Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I'm back

I'm back after a two-week absence. We visited relatives in Florida and I had a lot happening. Next time I leave for awhile I'll ask my co-bloggers to fill in for me while I'm away.

If anyone is heading to Orlando I highly recommend checking out the fine beers from Orlando Brewing. The brewery has a taproom and their beers are also available at upscale bars and restaurants in the Orlando area. I visited the brewery where I tried a sampler of all available beers and was very impressed. In particular, the mild ale was an excellent representation of an English style not often made in the US. I talked with brewmaster Ed Canty and learned that they plan to start canning within a few months. This will place them in company with Oskar Blues in Colorado and Top of the Hill in Chapel Hill which are among the handful of craft brewers that currently package their product in cans. I wish them well and look forward to bringing home some six packs on my next trip to Florida.

I can't believe fall is almost here. The annual Brewgrass festival is just weeks away. Get your tickets now. Tony Kiss reported in today's Citizen-Times that tickets are already half-gone. Has it really been a year since the blast at the ballpark?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Geary's ales

My Maine Yankee heart skipped a beat when I stopped by the market in the Grove Arcade on Tuesday. There, for sale in Asheville, were two beers from the D. L. Geary Brewing Company of my home town of Portland, Maine. While I absolutely love the great beers from North Carolina's many breweries I still long occasionally for a Geary's Hampshire Special Ale, a classic "winter warmer." It was on the shelf along with the new Summer Ale which I had not had before. Needless to say I did not leave the store empty handed. The summer brew is a less hoppy version of Geary's flagship pale ale. I detected some citrus-like flavors as well. In taste it was sort of halfway between a hefeweisen and a kolsch. Definitely worth buying.

Now that Hampshire Special is available in Asheville I'm looking forward to colder weather so I can sip one by the fireplace. Now if we could only get the cask-conditioned version on handpump here!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Brewery tour

This was a big weekend for beer lovers. Yesterday a number of us toured several Asheville breweries with MALT (Mountain Ale and Lager Tasters), the local hombrewers club. Starting in Black Mountain we visited Pisgah Brewing where "Pisgah Dave" welcomed us with beer samples and gave us a tour of the brewery. In less than eighteen months Pisgah has become a major player in the area craft beer movement, and its fine products may be found in many Asheville area bars and restaurants. We were given an update on future plans for the brewery and glimpses of new beer styles we may expect to see down the road.

Moving on to Asheville Pizza and Brewing on Merrimon Avenue we met Doug Riley who gave us a tour of his operation. We were impressed by how much he accomplishes in a small space. Doug told us that brewing will continue here as well as at the new Coxe Avenue facility. He supplied us with samples of his fine beers before we enjoyed a delicious lunch along with pitchers of IPA and porter. We would have liked to linger awhile. However, our 2:00 PM tour of Highland Brewing beckoned so we reluctantly said our goodbyes and moved on.

Highland is moving to a new facility near River Ridge but the old brewery underneath Barleys and ED Beaudreaux's is still running full out. We were given the grand tour and more fine samples, including a preview of the outstanding Imperial Gaelic which will be released in limited quantities this fall. I have long been familiar with the fermenter that rises through the floor inside ED Beaudreaux's which is a legacy of the old Blue Rooster operation. I was surprised to discover that the fermenter is still in use, having assumed it was out of service but too hard to remove from the building.

The afternoon ended much too soon but we are already looking forward to the next MALT trip. Itinerary and date to be determined.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Brewgrass Festival Message

The pieces are finally in place for the 10th Anniversary of Brewgrass. After much struggle and hard searching by the organizers, the City of Asheville has graciously agreed to allow Brewgrass to be on a City street. This year's event will be held on Market Street directly behind Barley's, September 23rd, Noon-7:00pm. This area (historically known as the "Block") is currently under revitalization and traditionally was a thriving business and entertainment district. Brewgrass is also pleased to add Eagle Market Streets Community Center as an additional beneficiary of the event.

The bands are booked and the Brewers are ready. 46 breweries will be featured this year. We have several new comers to this year's event. We will also be announcing the winner of last year's People's Choice Award. Attendees will once again be able to vote for their favorite. The music line up is one of the best we've had. John Cowan performs one of his only outdoor shows this year at Brewgrass. We also bring back Brewgrass alumni the Greasy Beans. Robinella and the CC String Band are also back after once being "showcased" at Brewgrass. Now they are nationally signed and growing in popularity every day. Also gaining recognition on the national scene are the Gibson Brothers. They were recently featured on XM's Bluegrass show. We are also proud to introduce Whitewater Bluegrass, one of Asheville's most popular bluegrass bands.

Online tickets are selling like hotcakes. Last year's event was sold out - Make sure to buy your tickets now so you won't be turned away at the gate. Online ticket sales will be cut off MONDAY SEPT 18th, to insure that will call line will run smoothly. Designated driver tickets are available ONLINE ONLY, no designated driver tickets will be sold the day of the event. Check out the website for more info. We are exited about this year's anniversary and look forward to seeing eveyone back again.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Back in the saddle

After a several month hiatus I'm again homebrewing. I've been too busy these last few months to block out the half-day usually required to brew a batch of beer, but now that my assistant at work is back following a three-month leave things are settling down. So, largely due to the weather I decided to brew a hefeweizen. It's been in the fermenter for a week now, so in another couple of days I'll do a gravity test. If another test on Saturday shows no change I'll go ahead and bottle it. A couple of weeks of conditioning and I should have a nice batch of hefe ready for the Labor Day weekend.

I've spent the last few days browsing brewing equipment web sites and making a wish list. The first item I'll buy is a propane gas burner, which will not only let me move the boiling outside but free me from the vagaries and nuances of an electric stove. Next, a home kegging system to eliminate scrubbing and disinfecting all the $*~*&G! bottles. While I'm at it I might as well adapt the old fridge in the garage by installing a tap through the door. This way I won't even have to open the fridge when I want a beer. Finally, I want a conical fermentation tank like the big brewers use. No more transferring to secondary fermenters, siphoning, or mess when obtaining samples for gravity testing.

Anyway, that's the beginning of my list. And Christmas and my birthday will both be here before we know it.

Hi, Sweetie.......... :-)