Beers in Review: Asheville-Best of Highland and Frog Level, plus Pour Taproom

Today will conclude the Asheville series with some of the highlights from Highland Brewing Company and Frog Level Brewing.

But before that, there was one other location I wanted to mention again, and that's Pour Taproom. Pour has two locations in the Carolinas and one in California, and they have a concept that I absolutely love. You are given a pint glass and an radio frequency tracker. You touch the tracker to the beer label above any of 30-40 accessable taps, then fill your pint glass with as much or as little beer as you like--the RF tracker tallies how many ounces you pulled. Once you're done drinking, you turn in the tracker which has kept track of ounces pulled of each beer AND the price PER OUNCE per beer, and you pay your bill. It's a fantastic concept, because you can just try a couple of ounces of beer for a dollar or less, or just pour a half of something high gravity/high alcohol without wasting beer. They had a good mix of beers too: locals, domestic crafts, import crafts, Belgians, ciders.

Now, onto Highland Brewing Company.


One highlight of this visit was their Warrior Series Mosiac Rye IPL, about which I did a video review already. We had an additional beer from the Warrior Series, the Tasgall II Scotch Ale, which was sweet and mildly boozy (checking in at 8% ABV). There were cherry and dark fruit notes and a slight boozy aftertaste. We also checked out their summer seasonal, the Early's Hoppy Ale, which had a slight graininess followed by nice tropical hop notes, along with some pine and maybe a hint of citrus. This was a really nice summer beer. I had also noticed that Highland was starting to join the wave of breweries that are canning instead of bottling beer. I don't know if that will be for certain releases, or if they are doing a wholesale transition.

Finally, on Monday, before heading home, I stopped at Frog Level. After grabbing a sampler of beers I had never had before (we only tend to get their top core beers here in Columbia), I took my tray outside and treated myself to this view:

A porch in the woods overlooking a stream. Absolutely beautiful.

Some notables from Frog Level included their summer seasonal, a Raspberry Shandy with mild berry and some grainy notes. I found it to be very smooth to drink and mild overall (to the point that I could have used a little more raspberry fruitiness, and I tend to not be a fruit beer guy). It's a very solid summer beer, though.

They also had a unique brown ale called Smokin' Joe Brown. I had had their Nutty Brunette, which I believe is also supposed to be a brown. Smokin' Joe sets itself apart with its cherry wood-smoked hops. A smoky and roasty note comes through in this beer, along a hint of cocoa and some nice malty sweetness.

Another beer I had never had before was their Shell Back IPA. It was a hazy orange color, with tons of citrusy notes, including orange and assorted citrus rinds. I found it to have a pretty juicy mouthfeel with a mild hop kick at the very end and in the aftertaste. With so much juicy citrus and so little hoppiness, it almost played like a wheat beer.

Some other beers I tried there included a chile beer called Cinco Ranas Picante made with local peppers, including Carolina reapers. I just can't get in to chile beers. I also had their Catcher In The Rye Red, which was fairly light with a nice malt-hop balance, and the Tadpole Porter, which was solid and tasty, but I didn't drink much of, for assorted reasons.

So, this concludes my "brief" rundown of my trip to Asheville, NC. To be honest, it probably could have been another couple of installments, but we'll move on to some non-Asheville beers later this week. Also, coming tomorrow (Monday) will be a video review from Paulaner Brauhaus, who have been making beer for roughly 500 years!

Beers in Review: Asheville-Wicked Weed Funkatorium and Asheville Brewing

We continue the tour of Asheville tonight with three different breweries.

Our second-to-last stop on Saturday was at the Wicked Weed Funkatorium. Now, my parents and I had visited and had lunch at the Wicked Weed Brewery earlier in the day, but they have a separate facility a few blocks away known as The Funkatorium, their home for barrel-aged sour ales and other funky beers, serving up to a dozen at any given time. The barrels are quite prominent, as the storage area is right off the tasting room, and you can see rows of aging barrels stacked high full of maturing beer. Here, I had a pre-determined flight, starting with their La Bonte w/ pear. This was a fairly rich and slightly hazy yellow color, and starts as a Belgian-style farmhouse/Saison that is blended with Blonde sour ale and then flavored with French pears and bottle-aged. I found this to be fairly mild overall, and not necessarily my favorite, though I feel this is more a reflection on me: I need to be in the right mood for Saisons, and I'm not much of a pears guy, either.

Also in the flight were 3 of their barrel-aged sours, which were a little more up my alley, as much as my palate held up (again, we'd drank at least 10 different beers prior to this point). The Marina was a more pale yellow color, almost evoking white wine. The peaches and apricots used in the barrel-aging really came to the fore, flavor-wise, though, as expected, we got little to no sweetness out of them. Next was Amorous, which was a nice orange color, with citrusy flavor notes to match. Noted as a Sour IPA, to me, most of the hop characteristics were overtaken by the sour. The final sour was Recurrant, which was aged with Currants in cabernet barrels. I had hoped my parents, who are more winos than beer snobs, might take to this one a little more than the others, owing to the wine-barrel aging. My dad tolerated all of the sour ales, my mom wasn't a fan at all. They did enjoy our split dessert of vanilla ice cream with berry compote made with sour ale--the contrast of sweet ice cream and sour compote was quite delightful. I enjoyed the ales at the Funkatorium (probably the Amorous was my favorite), but, again, my palate was getting fatigued, so we had just one beer at one last stop.

At Asheville Brewing Company, I had their flagship IPA, called Shiva. Shiva has nice citrus notes, and a good amount of dank piney hops. There is also a good amount of bitterness. This was a well-executed IPA, and I need to head back here to give them more of a try.

Beers in Review: Asheville-Best of Bhramari and Twin Leaf

Tonight continues the look back at the beers of Asheville, North Carolina. We'll be covering two different breweries in this entry.

Starting off is Bhramari Brewhouse, a newcomer to the Asheville scene that is essentially split in two: a standard restaurant and a much more stripped-down taproom and patio, where you can drink within feet of the tanks. Everything here was a little bit off the beaten path, in a good way. One of our drinking experiences was their Carolina Common Ale served both "as is" and infused with apples and star anise. The straight Common uses locally-sourced malt, just like the Highland IPL I tried in Monday's video review. It pours pretty orange color, and was fairly sweet (many of their beers were on the sweet side) with caramel notes and a bit of grain and toasted malt. The infused Common was also quite sweet and yielded a caramel apple flavor, along with a mild black licorice kick (from the anise). On my palate, the entire flavor profile kind of melded into cherries and strawberries at the very finish. Again, these beers were pretty sweet, but just stayed on the tolerable side.

The Night Sauce Stout was a big hit with both my parents and myself. Super tasty with lots of chocolate and a hint of coffee. I also caught notes of roastiness and caramel and just a bit of black pepper as well. Complex and tasty, this was a great stout.

We also tried their Lorelai American IPA. Sadly, I don't have a many notes on this beer, except that it was a bit of a tropical fruit bomb. I enjoyed it, but my dad, who is quite the hop-head, did not. There was also a Black Goze that combined the coffee notes of a porter or stout with the lemon-sourness of a Goze. It didn't work for my personal palate, but I expect they hit their own target perfectly.

Our next stop was Twin Leaf Brewery. They weren't doing flights, which was just fine, as after several beers each at Bhramari and Wicked Weed (discussed previously), we were more than happy to throttle back a bit. I spent most of the time teaching my mother about Cards Against Humanity, so I may have created a monster there. I had their White Noise Witbier. I found this to be a really well-executed wheat beer. It was crisp and clean, with clove, wheat, and even some spicy notes. There was also just a hint of citrus, probably orange. Again, really solid in style.

Beers in Review: Asheville-Best of Wicked Weed

If you've seen the two recent videos I released, you got an overview of my recent trip to Asheville, North Carolina, home of countless craft breweries and beer bars. The next few or several) Beers in Review posts will include more in-depth reviews or descriptions of some of the more notable beers from the trip. We'll start off with three from our first brewery stop, Wicked Weed Brewing.

First is Wicked Weed's flagship IPA, Pernicious. A recent medalist at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival, this beer brings forward a vast array of flavors. There were moderate tropical fruit and perhaps dark fruit notes (which may have all been running together), along with some pine and resin hints as well. There was also maybe just a little bit of dankness. This was a really tasty beer with a wide and wild variety of hop flavor notes.

Next is their beer tribute to Prince, an "experimental ale" called The Artist Formerly Known As. Owing to its experimental style designation, it is an ale brewed using purple rice, which can have a nutty taste, and assorted Indian spices. It pours a "turmeric orange" (their description--I expect turmeric is one of those Indian spices). Admittedly, I don't have an extensive knowledge of Indian cuisine, but the ale left me with an overall impression of curry powder. Some of the flavor notes include spiciness, woodiness, and a slight sweetness. A unique beer, unlike anything I've had before.

Finally from Wicked Weed, Hop Burglar, poured on Nitro. I've tried describing what this means before, but Wicked Weed gives a great description on their website:

The addition of Nitrogren to a beer gives way to much smaller bubbles, creating a smoother, creamier experience. It also creates a beautiful cascading head that makes our brewers’ mouths water.

It gets a tad flowery at the end, but the point is well-made. Pouring a pretty orange color, my overall impression of this beer was that it's a hybrid of a Pale Ale and an ESB, an English-style malty, bitter, ale. The Nitrogen use may be playing a role in this--occasionally you will see similar beers to this on Nitro. Fruity notes are present-a result of the use of blood orange and grapefruit. Most notably, this is a well-balanced beer, with both hop and malt notes shining through.


Video: Reflections of Asheville, Part 1

As previously mentioned, I spent the weekend in Asheville, NC, one of the country's craft beer meccas. Here is a brief recap of Saturday's activities:

I will recap Sunday and Monday later this week, and will write about many of the beers of this trip this week and next week!