Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Asheville Breweries: Part I

Wicked Weed had 25 beers on draft the day we visited Asheville.

By Dathan Kazsuk | April 23, 2014
Twitter: @TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: @trianglearoundtown

Beer. It’s what makes men tick. Creating or drinking it … it can be a driving force. Do you strive for that ultimate combination of ingredients that puts your brewery on the map? Or are you a traditionalist who doesn’t want to stray far from the four basic ingredients: water, yeast, malts and hops?

I consider myself a little of both. But probably sway more towards the experimental side in my beer drinking. This past weekend, Jen and I decided to take a very short trip to Asheville to do some research on several of the breweries around town. It was pretty much 24-hours in the city. It should have been longer – but unfortunately it wasn’t.

The research is for the wine and beer club that we conduct in north Raleigh. We’re coming up on our 1-year anniversary, and recently concluded a winery tour of the Yadkin Valley, which saw members visit nine different wineries over the course of a perfect sunny weekend.

Now, it’s time to plan ahead for a tour of Asheville.

We arrived in town around noon and after passing the Biltmore and the Grand Bohemian Hotel, I finally got my bearings and arrived at our first destination, Wicked Weed. This was our first time at Wicked Weed and my first impression was, “Wow! Cool!” Upstairs the restaurant served up dishes such as fish & chips, middle neck clams, fried chicken and a kimchi sandwich, as well as a bison burger with blue cheese coleslaw.

But on this day we made our way directly downstairs to the tasting room. The room was filled, but we found two spots at the end of the bar. Taylor was our bartender for the day, and he helped guide us along sample after sample. A sample here. A 10-oz. pour there. Another sample or two. Then a couple more 10-oz. pours. Favorites included the Black Angel Cherry Sour, Freak of Nature DIPA, Le Peche Blanc, Coffee Saison and Dark Age Bourbon Stout (Jen absolutely loved this one).

Next we walked over to Burial Beer Co. down the road – but when a Raleigh couple next to us mentioned Burial was going to have a Saison festival later that day, we decided to check out the Lexington Avenue Brewery instead.

LAB is a little bit of everything. A Brewery. A Restaurant. A music venue. Being on a “beer mission” we ordered a flight to share. The flight of six contained the following: 1st Gear (Cream Ale); LAB American Pale; Waves of Grain (Amber); Eleanor’s Rye (Red Ale); Buck Mild (Experimental) and Three Threads (Porter).

Each beer had its distinct taste, and for $8.75 a flight, it wasn't a wallet breaker. Our personal favorite was the Buck Mild, with its notes of toasted coconut and a lingering taste of cayenne peppers that hits the back of your throat at just the right time. By this time we decided to head over to Burial and take part in the festival.

On our way to Burial we walked right past Greenman Brewery (we’ll hit you guys up next time). At Burial, the raindrops began to fall, so we quickly made our way inside, but so many others had that same idea, and the room was packed. So we decided to head back outside, where the Sharpen the Blades Saison festival was happening.

Burial had several different saison beers lined up, and featured others by breweries such as Fullsteam, Greenman, Hi-Wire, Wedge, Pisgah and many more. We were standing in line when we met Larry with Charlotte’s The Unknown Brewing Co. There he did a great job at promoting his special keg saison – the Lemon Drop. Instead of using the candied sugar that is used in saison beers, this Charlotte brewery used the fun-loving candy that all us growing up in the 80s have had before – Lemonheads. So of course we had to try it, and we were not disappointed. We also tried Burial’s Southeast Saison, which was also a good beer.

Next to report on is Asheville Brewing Co. on Coxe Avenue. Another brewpub, Asheville Brewing Co. features some well-known pub food in the likes of wings, fries, chicken fingers, nachos and around 15 different sandwiches on its menu. Again, on a mission for beer, we ordered a flight which featured their Escape Artist (ESP); Rocket Girl (lager); Ninja Porter and Love Ninja (Raspberry Porter) and Scout Stout. With well-priced beer and food and a nice bar atmosphere, there’s a good chance we’ll be back here again.

Other breweries we tried to visit before our ride home was Hi-Wine, Greenman and Wedge on Saturday afternoon ... but we wanted to hit the road by 2 pm, and pretty much all opened at 2 or 3 pm on Saturdays. Maybe next time.