Jon is Published!

Congratulations to Jon (who I only know by reputation through his parents, but since I like them, I’ll bet I’d like him!) – he’s been published and the topic is beer, and specifically wit beers available in the West Chester area.

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Too Long (?) in Asheville

What was supposed to be a travel day turned out to be a day with friends instead and we ALMOST stayed another night!

After my post this morning, we said our good-byes with our hosts, and drove into town for brunch, where we were greeted by James and Michelle. A tasty smoked trout and goat cheese omelet and a strong cup of organic coffee was my choice at Over Easy Cafe. It was delectable! Everyone seemed to enjoy their food, and the company was engrossing, so we stayed together for a few more hours.

As predicted, we walked up to Bruisin’ Ales for some shopping, and then back down to Barley’s for a glass of Valdez, which turned out to be glasses of Pisgah India Pale Ale, Pisgah Valdez, Pisgah Red Devil and Foothills Sexual Chocolate (BTW- anyone wondering where this name comes from should check out this video) – shared, of course. Can you tell that we like the Pisgah just a little bit?

On our way into town I mentioned to D that we visited most every place we could over the course of our three Asheville jaunts (Catawba was a miss, but I did meet brewer Scott Pyatt on Thursday at Barley’s), and while we’ve had Green Man brews at the Tasting Room, we’ve never been to Jack of the Wood. In talking with James and Michelle, we were reminded that this is one of their favorite places to go, and it wasn’t hard talking them into escorting us there.

Our short stop ended up lasting us all afternoon and into the evening. The atmosphere at Jack of the Wood was so captivating. In addition to spending hours talking to our friends, unexpectedly being joined by Philip (to whom we said our good-byes on Saturday night at the party, and again on Sunday a Bruisin’ Ales) and listening to an Irish jam session (featuring the sqeezebox, tin whistle, bodhran, fiddle, mandolin and others), we just really liked the place a lot. The beer line-up includes all Green Man products (ESB, Pale Ale, IPA, Porter and Imperial Stout) and a nice list of guest taps. (I particularly liked the chalkboards on the ladies room wall, where we could scratch notes to each other, and the hidden “Dora the Explorer” figurine; the staff were also pleasant, friendly and attentive.)

Finally, around 7 PM or so (and reluctantly because the bagpipes had just joined the jam session), we headed out of town with  a short stop at Earth Fare for some parting groceries and a vegan dinner of chickpea salad (imitation tuna salad) and a live green salad, along with some not-so-vegan spicy tuna and avocado sushi and a yogurt for the road.

So here we are outside Bristol, crashing for the night, and reflecting on how wonderful Asheville was. Yes, we stayed too late to reach our target of Horniblows Taproom in Raleigh, but today was much more fulfilling! Thanks, old and new Asheville friends (Melissa, John, Joey, John, Michelle, James, Julie, Jason, Philip, Chris, Trish, Mark, Terri, Jason…I’m forgetting names, which means I need some sleep) for making this a memorable trip!

Oh, What a Night!

We can’t thank the Kledis family enough – really for ALL of their hospitality, but also for putting on a great gathering last night. It was so much fun to join with people we met last year, and make a few new friends, during this major tasting. Everyone brought something great either to eat or to drink (or both), and I believe there were five cases of beer in total. We didn’t drink all of it, thank goodness, but we put a dent in the collection.

Here is the list that D came up with from his notes and I will back up with photographs.  They appear in no particular order, as we weren’t exactly careful about that:

  • Westvleteren 12
  • Southern Tier Gemini
  • Southern Tier Choklat
  • Voodoo Brewing Voodoo Love Child
  • New Glarus Belgian Red
  • New Glarus Raspberry Tart
  • New Glarus Copper Kettle Weiss
  • Mikkeller Black Stout
  • Sprecher Abbey Tripel
  • Dogfish Head World Wide Stout
  • Dogfish Head Palo Santo
  • Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine
  • Catawba Valley Whiskey River Stout
  • AleSmith Speedway Stout
  • AleSmith Yule Tide
  • Lost Abbey Lost and Found
  • Lagunitas Under Cover Shut Down Brown
  • Pisgah Cosmos
  • Pisgah Baptista 2006
  • Pisgah Baptista 2007
  • Pike Old Bawdy Barleywine
  • Fonteinen Oak Aged Kriek 2005
  • Pizza Port Old Viscosity
  • Pizza Port Santa’s Little Helper
  • Alaskan Barleywine 2007
  • Old Dominion Oak Aged Millenium Barleywine 2006
  • DeSchutes Abyss 2007
  • Saint Somewhere Saison Athene
  • Jolly Pumpkin Bier de Mars
  • Atlantic Brewing Company Cadillac Mt. Stout
  • Fantome Chocolate
  • Abbey de Saint Bon Chien 2005
  • Three Floyd’s Dark Lord
  • New Holland Dragon’s Milk
  • Moylans Hopsickle
  • Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock
  • Surly Furious
  • Lakefront Fuel Cafe
  • Brutal Deluxe Dark IPA

So, on the way out of town, we will stop off at Over Easy for brunch with the Raiford’s, Bruisin’ Ales for one last purchase (yes, we always think of something more, and that store is so awesome, it’s hard to pass up a visit!), and Barley’s for a final glass of Pisgah Valdez.

Asheville – so much to do, so little time to blog

In case I really never do catch up with posting my travel notes for this trip, I at least feel obligated to my mother to post where I’ve been.  And now that I know Kramer (is that your name, or your hometown?) is reading daily, I feel even more obligated! I’ll list it all here with links to the places, and if I post later, I’ll link to my posts.  And then there are photos just waiting on my camera…ugh.

Thursday night in the Asheville area:

  • Pisgah for the weekly Thursday night growler fill and tasting (hey, mom and dad, we got your something special, and it’s called Valdez…nothing to do with the oil spill or the peninsula…you’re gonna’ love it!)
  • Bruisin’ Ales for the weekly Thursday evening tasting (this week with Sweetwater!)
  • Barley’s in Asheville for dinner on Thursday night

Friday, starting with a foggy drive to Greenville, SC and ending with a pubcrawl in Asheville (designated driver included):

  • Barley’s in Greenville for lunch, hoping to score a cask ale, but no such luck
  • Blue Ridge Brewing Company for a taste of their products
  • Thomas Creek Brewing Company for a tour and tasting with the owner
  • Green’s Discount Beverage Store – because you can’t get it all in North Carolina!
  • Back in Asheville at Bruisin’ Ales to do some big-time beer shopping (this is a daily trend)
  • Dinner at Ed Boudreaux’s Bayou Bar-B-Que (can you believe I skipped the beer? not D…)
  • Barley’s in Asheville for shared glasses of Valdez and Sexual Chocolate (this will become a daily trend for this particular trip!)
  • Green Man, hoping to score Imperial Stout on cask, but finding it to be Porter
  • Thirsty Monk for the “wow – what a great new beer place in town!” experience

Saturday:

  • A drive to Dillsboro Smokehouse for barbeque
  • Growler fill at Heinzelmännchen Brewery
  • Bruisin’ Ales to do some little-time beer shopping (did I mention this is a daily trend when we come to Asheville?)
  • Barley’s in Asheville for shared glasses of Valdez and Sexual Chocolate (I said daily!)

And now I better get myself downstairs, as all of the fun people in Asheville are coming to a party! (PS – even though my WordPress timeclock says it’s midnight, it’s not…it’s only 7 PM!)

Foothills (Winston-Salem, NC)

I’ve found some time to post more notes from Thursday, so here is my report from our lunch at Foothills Brewing Company. There hasn’t been a whole lot of change since our last visit, so I won’t ramble on here about it. As expected, the draft selection was fabulous, but to start our day off slowly:

  • I only had one – the Seeing Double IPA(9.5%; 110 IBUs), which is just a wonderful example of a double IPA. Nothing overpowers (other than the fact that it is a double IPA!); it’s just a warm, sweet nectar. It is served in a 10 oz glass, and the deep copper color is just beautiful. It has a light citrus aroma, and a pine hop bite. Cloudiness in the glass adds to the mystery of this double IPA.
  • D had the Hoppyum IPA(6.75% ABV) to start, while his Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout had time to warm. This is so different from the Seeing Double IPA. It is a clear copper color with a crisp finish. Simply a pleasant American IPA.
  • The Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout (10.5% ABV) was so much better than last February. Last year it was really hot – really to the point that I couldn’t drink it – it ruined my taste buds. This year, it still has an obvious high alcohol burn, but the rich flavors of chocolate and roasted malts, and the sweetness of dark fruits come through well. This beverage has a strong alcohol burn, which will mellow out over time. I believe last year I called the aroma flammable, but this year’s brew is sweet to the nose.

The best thing about our visit was that we got to meet Jamie Bartholomaus, the owner and brewer of Foothills, and a Pennsylvania native. It was so kind of his wife, Sarah, to stop by and check on our table. She talked with us a bit, and picked up on the fact that we were interested in meeting him. He was able to sit down, taking time to chat for awhile.

We learned his interesting history in brewing, and one of his former brewing experiences was at Olde Hickory Brewing Company, and the former brewing facility (now more of a restaurant and small batch brewing facility) was on the way out of town.  We confirmed our suspicion that the Sexual Chocolate was brewed a little earlier this year (October) and tweaked just enough to make it more enjoyable in February (in time for the bottle release, although our bottles will certainly sit for awhile longer!) It sounds like it will be easy to find a glass in Asheville (and other locations for anyone not visiting Asheville!), but he held back at least 12 kegs for aging and release throughout the year. Naturally, Foothills will be at Brewgrass, but also he mentioned a food/beer pairing he’ll be attending called Savor in DC. He gave us a sample of the People’s Porter as well. It would have been lovely to stay longer and drink a whole glass, but we needed to move on.

But I would be remiss in ending this post without talking about the food. Our waiter, Stephen, was quite conscientious despite the busy lunch crowd. He talked to us about some of the menu changes (they dropped the salad with chevre, oranges and snow peas that I loved so much!), but he made other recommendations. I had the Greek salad made with romaine and spinach, topped with balsamic onions, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts and feta. The green goddess dressing (made with cream cheese) was a bit too thick for my taste, so I had the balsamic vinaigrette. Along with it, I enjoyed a cup of the creamy She Crab Soup, which had a little zip to it, and small pieces of shell, just so you know it’s authentic! D had the Cuban sandwich, which came with some terrific fries and a wonderful garlic dill pickle spear.

It’s hard not to enjoy yourself at Foothills, but do take quarters for the meter (only 25-cents an hour) and keep it fed!

Olde Hickory at Amos Howard’s (Hickory, NC)

Amos Howard’s Restaurant & Brew Works is located at the former brewing facility for Olde Hickory. The new Olde Hickory Brewing Company facility opened in 2000 and does no serving; the Olde Hickory Taproom was already established, so the OLD Olde Hickory was renamed Amos Howard’s in 2002, and provides Olde Hickory beers as well as a small brewing facility that is sometimes used. Confused?

We stopped by after lunch at Foothills – it is close enough to be on the way to Asheville, but far enough that I could take a nap on the way there. We actually passed it, and I was pleased to learn that our friend Dave did, too, on his visit. Once found, it looks very plain on the outside (almost abandoned!), and inside it is on the verge of being just another smoky North Carolina dive bar.

We entered by walking through a great big barrel to the hostess station and giggled a little about the barrel booths (chintzy and unique!) We chose seating at the bar, which was also a unique shape. Instead of being one straight line, three “mini bars” branch out from the main bar, allowing patrons to sit together and talk face to face in small groups. Marilyn Manson was playing loudly on the jukebox, and combine with the cigarette smoke, I was thinking that maybe beer wasn’t even in order here.

But we ordered. D had a Weizenbock, and tasters of the Poor Richard’s Ale and the Sinatra Barley Wine (12.5% ABV.) I had the Hickory Stick Stout. Pints here are 20 oz, but our bartender offered to pour me a half (which really looked more like 2/3, but I appreciate the effort. Eleven house taps were on at Amos Howard’s:

  • Piedmont Pilsner
  • Brown Mountain Light
  • Ruby Lager
  • Poor Richard’s
  • Crawdad Red
  • Table Rock Pale Ale
  • Hickory Stick Stout
  • Hefeweizen
  • Weizenbock (8% ABV)
  • Nessie’s Scotch Ale (8% ABV)
  • Sinatra Barleywine (12.5% ABV)

Once the music stopped playing, the beers were enjoyable. I didn’t take the time to take notes, as nothing was outstanding on the good or bad side. 

The staff were friendly and attentive, and told us that some – very little, but some – of the brewing is still done here. In the brewing room window, we noticed 5 liter mini kegs of five different beers. That’s kind of unique for such a small place. And the bottle selection at Amos Howard’s was very nice – sure beats running into W-S to City Beverage every time you want something unique! Unfortunately, many of the other customers were not looking for unique. There was a LOT of Budweiser being consumed and put on to cool for the evening crowd.

One thing I noticed is that their website says, “Here at OHB we are proud to offer something you can get nowhere else around town, or in NC for that matter. Our Cask-Conditioned Ale, served off a real British Beer Engine, the way it was meant to be, Real Ale.” As a lover of cask ale, I was downhearted to learn there was nothing on cask. Also, I need to point out that Foothills does cask ales (they just did Seeing Double!), and so do Green Man and Big Boss (and probably others if I took time to do the research.)

City Beverage (Winston-Salem, NC)

Wednesday night of trip was littered with traffic faux pas! It took us almost twice as long to travel I-81 last night because of a minor snow storm that nearly put traffic to a crawl (we were stopped for no apparent reason for almost 30 minutes, and much of the time traveling under 20 MPH!) And today we attempted to travel on I-40, but multiple exit ramps to enter westbound were closed.  But we finally made it to Winston-Salem, and, by design, we arrive before Foothills opened.

Just a few blocks away (and one block off 4th Street) is City Beverage. With a name like that, it sure doesn’t sound special. But one walk in the door, and we were already suitably impressed. We were greeted by Spencer, who was friendly and knowledgeable, but not overbearingly attentive. There are two fairly distinct rooms – the more distant room was the beer room, and the entrance room was the wine shop (which also housed a chilled beer selection, homebrewing and wine making supplies area, and a nice selection of glassware, primarily stocked with Reidel for every liquid imaginable.

The beer area was a large room lined with polished dark wood shelves. They had an extremely complete collection, including most everything available in North Carolina (I don’t personally know the list, but it sure looked that way!) There was a great variety of American products, but also Belgian, English, German and Eastern European. The shelving layout was like a library full of beer – okay, maybe only a librarian would say that, but everything seemed to be well organized, and there were no hidden nooks in which the bottles could get lost and go bad.

There is a bar area with comfy leather couches and chairs, and tables constructed of barrels, where customers can select a pint to enjoy while shopping – and the tap list was limited to three, but three very good beers!  We did not have anything to drink there, but we spent some money on bottles!

We’re so busy with visiting friends and enjoying the area now that we’re in Asheville and I just don’t have time to post (and certainly not time to upload photos), but I’m keeping notes…  Foothills report will be next, and then as much of the amazing scene in Asheville that I can provide.

Blue Mountain Brewery (Afton, VA)

Just a few miles from Rockfish Gap entrance to Skyline Drive, we found Blue Mountain Brewery and Hops Farm – a brewery and pub with a real farm look to it! 200 hop vines adorn the font of the property (nothing growing on this visit!) The building is anchored on one end with a large barn-like area for the brewing, and long extension with a welcoming large front porch. It was dark when we arrived, and the warm glow of interior lighting streamed from the multiple windows and doors.

Inside there was an angled bar with seating for 8, and 8-10 tables of varying sizes with bench seating. Comfortable couches and chairs provided seating adjacent to the fireplace, and we noticed a little sitting nook in the back (next to the kitchen) that looked like it just jumped out of an episode of Trading Spaces. Beer literature and brewing books were placed on coffee tables and shelves. The yellow walls and warm lighting made the place feel very welcoming, and the high ceilings gave an illusion that the place is bigger than it really is.

Blue Mountain Brewery was packed when we arrived, but we did locate two seats at the wood-topped bar, which wasn’t too high, and didn’t have a lip, so I could actually eat at it! Pints on a Wednesday night are $3.

  • I was disappointed to learn that the Full Nelson Pale Ale, listed as being available on draft on February 20, was not (maybe after Feb. 20?!?!), so I had it in a bottle. At 60 IBUs, made with a blend of four different hops (Nugget, Cascade, Centennial and Columbus), this had a nice bite to it. 
  • D started with an Evil 8°– a Belgian-style dubbel that was rich with candi sugar and hints of chocolate and dark fruit. It was probably our favorite of the three beers we tried.
  • He also had an Irish Dry Stout, which was served on nitrogen. It was dark and clean, with a thick tan head. Absolutely true to style, this was slightly roasted and light in body. Not my favorite style of stout, but brewer Taylor Smack has done a fine job creating it.

It was a real tease to sit at the bar, looking through large glass windows right into the brewing area, watching them bottle the Dark Hollow Artisanal Ale (a bourbon barrel aged stout), knowing that we wouldn’t be able to buy/taste it.

Our bartender was certainly not a waitress. While the rest of the staff seemed to be very good, she was inattentive and could perhaps use some beer etiquette training.  For instance, since my beer came in a bottle, she opened the bottle and put it in front of me.  Then she proceeded to ask if I wanted a glass.  Do I want a glass?!?!  Can I drink it any other way? I tried to ask her a few questions, but she seemed very disinterested in the customers until someone came in with whom she held hands and chatted for some time.  Hmmm.

But we were generally impressed by the food menu. For instance, we started with the Puree of Parsnip Soup. It was AMAZING! With little flakes of dried sage and drops of truffle oil, this was a perfect starter on a cold night.  It is one of the best soups I’ve had in awhile. There were plenty of interesting things on the menu – the fruit and cheese board looked tasty and generous, and highlighted local cheeses. There was a roasted veggie pizza that I wanted to photograph! The crust was so very thin that it looked like a sand tart cookie. Every inch of the pizza was covered in goodness – a cilantro pesto, roasted yellow squash and zucchini, onions, mushrooms, mozerella and tomatoes – and the whole thing was littered with dollops of goat cheese and sprigs of fresh cilantro.

We had sandwiches on ciabatta bread instead. D really enjoyed his sandwich made with Kite’s Virginia Ham. I enjoyed the contents of mine (avocado, sprouts, tomato, hummus, cucumber), but suspect the bread was toasted on a surface where the ham had been, because my veggie sandwich had a liquid smoke flavor to it (I just ate it without the bread, and with a side salad, this was plenty filling for me!)

Overall it was an enjoyable experience, but it would have been more fun if we could have talked to some of the staff or the brewer (understandably, he was very busy.) Perhaps we will get back another time. This was out of the way, but a nice side trip!

Photos to come later… We’re off to Winston-Salem, and D is already a little antsy at the time I’ve taken to post this.

Random Links on Hops Shortage

Because everyone else is talking about it, I feel like I should, too. Just some random finds:

DuClaw patrons received a letter from David Benfield, President, and Jim Wagner, Brewmaster concerning the future of Venom Pale Ale. This is an excerpt:

As you have probably already noticed, our beer prices increased in January. A combination of low grain supplies and a worldwide hop shortage (that has left many varieties of hops completely unavailable) has lead to an industry wide price increase for beer. When grain prices double and hop prices triple, beer prices must follow.The hops shortage has had other sobering effects (no pun intended) on the brewing industry as a whole and DuClaw specifically. The hops used in the recipe for Venom are simply no longer available. Rather than offer you a pint of something called Venom, that looks similar but tastes nothing like your favorite APA, we’ve decided to pull it from the lineup until the hops are once again available. This wasn’t an easy decision. In fact, we’re angry about it. Angry enough to raise some hell…

COMING SOON: HELLRAZER, our new American-style India Pale Ale. HELLRAZER boasts a light amber color, citrus aroma, smooth hoppy finish, and devilish 6.2% abv. This new IPA will more than fill the void for you hop heads out there during Venom’s absence, but we promise, Venom will return with the hops.

It will be interesting to see how different places handle this in the upcoming year(s).

A restaurant that I really wish I’d known about when we were in San Diego did a great post about the shortage and rising prices of beer in general. Except for the sausage, I think I would have loved this place. 

And finally, let me end by repeating the good news. The Samuel Adams® Hop Sharing Program is offering 20,000 pounds at cost to brewers who need them. What a generous offer by Boston Beer Company founder Jim Koch.

Advocacy Efforts

As reported this morning on my local news station, PA House Bill 606 is getting closer to the vote. I don’t have time to keep up with all of the politics (and when I do a little ‘net search, Lew Bryson remains the most on top of this situation!), but I do have time to write to my legislators at the House and Senate.  I’ll write again. 

They never write back, so I’m guessing neither of them support it, but I could be all wrong.  Maybe they are just busy like the rest of us.  I do hear from them on how they are lowering my property taxes (which doesn’t ever show up on my tax bill), create better schools for my children (what children?), improving the environment (by allowing windmills to destroy our wildest and highest habitats?) and are making a difference in the area of transportation (really? why is light rail proposed where there is already an Amtrak line, but not heading west from Harrisburg where the commuter population is growing?)  Ooops…sorry…this is about the craft brewing industry.

Whether you support the “six-pack bill” or not, just a short note expressing your opinion, like this one, is appropriate. If you don’t know how to find your legislators, visit my previous posts on SB 674 and HB 606 on this matter.