Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Festival Time

Did you miss Brewgrass this year? Or if you went, did you leave thinking to yourself that you need to get to another festival? Well don't worry, there are several festivals happening in the region over the next month to whet your beer appetite. Personally, I love beer festivals. They are a great chance to try a number of beers without having to buy a six pack or a pint, and often times there are special releases or out of state beers that you can't get here in Asheville.

This Saturday is the World Beer Festival in Durham. Unfortunately tickets are already sold out for this event, but you could get lucky if you try craigslist. This is the 13th annual WBF, and it is the largest and longest running beer festival in North Carolina. The festival is held at the historic Durham Bulls baseball field (except for this year where it is being held at the new Durham Bulls Field) and obviously emphasizes both local and international beer. We will be in attendance for the second year in a row.

A week after that on October 11th is the Knoxville Brewers' Jam in Knoxville, Tennessee. Just a short two hour drive away, the festival will feature many of the same brewers that were at Brewgrass, along with a few foreign beers as well. In addition to the beer, a variety of different bands will be playing throughout the day. Tickets are available.

If you don't mind driving a little bit further, the next week features the Great Decatur Beer Tasting Festival in Decatur, Georgia, just outside Atlanta. Again, music and beer are part of the fun, and you get a chance to see the burgeoning beer culture of Atlanta. The festival is sponsored by the Brick Store Pub, one of my favorite bars, and it is located adjacent to the festival grounds. The date is October 18th and tickets are on sale.

Just as the last leaves are falling to the ground, a trip to the High Country would be quite nice, especially if there is a beer festival involved. The first annual High Country Beer Fest is on November 1st, and is being held at the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center in Boone, North Carolina. In lieu of music, the festival will be having educational seminars on a variety of beer topics. Another interesting aspect to this festival is being able to sample some homebrewed beers in addition to beers from commercial brewers. There is also a beer dinner in Blowing Rock that evening. Again, tickets are on currently on sale.

Be safe in your beer travels, and let me know if you attended any of these events. I would love to hear what they are like (I can't go to every festival).

Monday, September 29, 2008

Raise Your Glass

Tomorrow evening (September 30th), the Thirsty Monk is hosting the second annual Michael Jackson Tribute Toast. Jackson succumbed to Parkinson's Disease on August 30, 2007, and his legacy can be seen in places like the Thirsty Monk, which showcases many of the Belgian beers that Jackson introduced to beer lovers all over the world. It wasn't just Belgian beers that Jackson was so passionate about, it was all beer, and the way that beer and culture are so intertwined. From the lagers of Germany to the ales of England, Jackson recognized the importance of beer as being a part of the cultural history of the area in which they are brewed. It is not an exaggeration to say that Jackson is mostly responsible for the beer renaissance that has been occurring over the past 20 years. I highly recommend that you seek out some of his books or his television show, the Beer Hunter.

The festivities at the Thirsty Monk start at 6 p.m., and they will include Highland's first ever cask conditioned ale to be sold to the public. Highland is bringing a Kashmir IPA that has been dry hopped with Cascade hops. All the taps upstairs will be from the area, in following with Michael Jackson's preference for drinking beer that is locally made. At 7 p.m. will be the official toast by Asheville's resident beer scribe, Tony Kiss. Proceeds from the event will go to National Parkinson Foundation.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Another Brewgrass Blast

Another Brewgrass has come and gone. I am always amazed at how quickly the day goes by. This is certainly my favorite beer festival, mainly because I get a chance to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. One of the new friends I made is Anne Fitten Glenn, aka Edgy Mama, a local writer, blogger and beer lover (that is me and her in the picture, taken by her husband Drew). I also had a great time hanging with the local brew crew as well as some friends from Pennsylvania and Alabama. It was a perfect day and I am sorry that it had to come to an end.

So, how was the beer you ask? There was plenty of good beer to be had, and a few standouts that I will mention. Blue Ridge Brewing out of Greenville, South Carolina again impressed me. They brought a Black Honey Imperial Elixir Stout. Elixir is a good word to describe it, as the sweet honey really matched well with the roasted malts of the stout. If you have any gas and happen to be heading down to Greenville, be sure to check them out. It also turns out that there is some good beer to be had in Greenville, North Carolina as well. T.L. Adkisson is an award winning brewer that is doing some great things in the flatlands of North Carolina. His Double Peg Leg Pale Ale was one of my favorites, with a nice balance of hops and sweet malts. Its too bad that his beer can only be had at Hams Restaurant and Brewhouse in Greenville. Heading back to the other Carolina, Coast Brewing in South Carolina also brought some good beers, in particular their Rye Knot Brown. I am not usually a huge fan of Brown ales, but the addition of Rye really gave this beer some added depth. An interesting side note is that Pisgah's own Dave Quinn used to pester the current brewer of Coast, David Merritt, when he was a brewer at the now defunct Palmetto Brewery in Charleston. Coincidentally, Coast Brewing is also an organic brewery, just like Pisgah.

The locals also had some great beer flowing. Green Man featured their Imperial Stout which has made its second appearance, just in time for the cooler weather. French Broad also featured a Rye beer, the Rye Hopper, another brown ale with rye and some spicy hops to match. And of course there was the Highland Imperial Black Mocha Stout, which was a big hit at the festival. I was told that the beer would only be available at the brewery, but do not be surprised if it shows up in stores in a few weeks.

Again, it was such a wonderful day and I am already looking forward to next year's festival. Kudos goes out to Doug Beatty, who always puts on a great festival.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Countdown to Brewgrass

Well, its that time of year again. Tomorrow, 3500 beer lovers will descend on downtown Asheville for the 12th annual Brewgrass Festival. Tickets have been sold out for months, and if you don't have one, you are out of luck. There are two things that you can do though. First, check out craigslist, and hope that someone is selling a ticket at face value instead of scalping it for a hundred dollars a ticket. The other thing you can do is to show up at Martin Luther King Jr. Park about an hour early and see if anyone will be selling tickets. Every year I see a few people who are tyring to sell their extra tickets, so you might get lucky. I wish you luck in your search.

For a great writeup on what the local brewers are doing for Brewgrass, check out Anne Fitten Glenn's excellent write up in the Mountain Express (Anne is also known as the blogger Edgy Mama). Perhaps the most anticipated beer at Brewgrass will be Highland Brewing's Imperial Black Mocha Stout. This is the third year that Highland has introduced an Imperial version of one of their beers, and I think this year may be the best yet. Be sure to hit the Highland tent early, as they will likely run out of the Imperial Stout before the end of the day. As a matter of fact, it is a good idea to figure out what special beers that the breweries are offering and drink them early in the day. The good thing about the Imperial Black Mocha Stout is that you will be able to pick some up on Sunday. Highland is once again be selling their special beer at the brewery from noon to 3 pm.

The weather for tomorrow's festival should be perfect, with a forecasted high of 73 and no rain in sight. We'll hopefully see you there, and I will post a writeup of the festival early next week.