Brewgrass Festival – 2008

The thing about this festival is that it is so much MORE than a festival.

Yes, a huge part of being here is attending the Great Smokies Craft Brewers Brewgrass Festivalon the grounds of the Martin Luther King, Jr. ballfield, with (as parsed out by Anne Fitten Glenn at Mountain XPress) 40 craft breweries, more than 200 beers and 5 musical acts all spread over a 7 hour period. There are 3,500 people in attendance, with plenty of security and port-a-potties. And the breweries of western North Carolina are certainly the big draw.

But also on this weekend, there is a release event for Highland Brewing Company. Since 2006, Highland has been releasing an imperial version of one of their regular brews at Asheville’s Brewgrass Festival, and then selling it on Sunday at the brewery. In 2006, it was Imperial Gaelic Ale, followed by Imperial Kashmir IPA in 2007. This year Imperial Black Mocha Stout is the beer, which we tasted (and tasted, and tasted, yesterday) and it is worth standing in line for today!

The brewery describes it as a “hearty stout, rich with coffee and chocolate notes, blending the velvety sweetness of specialty grains with the creaminess of a strong stout.” It will be sold in 22 oz. bottles, at $8 per bottle, and this year there are no limits on the number of purchases. They produced 476 cases, and we’re hoping to score two.

In addition to these two events, there are people and things all over town. Most of it very casusal, and some of it extremely well planned. For instance, Bruisin’ Ales held a special Friday night tasting from 5-8 PM, where Devin, the Dogfish Head rep, served up five brews by DFH including 60-Minute IPA which was run through Randall (with basil, mint and coffee), Festina Peche, Aprihop and Black & Blue. The $4 entry fee went to Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway. That 60-minute through the Randall was just outstanding – full of fresh, herbal goodness and topped off with a mild coffee tang – and perfect with the berries Julie prepared on the side.

With less planning, we had fun times running around town. We found ourselves all over (but certainly not everywhere) – gatherings at The Thirsty Monk, Barleys Taproom and the new Wedge Brewing Company, a private Westy 12 tasting at John & Melissa’s house, and an evening with the brewers at the soon-to-be-open Craggie Brewing Company. We even found time on Friday to run down to Greenville for lunch at Blue Ridge Brewing Company and a “hike” to Caesar’s Head State Park for birds and a benchmark.

And then there was the festival… Beer of the day? Well, one of the leading favorites was Rye Knot Brown Ale from Coast Brewing Company. Valdez at Pisgah was certainly a leader (and we finally got our tie-dye t-shirts!), and so was Sexual Chocolate at Foothills. Crazy Train from Depot Street was a favorite among the lighter brews, and of course, Devin was there with the 60-minute through the Randall again. If there were bad beers there, I was smart enough to miss them. We did miss Heintzelmanchen – if they were there, we never saw them.

There is no time for proofreading or posting photos right now because we need to get checked out and off to Highland, but hopefully I’ll have time to do that soon – check back, okay?

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