French Broad Brewing (Asheville, NC)

After lunch, we returned to the Biltmore Village area seeking out French Broad Brewing Company.  We found it across the railroad tracks in a non-descript building with a small parking area.Inside we found a couple of tables and a small bar – just a few square feet of space for pints, and the rest of the visible space was for making beer.  It is a great facility, and neat to see how they convert a small part of the brewery into a music venue. 

D had a conversation with the brewer while I talked to some other patrons (who, strangely, seemed familiar to both D and I, but neither of us can place how or why we would know them.)

Knowing we would have plenty to drink later in the day, we stuck with taster glasses of the six beers on tap:

Goldenrod Pilsner 4.2%

Marzen Amber Lager 4.5% – an Ocktoberfest style

Cellar Reserve Lambic-style Beer – blackberry, aged over 3 years and blended with Grand Cru

13 Rebels ESB 4.8%

Barley Legal Barleywine 10.5%

In my humble opinion French Creek has some work to do to keep up with all the other brewpubs in
Asheville.  This was the first place we didn’t see a crowd.  People weren’t coming in to fill growlers, and the only patrons were tourists (I’m guessing the crowd grows when the music starts playing, and there was a line-up of bands!) 

The beers were simply okay.  Nothing got me really excited, and I was especially unimpressed by the lambic attempt.  The ESB was probably the best of the low-alcohol beers, and the Barleywine stood out, but nothing was pint-worthy.  I’m all about the underdog – smaller, more intimate pubs are generally my favorite places, but this place just didn’t do much for me.

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Asheville Pizza & Brewing Co. (Asheville, NC)

We arrived in Asheville just in time to enjoy lunch at Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company (ABC.)  What a funky façade, which continued straight to the interior.  This brewpub includes a theatre (showing Eragon this week!) and game room, as well as lots of fun little things to see and experience inside (some of my favorites…we sat in the “Ancient & Dreamy” silo (a turret with a mystical castle look to it; there was also a library silo), fun tiles and paintings everywhere, collage art, cup holders in the restroom stalls, restrooms designated as “indoor plumbing”, and one of my favorite features was the sign at the door to seat yourself that designated the non-smoking section as any direction.

We sat at the William Shatner table, and quickly noticed that EVERYONE was at the ABC for their lunch buffet (and probably the good beer, too!)  The bar featured 6 or 9 different types of pizza, two soups (I loved the vegetarian chili), a very nice salad bar with mixed baby greens, feta cheese, and lots of other fresh ingredients. It also had a dessert section with ice cream and a signature chocolate cake that went so very well with the stout.

We had pints of three of the eight beers (Red Light IPA was not available, and we didn’t try the Houdini ESP, Rook Porter, Scottish Ale and Looking Glass):

+ Shiva IPA – this had a nice hop flavor with nothing overpowering; it’s apparently the only thing our waiter drinks (and he said 2 out of the 3 brewers drink this exclusively.) 

+ Scout Stout – nice, roasty and dark with a rich flavor; I liked it from the first sip, but I especially enjoyed with the chocolate cake!

+ Roland’s ESB – this had great head retention, and was creamy and smooth.

In addition to the other beers made at ABC, there were a few guest taps available.  I tried not to look to goofy walking around checking out the amazing décor and taking snapshots, but there is just so much character to this place that I wanted to soak it all in.

Foothills Brewing Company (Winston-Salem, NC)

A major accident closing I-81 caused us to reroute our trip, and instead we took the slower but more beautiful trip on US 29 to I-40 into Winston-Salem.  D made our lodging arrangements in advance, so we checked in and quickly headed off to dinner at Foothills Brewing Company (we were pleased to learn that the kitchen remained open until 11, and the place would be open until 2 AM with live music.

Foothills was easily located under the towering GMAC building, and right next to a lunch counter with antique pretzel cans (many from locations near our home) lining the window.  Inside, Foothills, which opened on St. Patrick’s Day in 2004, was a large, open space – very warehouse in appearance with a large brick wall, and lots of open seating.  The bar and band area is tucked toward the back, and with the lower ceiling design, the noise, joyful as it may be, was contained to that area.  We were greeted by an extremely friendly fellow named Ben, who we later learned works in distributing to many areas, including Asheville. Our waiter, Che, was an extremely pleasant and helpful fellow.  We didn’t get to meet the Jamie, the brewer, because he’d gone to
Florida.

We ate well, and we drank well.  I had a beautiful salad of greens topped with soft, fried, cashew-encrusted chevre cheese and garnished with oranges, snow peas on a layer of citrus vinaigrette with rosemary.  I should have stopped there, but I also ordered a cup of chili (very thick and meaty…more than my liking, but oh, so nicely spiced!) and unfortunately for my waistline, helped D with this mountain of beer-battered onion rings.  They were thick and creamy – the kind that just melt in your mouth – and served with homemade catsup.  Additionally, he had a wonderful plate of shrimp and grits.  The shrimp was done in a lovely tomato-based sauce, and the grits were creamed with cheese.  It was a spicy yet succulent dish.

Foothills offers a sample tray of the six regular brews, but I knew I didn’t want anything “golden” or a pilsner when there was a double IPA and imperial stout on the menu.  So I created my own sample tray of four ales (IPA, Stout, Porter and Festive (IBA)), then had a 10 oz of the Seeing Double IPA. D had a pint of the ESB, followed by a 10 oz of the Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout (specifics on the beers follow this posting.)

Everything we had at Foothills was enjoyable.  Everything was well done, and the overall experience at this brewpub was notable.  One of my favorite observations was the staff.  Ben and Che were both attentive and knowledgeable wait staff, but it was after we left our table and went to the bar that they really impressed me. 

They don’t just work at Foothills – they are patrons of the place, and enjoy hanging out drinking the local brew after hours.  And knowing we were out-of-towners, they took additional time to come talk to us about the beers, the town and advise us on the next few days of our trip.  They made us feel welcome, not just as new customers, but as new friends to the area.  And it was obvious that they many of the people were good friends and good customers.

The music was pleasant (single guy with acoustic guitar and vocals), the beers were satisfying (Seeing Double was excellent; Hoppyum was worthy of a shirt purchase for me, while D chose the Total Eclipse Stout shirt for the bird/beer combination artwork.)

Hoppyum IPA    6.75%
Total Eclipse Stout    7.0%;  44 IBUs
Rainbow Trout ESB   4.5%;  38 IBUs
Porter – bitterness from roasted malt
Festive IBA   7% – bitterness from hops
Seeing Double IPA   9.5%; 110 IBUs
Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout  10.5% – aroma is flammable!  This beer is smooth with chocolate, but not ovepowering.