Friday, May 22, 2009

I come from Alabama with a Belgian Ale on me knee

So the governor of Alabama listened to the people and signed HB373, which will greatly expand the selection of beers in Alabama, and will hopefully encourage some local breweries there to experiment with some different beer styles. I know the folks down there must be pretty happy, and I am drinking a beer right now in their honor.

In other news, I went to the premiere of Beer Y'all last night, and it was a great evening. The guys who made this did a really good job of showcasing the great beer culture of North Carolina. In addition to all the great breweries featured, the film was part rockumentary, featuring the band Rat Jackson, a great bluesy rock band that I might have to check out the next time they play in Asheville. Also in attendence where many of Asheville's local beer celebrities that were featured in the film. If you missed the movie, you will get a second chance to see it this Saturday night (tomorrow) at Asheville Brewing on Coxe Avenue at 9 pm. Admission is free, and if you can't make it there you can also purchase the dvd online, or at Bruisin Ales when they get some copies of the dvd in the near future.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Free the Hops

After some tireless work by a group of avid beer fans in Alabama called Free the Hops, on May 14th, the Alabama Senate passed bill HB373, which will raise the cap on the percentage of alcohol by volume from 6 percent to 13.9 percent. I ran into a few folks that came up from Alabama for the Dogfish Head Brunch on Sunday, and needless to say, they were very excited. The bill is currently sitting on the governor's desk. If the governor does not sign the bill by May 25th, it is considered a 'pocket veto' and the bill will die.

If you recall, North Carolina went through our own fight to pop the cap, and on August 13th, 2003, we went from 6 percent to 15 percent, significantly adding to the variety of beers we have available, as well as unleashing the creativity of our local brewers. Without this law, there would be no "Beer City USA" designation, no Thirsty Monk, no Pisgah Baptista, no visit from Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head (okay, I think you are catching my drift). Since that time, South Carolina has popped the cap as well, and early this year West Virginia did the same. That leaves Alabama and Mississippi as the only two states with severe limitations on alcohol content of beer.

So if you have relatives or friends in Alabama, please pass along the word for them to call or email the governor to show their support. Contact information can be found here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Odds and Suds

First of all, what a fantastic weekend of beer. The Dogfish Head Mountain Weekend was a smashing success. We had our good beer friends from Pennsylvania, Deuane and Carolyn in town, and we hit up all three Dogfish events. Sam Calagione from Dogfish arrived a little late to the first tasting because of an airline hiccup, but he was nice and generous, and went out of his way to speak to everyone who was there. The following night was the Pint Night at the Thirsty Monk, which had an excellent turnout along with some rare treats from Dogfish Head on tap. The weekend wrapped up with one of the best meals I have ever had. Adam Bannasch, head chef of Zambra, created a wonderful set of dishes that matched really well with the dogfish beers. From the light shrimp salad paired with Red and White, to the tenderloin with microgreens and rabbit gravy over a biscuit paired with the 90 minute IPA, the meal was exquisite. I'm ashamed to admit that this was my first official beer dinner, but it will not be my last. Overall it was a great weekend and Sam really seemed to enjoy Asheville, and he was a great storyteller as well during the brunch, giving us some inside details on each beer that was being served.

Of course the beer fun never stops in Asheville, and this Thursday at Asheville Pizza and Brewing on Merrimon is the world premiere of the documentary, Beer Y'all. Beer Y'all is a rock and roll and beer adventure that spans 27 breweries across North Carolina, and I am sure that a few of those breweries will be familiar to us. Advance tickets for the 9 pm showing are being sold at Bruisin' Ales, the Weinhaus, Hops and Vines, and Asheville Pizza and Brewing. It should be a nice celebration of the growing craft brew scene in North Carolina.

As for other events, it looks like Asheville is getting another beer festival. Baseball and Beers will be held by the Asheville Tourists on August 22nd, featuring 30 beer vendors as well as food and music. There won't be a baseball game, but you will get free admission to a Tourists game with the purchase of a ticket to the festival. Tickets go on sale on June 6th, and start at 20 dollars. I hope this is the start of a yearly tradition. The Tourists have done a great job this year of featuring local craft brews on tap, as well as conducting 'beer races' for games that happen Thursday-Saturday. I may have to get in shape to participate.

And lastly, a I just wanted to point out a couple of mentions of Asheville beer. Pisgah Brewing's Solstice won a blind tasting of Belgian style Tripels back in February in Brooklyn. The tasting was sponsered by Ale Street News, and Pisgah faced some stiff competition and came out on top. Also, Asheville Pizza and Brewing got a nod from the travel website Matador Trips as one fo the top 20 Microbreweries in America. Congratulations to both breweries on getting some love.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

American Craft Beer Week

This week, from May 11-17 is American Craft Brew Week. It is organized by the Brewer's Association for people to declare their 'independence' by supporting breweries that produce less than 2 million barrels of beer a year (that pretty much covers everything but the big three, which aren't even American owned anyway). You may be asking yourself, "Self, what can I do to celebrate this most wonderful week?". Well I have gathered a few ideas for you.

Wednesday night at the Thirsty Monk, there will be a Duck Rabbit pint night. Buy a Duck Rabbit beer and keep the pint. That's a pretty nifty deal if you ask me. It has gotten to the point where the only glassware I use at home are pint glasses, but another one never hurts. The following night on Thursday, the Monk will be featuring Duck Rabbit again, only this time it is a cask ale. No pint to take home, but this will probably be the only appearance of their Coffee Stout, a limited release beer not available in bottles. The Monk has been featuring a Cask Ale every Thursday night, and it is definitely worth checking out.

Care to hear some music while you sip your pint? Why not swing by the tasting room for either French Broad Brewery or Pisgah Brewing. French Broad will be featuring local acts Utah Green on Thursday, Dave Desmelik on Friday, and Nikki Talley on Saturday. Or you can head east to Pisgah's tasting room, which has been hosting music for quite awhile now. Thursday night at Pisgah features the Pitch Slickers at 6 pm, followed by Soul Night with Cardeli, which ought to get your booty shaking. Chalwa, a local reggae band, will play at Pisgah on Friday night. Music + cold beer = happiness.

If you are feeling charitable, head on over to Craggie Brewing on Hillard Avenue on Saturday from 2 pm to 7 pm, but don't come empty handed. They are sponsoring a food drive for Manna Food Bank, so bring a couple of non-perishable items to the tasting. Five different beers will be available for sampling.

And of course, the real big event this week is the arrival of Sam Calagione, founder and President of Dogfish Head Brewing Company. Sam is highly regarded in the beer world, and is the author of several books as well as playing the part of beer ambassador to those who have not been converted. The fact that he is coming to Asheville shows that we are definitely on the national map as far as beer (have I mentioned that Asheville is Beer City USA?). The events begin on Friday with two beer tastings at Bruisin' Ales, but you must have tickets for them and they are sold out. Also sold out is the Dogfish Head Brunch at Zambra that is scheduled on Sunday. But fear not, for you can have your chance to see Sam as well as sample some of Dogfish's beer at the Thirsty Monk on Saturday, starting at 7 pm. The tasting menu is terrific, and includes the Burton Baton, the Midas Touch, the Immort Ale (yum), and the Red and White. I suggest heading over there early, and I suspect it will be a crowded event.

Well, if you can't find something to do for American Craft Beer Week, you have no one to blame but yourself. Happy drinking.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

We Are The Champions

So the results of the Beer City USA poll are in, and we are tied with Portland for the country's favorite beer city. I think that is a great result, and Asheville should be proud to be tied with Portland, a great beer city in its own right. I think one of the things that makes Asheville's beer scene so unique is the emphasis that this town has on eating and drinking local. It is amazing that a town of our size can support so many breweries. In addition to our great local beer, Asheville has proven that they like beers from all over the world, as evidenced by the success of such local businesses as Bruisin Ales and the Thirsty Monk. So raise a glass to us and to Portland, and I look forward to celebrating with y'all at the Orange Peel.

In honor of our victory, I wrote a little verse, sung to the tune of "We Are The Champions". If you want me to pen the rest of the song, please send a donation.

We've drank our beer
Pint after pint
We voted all day
And into the night
The voting was close
But we came through
We've had our share of ales and lagers
And we drank quite a few

We are the champions – and Portland
And we'll keep on drinking - till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions - of the beer

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Beer Wars Part Two

First of all, a quick hello. The last couple months have not been easy on me, but I'm still here and I still love beer. I also have begun to use internal rhyme every time I write a sentence. Okay, so that last part is not true, and I hope that no one has caught the swine flu. Somebody stop me please.

I just wanted to make a quick comment on the ongoing beer war that we have been embroiled in over the last few weeks. No, I am not talking about the Beer Wars movie that premiered last month that I was unfortunately out of town for and was not able to attend. I am referring to the recently closed poll by Charlie Papazian, writer for among many other superlatives that can be said about him (he is a deity in the homebrewing community). The poll is for "Favorite Beer City U.S.A.", and if you haven't heard about it, I suggest you check your internet connection. It has been featured on the Citizen Times website, blogged about by my good friends at Bruisin' Ales, tweeted by the Mountain Express (did I just use the word tweeted?), and I have received two emails at work about it. So, needless to say, I don't feel that my lack of a blog post hurt Asheville's chances any.

I was certainly thinking about making a post, and I was trying to come up with some insults that I could hurl at Portland (the comments on the poll at have devolved over the past day or so), but the truth is that Portland and Asheville are both great Beer Cities, and equally worthy of the crown. I spent a few days in Portland a few years back, and honestly, I have nothing but praise for the beer culture in that town. Portland reminded me of a bigger Asheville, and if I ever move out west it would be high on my list of places to live. And the beer is great. You can go to the grittiest dive bar and still be able to enjoy some great craft beer. Asheville thankfully has gotten to this point as well, as you will be hard pressed to find a place where you can't have at least a Highland Gaelic Ale. So, as we await the results of this poll while the casualities mount on both sides of this fierce war, I hope that the survivors can raise a glass to each from opposite sides of the country. We should also be proud that Asheville can be mentioned in the same breath as more established "beer cities". We've come a long way, baby.

One last note. On the Mountain Xpress Tweet and the Bruisin' Ales blog, it has been mentioned that the Orange Peel will donate space for a celebration of our local breweries if Asheville wins the poll. It is my opinion that we have already 'won', and I would hope that the Peel could host a celebration regardless of the outcome of the poll.