Friday, June 22, 2007

On Tap - Barley's

This will be a semi-regular feature, in which I, your intrepid blogger, ventures out to a local Asheville bar or brewpub in search of good beer. Most of my focus will be on seasonal releases and rare microbrews from near and far. Hopefully this will inspire the thousands of people who read this blog to set forth on their own beer odyssey.

Today's featured bar is Barley's Taproom. Barley's has long held the title in Asheville for most beers on tap with 43 in all, and they do an excellent job of highlighting North Carolina breweries. If you go there hungry, you can grab a table downstairs and order a slice of pizza, a pita wrap, or a beefalo burger to go with your beer. Recently, they have undergone an expansion of their kitchen, so there should be a couple of new things on the menu in the coming months. If you don't feel like eating, you can always go upstairs and hustle your way into a game of pool or throw a few darts. Barley's also features live FREE music three times a week and trivia on Monday nights.

Okay, now that the obligatory introduction is out of the way, let's move on to the beer. If the summer heat is getting to you, our very own French Broad Brewery has a beer to quench your thirst. Go ahead, wipe the sweat off your brow, and order a Gateway Kolsch. Germany is most famous for its lagers, but if you order a beer in the city of Cologne, they will pour a top fermented ale known as Kolsch. Light in color and body, it certainly looks like its lagered counterpart, but the ale yeast lends a slightly more fruity character. The Kolsch actually tastes like a hybrid of the two, as the Kolsch yeast ferments at slightly lower temperatures than most ale yeasts and many Kolsh's are lagered for a short period of time. I had a pint last night and it was light and refreshing, and it made me want to book a plane to Cologne so I could try the real thing. Donations will be accepted.

Speaking of beer traveling, on my list of things to do before I die is to go to Belgium. Since that isn't in the cards in the near future, I have to settle on drinking Belgian style beers here at home, and Barley's just so happens to have one on tap downstairs. Brooklyn Brewery has recently been releasing some special draft only Belgian style beers, and the current selection is the Abbey Singel. While most Belgian style beers I drink are high gravity, this one could be described as a Belgian session beer, weighing in at a modest 6 percent. Light in body, fruity, with a definite Belgian yeast presence that is slightly spicy with hints of banana. This goes down easier than its higher alcohol brethren.

My last featured beer is one that has been on tap upstairs off and on for awhile. Foothills Brewing has been churning out some great beers lately, and the beer that first really peaked my interest in them is the Seeing Double IPA. A sweet sipper with more malt than you find in a lot of Double IPA's, but the citrusy hops remind you of why this is called an IPA. There is also a pleasantly mild alcohol burn that reminds you that you are drinking a beer that is 9.5% alcohol. Go easy on this one kids.

Another beer that I didn't get around to drinking was Catawba Valley's Bier D' Clam. If you didn't catch the double entendre, I suggest reading that last sentence again. This is an Oyster Stout. Yes, they make beer with oysters. No, it doesn't sound appetizing, but I have had an oyster stout from Rogue that was fairly tasty. I shall try to have this on a return trip, and if anybody has any insight on this beer let me know.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Observed in Little Rock, AR

Location: The bar at the Little Rock Hilton.

Setting: A quiet Monday evening. Five or six customers are sitting at tables, being attended to by a blonde server with hair that falls well below her shoulders. Her low-cut black dress is slit almost to the hip, revealing much hosiery-covered thigh as she moves around the room. The bar has nobody sitting at it and the obese female bartender has stepped out for a few minutes.

Two young men enter and take seats at the bar. They bear a strong physical resemblance to Beavis and Butthead. They sit for two minutes without speaking.

Beavis: Duuuuuuuuude! Domestics, four-twenty five...for a Bud Light!

Both get up and begin to leave.

Butthead: This must be Paris Hilton's private bar. heh, heh!

Beavis: Paris Hilton. Heh, heh.

They disappear into the lobby.


Friday, June 15, 2007

New brewery coming to River Arts District

Today's Asheville Citizen-Times reports on the new brewery coming to the Wedge Gallery. The brewer will be Carl Melissas, formerly of Green Man. You can read the article here. We look forward to welcoming the new brewery and tap room.

Another brewery is in the works for the old T.S. Morrison store downtown on Lexington Avenue, with opening a year or so away. Is Asheville a contender for having the most local breweries per capita in the country? We think so.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Pisgah one of fifty top breweries in US

I received the June issue of Beer Advocate in today's mail. On the first page is an editorial by editors the Alstrom brothers, commenting on the annual Brewer's Association list of the fifty top breweries in the US based on sales. The editors created their own list based on ratings, and number 32 on the list is Pisgah Brewing, Black Mountain, NC.

Congrats to "Pisgah Dave" Quinn and Jason Caughman. Given that their brewery has been in operation for only three years, this is praise indeed. Keep up the good work guys.

The only other North Carolina brewery on the list is Duck Rabbit Craft Brewery, coming in at number 39. We in NC should be proud of our craft beer industry. They can compete with any breweries in the country.

edited: clarification

Monday, June 11, 2007

For the love of lagers

So my dog took me out for a little hike on Saturday, and it didn’t take me long to feel the heat. Summer has yet to ‘officially’ begin, and it’s already in the mid to upper eighties. It’s times like these that I reach for a cold lager. Nothing quenches your thirst after a couple of hours in the hot June sun.

Unfortunately, when most people hear the word lager, they immediately think of Budweiser or Miller, pale comparisons to their more flavorful cousins. These beers have caused many a craft brew lover to cringe whenever they hear the word lager. Thankfully, there are several German, Czech and American craft brewers that are dedicated to making great all-malt lagers.

Lagers lend themselves to outdoor drinking. Whether drinking a pilsner in the hot sun or warming yourself with a sip of dopplebock in the dead of winter, the crisp finish of a well-brewed lager satisfies like no other style of beer. Generally not as hoppy as ales, they tend to be subtle, with hints of malt sweetness combined with the spicy finish of a noble hop. Too bad these beers are often ignored by beer nerds who are always searching for the latest big brash Imperial Stout or Double IPA (both styles that I love, mind you). Brewing a great lager is actually more difficult because you can’t hide behind loads of hops or roasted malts, so it’s all the more special when you find a good one.

Speaking of big and brash, several American brewers have decided that a regular pilsner is just not enough, and they have invented the new style of ‘Imperial Pilsner’, which is a regular Pilsner jacked up with more malt and hops reaching the 8 or 9 percent range at times. This is one time where I think bigger is not necessarily better, but to each their own. You lose the subtle complexity when you use that much malt and hops.

Asheville brewers have ignored lagers for the most part, with the exception of French Broad Brewery, which has a Pilsner, a Marzen, and a Bock in their rotation. Asheville Brewing recently released their Bulldog Bock, a Maibock which is a german spring lager that packs plenty of punch. But other than that, locally brewed lagers are hard to come by, and I hope one day to see a few more offerings.

I have made it a point this year to explore lagers and reconnect with this great style. A cautionary note on light lagers: you want to drink them fresh, and that makes it hard with certain imports and other beers that don’t have any kind of dating system. Be sure to look at the bottle to see if it has a freshness date. Here’s a list of some of the beers that I have been able to get locally that are worthy of purchase:

Victory Prima Pils: My favorite American craft brewed Pilsner. Slightly more hops than its German counterpart, the lovely spicy finish will make you reach for another one.

Brooklyn Lager: The sweet malt shines in this pre-Prohibition style lager.

Mahr’s Pilsner: A quintessential example of a German Pilsner. Crisp and refreshing. (Mahr’s other offerings are great as well.)

Kulmbacher Pils: Another fine example of a German Pils. Drink it cold after mowing the lawn or some other sweat inducing activity.

Klaster Premium Lager: A great Czech alternative to the now mass produced Pilsner Urquell.

Aecht Schlenkerla Helles Lagerbier: I haven’t seen this in awhile, but this is one fantastic beer. A smoked lager, but the smoke doesn’t dominate like a Rauchbier.

Celebrator Dopplebock: This beer is my wintertime favorite. A classic of the style, with sweet caramel and hints of molasses and chocolate. Will definitely warm you up.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Clipper City Loose Cannon

Clipper City Brewing Company of Baltimore produces their "Heavy Seas" line of bottle-conditioned brews which are now available in western North Carolina. I first enjoyed these beers at the Classic City brewfest in Athens, Georgia. When I saw them on the shelves at Bruisin' Ales I had to buy a six-pack of Loose Cannon.

Billed as a double IPA, the beer is more accurately described as an American West Coast IPA, athough the octane is a healthy 7.5 ABV. Brewed with Magnum, Centennial, Chinook, Amarillo and Palisade hops, the beer is a hophead's delight. The nose is full of grapefruit with hints of bread yeast which suggests that the beer is well-balanced. Initial bitterness lingers on the tongue though undertones of malt are always present. The bitterness lingers for some time. There's also a good alcohol bite.

The mouthfeel is medium-light, and the beer poured with a medium head that lingered, leaving a nice Scottish lace in my Barley's imperial pint glass. The beer would also be appropriately served in a tulip glass and shared. Since it's bottle conditioned, it would be appropriate to pour the beer carefully, leaving sediment in the bottle. However, I forgot to do that with one bottle and found that the yeast complimented the hops and alcohol well. I think next time I'll leave the yeast in again!

Overall, an excellent beer. Recommended.

Welcome, Kilgore Trout

I want to extend a warm welcome to my co-blogger, Kilgore Trout. As some of you will recall, when I started the blog I intended to have a group of people who would contribute regularly. Please welcome KT to the blog. I've already enjoyed reading his posts and I hope you will, too.

Friday, June 08, 2007

New brewery at the Wedge Gallery

This is a follow up to one of Mark's previous posts. If you haven't already heard, Carl Melissas, former Green Man brewer, is going to be the brewmaster at a new brewpub that is looking to open in the fall of this year if everything goes well. It will be located at the Wedge Gallery in the River Arts District. If you haven't been to the River Arts District, this weekend would be an excellent opportunity, as they are having their biannual Studio Stroll from 10-6 Saturday and Sunday.

Anyway, on to the beer news. I spoke with Carl about a month ago, and he is very excited about the new space. They plan on having 8 taps, which will feature his Pale, IPA, Pilsner, Oatmeal Stout, Organic Porter, Gollum (yum), and 2 rotating seasonals, one of which will be Belgian style. Needless to say, I am certainly looking forward to seeing Carl brewing again in Asheville.

If you have read this before, it was probably a post by me at, a great forum for North Carolina beer drinkers.

Please allow me to introduce myself

Thanks to the graciousness of Mark, I have been allowed to become a part of the Asheville Beer Blog team. My name is James, aka Kilgore Trout. If you drink beer in Asheville, it is very likely you have seen me. I've lived in Asheville for almost 10 years and watched the craft beer scene in town literally explode. This is perhaps the best beer town in the South, and arguably the best of its size in the United States, so I feel darn lucky to live here.

My posting philosophy is simple. I want to celebrate the great beer scene that we have, while adding any news that I may encounter about the goings on of our little beer world. I will also try to point out any great beers that may be featured on the local taps or in bottles at your friendly neighborhood beer store. Occasionally I may ruminate on the craft beer scene in general. I hope that I can add to what is already a great blog, and that eventually this will be a place for Asheville beer lovers to connect and communicate.

Again, thanks to Mark, and I look forward to being able to contribute.

My absence

Yes, folks, I'm still alive. It's been a rocky few weeks. First, my springtime allergies laid me low and forced me into taking some serious meds that shouldn't be mixed with alcohol. I've also been teaching a graduate course which adds an extra 15-18 hours per week onto my usual 50+. Things should quiet down after next week and I'll be back in business. I'm also looking into bringing a co-blogger on board which will help with posting frequency.

Thanks for e-mails asking if I was still here. It's good to know I was missed.