Drinking! 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Highland Brewery's Clawhammer Oktoberfest

Asheville has a ton of great beer. It is really hard to pick one favorite. In fact, it is so hard I rarely try to take a stand for one single beer because as soon as I do, I discover something else that blows my mind. While I was writing for a local beer blog I was often tasked with declaring the best beer at each brewery I reviewed. Highland, an Asheville staple, as the easiest for me to determine. It isn't just one beer that is their best but all of their seasonals. Throughout the year, Highland has several amazing offerings that simply make your mouth water at the very thought of them.

Highland's Autumn Seasonal is no exception.

I offer exhibit A: Clawhammer Oktoberfest.

It is only the beginning of the season but I am making sure to get my fill before it disappears. In fact, as we were out to see a Football game on Sunday the bar was already out of the Clawhammer that they had only tapped two days before. And we were ordering beers at 1pm! Trust me, it really is that good. Check it out for yourself.

Along with the clean, crisp lager taste, Clawhammer also incorporates some fall spiciness to the mix.This added personality gives it a slightly different spin on the typical Oktoberfest beer. Try it while you still can! 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Green Man Brewery's Harvester

My Asheville amble of autumn ales is awesome!

See what I did there.

Dark and mysterious....
Well, anyway. I recently found myself at Green Man Brewery or, as locals like to call it, Dirty Jack's. It is called that because of their original relationship with Jack of the Wood, one of the Asheville's most popular bars. Dirty Jack's is a tucked away in an area that is now called the South Slope but use to be way off the beaten path. Because of the location it tends to be populated primarily by locals on most nights but visitors are discovering it more and more.

While I was there I stuck to my goal of trying the autumn seasonals so I ordered the Green Man Harvester. I didn't even ask what it was I just figured it would be delicious. Turns out it is an Oktoberfest and a delightful example of one, I might add.

This lager was light and refreshing but with all of the richness that I love about a good Oktoberfest. I recall having some Green Man Oktoberfest last year but this seemed different. It isn't unusual for brewers to continuously tweak their recipes from year to year. If you're in the area I definitely recommend trying this years Harvester.

Don't worry - there are tons more autumn ales and lagers for me to try before the season passes. And, if I am on a roll, I'll keep going with the winter seasonals!  I love drinking beer seasonally. It really makes me feel connected to the cycles and the community.

What Autumn Seasonals are you enjoying right now? 

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Good Luck Trolley that Never Was

Here we are not getting on the trolley.
On Friday, September 13th, Matt and I headed downtown to join the Asheville Blogger Society on a special Friday The 13th trolley tour to the Oskar Blues Brewery in Brevard. As we neared the corner where the bloggers waited to board the big red trolley we knew there had to be a problem.

The trolley wasn't running.

Before our Friday the 13th adventure even started it was struck by bad luck.

We chalked it up to the ominous date and set about to have fun anyway.

The bloggers and our guests wandered over to Barley's Tap Room and took over the upstairs bar. There, along with some fantastic discussions, I was also able to try a few seasonal beers.
My black cat and the Oktoberfest.

  • Foothills Oktoberfest. I thought this was a beautiful example of an Oktoberfest lager. It was rich and delicious with beautiful fall color. 
  • Big Boss Harvest Time Pumpkin. As I have mentioned before, there are pumpkin beers I like and pumpkin beers that I don't like. Unfortunately, the Big Boss pumpkin feel into the "eh, not so much," category. While it had hints of pumpkin spice it lacked the body that I look for in a pumpkin ale. Your mileage may vary. 
  • Laganitas Lucky 13. Much like Sierra Nevada Flipside, this isn't a "traditional" autumn beer, based on my own completely arbitrary criteria. However, after the ill-fated Friday the 13th Beer Trolley I thought that enjoying a Lucky 13 beer would be an excellent idea. I am a huge fan of this California brewery and love most of the beers that they offer. Lucky 13 was no exception. As an imperial red it is high in alcohol and heavy to drink. The flavors are complex and there are plenty of hops and plenty of malts to please just about anyone.
Your humble narrator and the Lucky 13.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Wicked Weed Off With Their Gourds! PumpkAnne Ale

I have loved Wicked Weed since it opened early this year. I was excited to read that they were doing not just one but a series of pumpkin ales this Fall.

The series is called "The Gourds are Coming" an they will be releasing each pumpkin beer throughout the season. We found ourselves at Wicked Weed and I couldn't wait to try the first installment: The PumpkAnne Ale. 

This 7.3% alcohol beer may be a perfect examples of the kind of pumpkin ale that I prefer. The taste of those pumpkin pie spices were all over the rich malty beer base in the most perfect way.

Wicked Weed specializes in relative small batches and constantly rotating taps of their own brews. I have tried many beer styles and flavors there that I would probably not try anywhere else. I am always amazed at the new selections of both hoppy and Belgian style beers available every time I go into the bar. If you never thought you would like a Pumpkin beer check out the PumpkAnne ale before it is gone. I understand the next Pumpkin installments are a smoked pumpkin beer and a sour pumpkin beer. I admit that those two particular flavors are not among my favorites but I may give those a try just to see what they are all about.

Friday, September 13, 2013

And Now For Something Completely Different

I love to drink beer seasonally and for me the impending Fall means Browns, Pumpkins, and Oktoberfests. Sierra Nevada's regular Fall seasonal, Tumbler, is probably my favorite brown this time of year. I've already enjoyed a few in early September.

But this year, Sierra Nevada switched things up a big but adding an "Early Fall Seasonal" to their lineup: Flipside Red IPA.

Funny story. I was out at the store the other day. I saw this on the shelves and I thought "hey, that looks good. Let's try it." So I bought a six pack.

Later that day, Matt came home from playing golf with a friend and in his hand he held...a six pack of Flipside Red IPA. Great minds think alike, as they say.

Yesterday, Matt and I got together with some friends from Minnesota on a Google+ Hangout that we like to call Thirsty Thursdays. They are super fun and you should do them with your friends from around the country and the world. Everyone grabs their favorite beverage and hops into a Hangout. It is just like going out to the bar with friends except you're on the Internet!

I popped open a couple of Flipsides to enjoy as we chatted.

For an IPA this is an extremely mild beer and not overly bitter at all. There is a great interplay between the citrusy hops and the maltiness of the well crafted red ale. As advertised it is a lovely early fall beer to prepare for the coming of the season. If you can get Sierra Nevada in your area definitely give this one a try before it is gone.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Autumn Beer with a Side of Laundry

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of The Bar of Soap on Merrimon Road in North Asheville. This Laundromat that is also a bar that is also a used book store that now also serves food is a great spot to spend an evening. You can get your clothes clean, chat with the bartenders and locals, and enjoy some amazing craft beer.

Bar of Soap specializes in canned beer and they have almost 70 choices. Almost every week we go in they have something new to show us.

And their autumn beer selection so far is pretty awesome.

Cameo by Kenny, the Bar of Soap bartender.
The first autumn beer I tried was the Anderson Valley Fall Hornin'. This California brewery has some pretty delicious beer so I was hopeful that I would enjoy their pumpkin ale, which is an incredibly divisive beer style. The only downside to a can beer bar is that you can't have a taste before you buy the whole pint.

However, I was not at all disappointed. I have learned that there are two general types of pumpkin ale. You could say "good" and "bad" but that would be awfully subjective since not everyone enjoys the same flavors. I have found that they fall into the categories of "actually tastes like pumpkin," and "tastes like pumpkin pie." I personally enjoy the beers that have more of a pumpkin spice flavor than those that taste fruity. Among my favorites are Dogfish Head Punkin and Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin. Fall Hornin' definitely fell into the pumpkin spice category and I really enjoyed it. Since we are at Bar of Soap once a week I expect that I will be enjoying it all season, unless they bring in something else new.

Also on "tap" at Bar of Soap is the Heavy Seas AARG-toberfest. My favorite thing about Heavy Seas brewery is their commitment to their theme. All of their beers have a fabulous pirate style and would be an excellent edition to your pirate themed party...or wedding!  Don't forget International Talk Like a Pirate Day coming up on September 19th!  Oktoberfests are one of the three beer styles I equate with autumn - next to pumpkins and browns. I use to think I wasn't a big lager fan with the exception of Oktoberfests but this summer I was enjoying kolsches and pilsners so what do you know, my tastes have changed yet again. But Oktoberfests have a very rich and delicious flavor that most lagers don't have and I can't wait until the weather starts cooling down to drink them. AARG-toberfest is an excellent example of an American Oktoberfest lager.

So, if you need to get some laundry done and feel like having an fall seasonal beer while you're at it, head over to Bar of Soap and give these two a try! 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Autumn Seasonal Beer Time!

Highland Clawhammer Oktoberfest 2012
Hello very neglected beer blog. I attempted to make an effort to post here more during Asheville Beer Week and only managed one post. I am a bad beer writer.

But I like to think of myself as a good beer drinker.

Beer drinking is very much a pastime that exists in the now. By that I mean while I am out enjoying the beer I think of all the wonderful things I would like to share about it but then I get back to my regularly scheduled programming and I don't think about it again. I want to share my love of beer with you, I really do.

Now that summertime is coming to an end all the craft brewers are coming out with their Fall seasonals. I love Fall seasonals. The Browns! The Pumpkins! The Oktoberfests! As the weather begins to cool down and the leaves begin to fall I want nothing more than to put on a sweater and drink these rich delicious beers.

So, readers - I would like to make a commitment to you. As I experience the Fall seasonal beers here in Asheville, NC and sold here from around the country I will share my experience with you. That is a promise! 

So stick around for an exploration of Autumn, beer style! 

If you know of any Fall seasonal releases from Asheville brewers or companies that distribute to my area, please let me know! I would love to seek them out!