Tag Archives: nc breweries

GABF 2016: Notes On Day 3

4 days of drinking beer and wandering around an area seems like a great idea for a vacation (and it is a great idea for a vacation) until somewhere in the middle of day 4 you are looking at the grass under a tree on the disc golf course you are playing, and think, “I could lay there and take a nice nap.”

The last day of GABF and my last full day in Denver started like the others with a breakfast biscuit from Rise and Shine.  We watched the GABF awards ceremony as we lounged until it was time to leave for disc golf in Arvada.  It was a nice leisurely round. The group in front of us had speakers playing various EDM and the group behind us had speakers playing various 70s country songs.  That felt about right for a trip to Colorado.

There was lunch at another Snarf’s location, a final trip to Hogshead for me, and a nap for everyone.  Including Mattie, the greyhound. Then it was off to the final GABF session of 2016.

I like to think of the last session of GABF as Amateur Night.   The difference between Thursday and Saturday is stark.  Thursday you have the beer geeks all wanting to try different things and talk to brewers.  Saturday, you have all the college students from around the area and 30-40-year-old adolescents who all pregame before hitting the convention center.  Those two groups have one goal: Get as drunk as possible before 9:45.

I make my livelihood from people who like to drink.  I love those people, what I don’t like are the drunks who think getting a little inebriated gives them the right to act like the Republican nominee for president.  So, as the beer ran out and 9:00 hit, Dave, Ginny, and I decided to skedaddle and head home.  We were tired, the beer was running out, and the scene was generally degenerating into chaos.

I don’t want it to sound like the last night wasn’t fun. It was.  I got to try a lot more beers and talk to a few people I wanted to meet.  It was just the tail end of a jam packed 4 days.

Congratulations to all the brewers, particularly the ones from my beloved Tar Heel state.  North Carolina breweries picked up 17 medals at the awards ceremony.  The most the state’s brewers have won at any single competition and the 4th most by a single state at this year’s event. The surprise was the 3 medals won by Brown Truck Brewing out of High Point. Not only did win 1 gold and 2 silvers they were named Very Small Brewery of The Year.

I will actually have a more global 20000-foot overview of what I learned this week in Denver coming up either here or at Gravity Magazine. For now, I’m going to grab some breakfast and head to the airport.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 2/14/16

The effects of sleep deprivation are akin to being drunk.  I would rather be drunk.  Here are a quick Five Articles for today.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 2/11/16

Though I hate all the knee jerk reactions when ABInbev buys a craft brewer, at least, it makes people write about beer in a somewhat interesting way.  Between those convulsions of hand-wringing spawned by the idea that craft beer is an actual industry, the worst place to find interesting beer articles is through Google Alerts.

Here is a profile of Townes Mozer of Lenny Boy Brewing.  The small kombucha and beer brewer is prepping to move into a new space soon.  This is part of a series of profiles of Charlotte area brewers and breweries.

This is a really interesting and good look at why lagers are the red-headed step child of American craft beer from Bryan Roth.  Sometimes with our search for the next big thing or the most popular thing, we forget to enjoy a good beer.  We ignore the solid consistency of a good lager or a good pale ale.  I was looking at my fridge (calling it a beer fridge would be redundant) the other day, I noticed two things.  The first, is I have more beer than food in it.  The second, is I have all single beers.  They are all great beers, but none are what I would deem an everyday drinker.  The kind of beer you want to drink when you just want a beer to enjoy while vegging out to some crappy television show.  I am going to do that this week, just go out and find a good six pack of beers to drink without having to think.

Daniel Hartis with a look at The Cellar, Duckworth’s new beer centered speakeasy under its uptown location.  The food is wonderful and the 20 beers on draft are all rather hard to find limited releases that any beer geek will love to drink.

This leads to a great article on beer cocktails.  This is one of the things I want to get into over the next year.

This article doesn’t really break new ground, but it does a good job chronicling how Virginia jumpstarted its brewing business.  It’s good to remember this whenever you get too worried about what the big multinational beer companies are doing.  I am going to try and not call ABInbev a brewer anymore because that isn’t what its focus is.  Its focus is selling beverages no matter what those beverages are.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 1/29/16

Friday is here.  I have a weird relationship with Fridays.  I don’t have Saturday’s off so Friday is just another day for me.  For you, however, it is probably the end of the week.  Go out and enjoy pretending to work this afternoon as you wait for the clock to finally get to 5:00.  On to the links.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 1/28/16

The week moves on and Thursday is here.  This has always been a weird day to me.  The week is almost over, but not quite.  You still have to work the next day, but you know the atmosphere is a little more relaxed.    Anyway, with legislative sessions around the country getting started this month, there is a lot of movement in the beer law front. To continue yesterday’s theme, here are a few articles on beer and alcohol laws around the country.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 1/21/16

Sunny and frigid. It looks like it is a wonderful spring day from my window.  Then I look at my phone and I see it is 28 degrees.  I’m better today. Funerals aren’t for the dead, they are for the living.  They allow the living to move on and find some form of closure in one of the few parts of life that actually has closure.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 1/14/16

Here is a link to yesterday’s new beer review of the Triple C 2015 Up All Night and Up All Night Bourbon Barrel Aged.

Thursday is here.  That just means Thursday is here, nothing to see here.  The beer news is still kind of slow.  Everyone is waiting for their late winter seasonals and one-offs to come out while recovering from the holidays.  Plus, this is the final 3-day weekend for most people until Easter, so this is the last gasp of vacation time for many people.  That is why it has been so hard to put together a Five Articles this week.  Onto today’s links.

Taste Test: 2015 Up All Night and 2015 Up All Night Bourbon Barrel Aged

One of the trends that has taken hold in craft beer over the last few years is barrel ageing beers. They have become so ubiquitous that the Beer Judge Certification Program, the primary style definer of American craft beer, has two new categories for the 2015 edition of the style guide.

I find barrel aged beer interesting because they are usually a version of another beer the brewer already makes.  How the ageing changes the beer via the time spent in the barrels and the properties the barrels themselves provides the beer are both fascinating.  Depending on the type of barrel used, i.e. bourbon, gin, rum, scotch, tequila, or wine, what the barrels provide the beer is different each time. Bourbon barrels provides additional sweetness and caramel and wine barrels provide tart or buttery notes depending on the wine.

Despite the common misconception, the ageing does not provide more alcohol to the beer.  There are two reasons why this misconception persists.  The first, many times the beer aged in the barrels is a high ABV beer in order to stand up to the ageing.  The second is the beer usually takes on some of the taste characteristics of the liquid that was originally in the barrels.  The taste of bourbon often makes people think of alcohol.  I make a bourbon pound cake that people swear gets them a little drunk even though the alcohol cooks off as the cake bakes.

20160113_101339Weighing in at 10% the Triple C Up All Night and Up All Night Bourbon Barrel Aged start off big and flavorful.  Let’s begin with the Up All Night.

Up All Night is a breakfast porter, which means it is brewed with coffee.  Using a strong taste like that as your base for a bourbon barrel aged beer is important.  The bourbon tastes can overwhelm the beer taking away its unique qualities.  A

After pouring a nice dark brown with a good fluffy head, you get the clear aroma of coffee when you take a sniff.  There are also hints of vanilla and honey once it warms a bit.

When you taste it, its big coffee flavor matches the aroma with notes of honey on the back end.  As a fan of both coffee flavors and honey, I enjoy this beer immensely.  For a beer with as big an ABV and use of honey, it is still a porter which makes it comparatively light on the tongue and dangerously easy to drink.  High ABV beers often have what is termed a boozy taste, meaning the taste of the alcohol is present and honey often gives a beer a cloying heavy taste.  Neither is present in these beers.

The bourbon barrel aged version differs slightly.  As it should.  It is a little inkier and thicker in appearance.  That may be the psychological effect of knowing it is a bourbon barrel aged beer.  The aroma also changes in that the coffee is shunted to the background by bourbon and hints of caramel.  It isn’t as light on the tongue and has a more velvety feel on the tongue.  Interestingly, to my palate, the roasted nature of the coffee is more pronounced and give it a little more bite. Again, that is why coffee is a good match for barrel ageing, it is a strong flavor that stands up to the bourbon, in this case.

The bourbon barrel Up All Night does what a barrel aged beer should do:  It adds different flavors and highlights ones already present in the original version.  Both Up All Night and Up All Night Bourbon Barrel Aged are well worth your time if you can still find them.

Here is another cool thing, this time, next year, I will do a vertical tasting of 2015 and 2016 bourbon barrel aged versions.  I’m already looking forward to it.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 1/13/16

Laws and legislation.  Growing pains and adolescence.  One of the things that fascinate me about Major League Soccer is that we sports fans, specifically soccer fans, get to watch a top flight league grow and develop in real time.  It is a messy and confounding thing to watch.  There are 10 steps forward, two backwards, and three sideways at every phase of growth.  Craft beer is kind of in the same position.  Actually, a better analogy might be a band.  Bands form and they play any show they can get and they sell music directly to potential fans and develop a loyal and strong following if they are good.  Then, at some point, they go from being the little band that could to headlining their first tour.  Then, they stop being just a band and become a business and they have business worries. That is where craft beer is now.

  • Should the state of North Carolina be in the alcohol business? First, the state is tasked by the US Constitution to regulate alcohol in its borders, so the state will be involved in some capacity always. Second, if you want to change thegovernment’s level of involvement, good luck.  That is a decades-long fight that no one has the stomach for right now.  Politicians do things for two reasons.  The first, to get their name associated with a bill that will create jobs and/or increase tax revenue.  The second, to keep from being embarrassed.  Unless and until, OMB, NoDa, and Red Oak can prove that allowing them to self-distribute more than 25000 barrels a year the legislation will languish in committee. In this case, embarrassment isn’t working because the distributors and big beer give enough money to make it not work.
  • The point in your life when you realize you are at least partially a grown us is when you are faced with a decision between doing what you need to do to be responsible and doing what you want to do. When you start choosing the need to do direction you’re a grown up.  Breweries suing smaller breweries over potential intellectual property issues is a need to do situation.  This is my second prediction of what will happen this year in craft beer, craft beer will grow up and increasingly think of itself as a business.
  • At no point in this article is there any mention about how any “beer” that they make tastes and that is why they will never win. They don’t care about the beer as beer.  It is only a product to be sold.
  • This is one case where embarrassment is working. The Georgia legislature passed a law that was written in part by big distributors.  It has a Rube Goldberg feel to it that got exposed by the Department of Revenue.  Now they are trying to fix it.
  • Alabama steps into the 21st century as far as its beer laws are concerned. The craft beer people in Alabama did exactly what I said you have to do.  They appealed to the legislators with more revenue and jobs.  Politicians work to get reelected.  Doing things that make them look good and/or raise tax revenues without raising taxes and provide jobs is how they get reelected.  Either that or carrying the water for a lobbyist that gives them lots of money to go their reelection.

Two Days In Asheville

Asheville’s history shows it has always been a place where people go to rest, relax, and refresh.  During the first weekend of the year, I decided to join that tradition. Circumstances broke in such a way that I had a 3-day weekend and took advantage by going to Asheville for a couple of days to wander about and drink beer.

First, I will say, the next time I do this, I will get a hotel room in the downtown area.  It just makes it easier if you can walk or take a short cab/Uber ride back to your hotel. I had a nice room at a place not far from downtown, but leaving my car in a parking deck for a night after taking a cab ride to the hotel sucks.

Now, onto the beer.  Upon reflection, I can say that is unlike sometimes here in Charlotte, all the brewery taprooms in Asheville have a distinct feel.  That is changing in Charlotte as the newer taprooms open and the converted warehouse feel starts to dissipate, but it is one of the ways you can tell the craft culture is older and more established in Asheville.

20160102_122753Saturday I drove up with the full intention of going to Sierra Nevada and having a little lunch and a couple of beers. As I’m driving up the driveway to the facility I noticed a lot of cars leaving.  As it was a Saturday where a lot of people were taking long weekends, I found this curious. I got out of my car in the parking lot and saw people going to the taproom doors and then turning around, it became clear why so many people were leaving.  They were closed for the weekend.

Now, the gift shop was open and they were still giving tours, but since I didn’t want a Bigfoot sweatshirt nor did I want to do the tour without a little liquid encouragement, I drove on to Asheville proper.

20160102_134536I was kind of hungry, so I parked and began to wander around downtown Asheville.  I’m walking along when I almost stumble into a tent sign along the sidewalk pointing me in the direction of One World Brewing.  Sounds good.  I turn down the alley and see a big metal door framed by a huge arch.  I open the door to more arrows pointing me down the stairs.  I go down one flight and then another and see another unremarkable door.   I open it and walk into a dark speakeasy bar with a low ceiling.  To my left, there is a small bar filled with people. I find an empty spot and order a beer.  To let you know how dark this place was, I was carded. Anyway, I ordered a Hopsplosion, a nice hoppy black IPA.

I managed to find my way to an empty couch and sat down to enjoy my drink and the ambiance.  This was a small space that was very crowded. As I sat, other weekend visitors would come in and look around and not understand how to order.  These are proper people used to going to proper bars/restaurants where someone at the door seats you and there are wait staff who brings you stuff. I don’t think many of these people have ever been to a dive bar or taproom and didn’t get that you have to go to the bar and force the issue a little bit.

Here is a quick bit of advice from The Beer Counselor, if you go to a bar/restaurant you’ve never been to that doesn’t have someone to seat you, just go to the bar and talk to the bartender.  They’ll let you know how this works.  Also, if you are at a brewery taproom, don’t just order the one beer from that brewery you’ve had.  It might not be on tap and you’ll annoy the bartender because the beers are usually written on the wall right behind their head, but you were too arrogant or stupid to take the time to read (I saw this happen more than once in more than one place).

20160102_142423Anyway, I left One World and set out to Barley’s Taproom. I was hungry and needed food and beer before going to check into my hotel room.  Apparently, me and, at least, a third of the tourists visiting Asheville had the same idea.  It was standing room only at the bar when I got there, but I found a place and had a couple of nice beers. Of particular note, was the Boojum Dark Zone Milk Stout. Since it was crowded and I was in a hurry, I just ordered some chips and salsa to tide me over to dinner.  I finished at Barley’s and to another little walk around downtown Asheville.

After checking in and taking a nap, I found an Italian place called Frank’s Roman Pizza to have a quiet dinner.  I got back to my hotel and found I was exhausted.  I dozed off with a bowl game on the television.

The next day, I again started my day at Barley’s for lunch and a couple of beers. I had an Appalachian Mountain Brewery Black Gold Porter and an old favorite the Brown Bear Ale from Catawba Brewing.  The crowd was a lot smaller and more manageable on a Sunday afternoon.  The weekend crowd was probably still on the highway or asleep.

20160103_132342I then took the short walk to Wicked Weed. It was a little more crowded, but I still found a spot at the bar.  My first beer was the French Toast Stout.  It is a nice piece of brewing.  It has the cinnamon, syrupy, and bready malt notes in it aroma and taste that definitely remind one of French toast. I then had a Pu-er Tea Saison.  It was another quality beer with aroma and taste of freshly brewed tea alongside the familiar yeasty Saison taste. While there I fell in love with one of the bartenders when she changed the Pandora station to a station that opened with The Smiths.

20160103_151221I left Wicked Weed and walked south to Green Man, which turned out to be one of my two places to drink beer in Asheville on this trip behind One World.  It has a nice English pub feel to it. I made my way to the bar and sat down right in front of a beer engine.  It had two taps one for their Porter and the other for the Buxton Hill Bitter.  My beer choices were made for me.

I love cask beers.  Their taste is little more subtle and provides a true test of a beer and a brewer.  I loved MTV’s Unplugged.  For me, it was a true test of musicians as songwriters and performers. With the songs stripped down to their elemental levels, you find out quickly if the songs are any good and if the musicians are worthy performers.  I feel similar with cask beers.  The nature of using only natural carbonation makes the subtleties of taste important.  These were two wonderful beers, and I felt like at times I had stepped into a different time and place.  Of course, then I would look up and notice the 3 televisions playing both types of football.

From there, I made the short walk to Burial Beer. As it was my first time, I almost walked past it. It looks like an old squat warehouse with very little signage out front.  Burial had a nice friendly feel to it. The staff was quick and attentive and the other customers didn’t give that weird, “We’re regulars, why are you here” vibe you get in some places.  Also, maybe it was the later hour or maybe the distance from the other brewers, but there wasn’t a huge presence of weekend visitors. At least not as many as were in Green Man which got hit by a group of young lawyers/bankers and their girlfriends/fiancés/wives asking for beers, not on tap and trying to pay with American Express even after the bartender told the previous 3 people they don’t accept American Express.

Yet, I digress.

Burial’s interpretations of Belgian style beers was great.  I really look forward to getting to taste and sell their beers in the near future thanks to their just announced expansion.  At this point, I think my taste buds were a little worse for wear so I don’t have many notes on the beer.  The Blade & Sheath and the Thresher Coffee Saison are beers you should seek out when in Asheville.

That was the end of the trip for the most part.  I left Burial and made my way back to Barley’s for pizza and sweet tea.  I got back to my hotel room and went to sleep. The next morning, I woke up, checked out, and drove out of Asheville just as the snow was starting.  Even after two days, I still have another 20 places I need to visit.  I think May or June might be a great time for my next long weekend.