Return to Asheville, Part 2

After lunch at 12 Bones on Friday, I proceeded into town. My first stop was NOT my hotel, but a brewery, of course!

Recently, several of the major craft players in the western United States have seen the craft beer boom push their capacities to or beyond their limits. Expansion plans were enacted, and for some of these breweries, it made sense to build new facilities in different parts of the country (thus, saving on shipping costs) instead of expanding old facilities. As a result, the eastern United States has become home to East Coast operations for New Belgium Brewing Company and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in the Asheville area, along with Stone Brewing's facility in Richmond, Virginia. I set up the Asheville big boys as the bookends of my long weekend, starting with the 1 1/2 hour tour of New Belgium Brewing Company.

The bicycle entrance arch leading to the New Belgium production facility and offices.

The bicycle entrance arch leading to the New Belgium production facility and offices.

Located in West Asheville on group of plots that once housed an auto parts facility and a cattle-holding facility, among other businesses, New Belgium worked very hard to clean up this EPA-designated brown site and worked to reuse or recycle a significant portion of the materials, whether reused in the building designs (like some 14 linear miles of lumber that was reused) or in decor throughout the site's facilities. The arch in the picture above leads to the business side of the campus, including the full production facility and business offices. The primary public area is called the Liquid Center (pic below), and features the usual merchandise area and bar/tasting room with plenty of indoor AND outdoor seating, including a beautiful deck overlooking the French Broad River and the greenway, which includes brewery land along the river that was donated back to the city of Asheville by New Belgium. Like so many breweries, a food truck or two can be found out front during most business hours.

Main arrival/entrance area to New Belgium's Liquid Center, with the requisite taco truck out front.

Main arrival/entrance area to New Belgium's Liquid Center, with the requisite taco truck out front.

The New Belgium tour runs 1 1/2 hours. I can't for certain remember my tour guide's actual name (I want to say...Mike?), but he definitely goes by Party Grandpa. So, keep an eye out for him in the Liquid Center or on a tour if you make it there. The production facility is immaculate. The tour features 3 different tasting spots and tends to utilize those spots to tell the story of the founders, Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan, rather than spend tons of time recapping how the beer gets made. Which, to Party Grandpa's point, tends to be a fairly universal process. It's all just a matter of scale. At one tasting point, I finally got a chance to try out The Hemporer, an HPA (Hemp Pale Ale?) which has generated a ton of buzz since it's debut recently. It wasn't bad, but the hemp notes tend to not necessarily be my favorite when they pop up in pales, and this one has those notes turned up to 11. The 4 ounce pour I had was more than sufficient. They also offered us a pour of their flagship beer Fat Tire and a choice of a Belgian Dubbel or their long-time sour offering, La Folie.

Next time: Friday night at Highland and Saturday afternoon on South Slope!

Beers in Review: From the Big Boys of Craft Beer

Today's BiR offerings will come from two of the most widely available craft breweries: New Belgium Brewing Company and Boston Beer Company (aka Samuel Adams).

We lead off with New Belgium's Citradelic Tangerine IPA, which comes in at 6% ABV and 50 IBU. The name says it all, as Citradelic brings the fruit through the use of Citra, Mandarina Bavaria, Galaxy, and Azacca (along with a half-dozen other varietals) hops and tangerine peel to infuse orange, orange candy, and grapefruit notes into this IPA. I personally also got a significant amount of grassy hop notes, along with just a hint of pine. The IPA pours a crystal clear orange-gold color, and I also found a mildly juicy mouthfeel and a medium-heavy body within this beer. This is quite the nice citrusy, fruity IPA. If that is up your alley, find this Citradelic IPA.

Next up is Sam Adams' Hopscape, which was, unfortunately, the substitute for the kicked keg of Bell's Hopslam. But such is the curse of supply and demand. Officially deemed a wheat ale, Hopscape pours a moderately hazy yellow-gold color, and comes it 5.5% ABV and 30 IBU. It's the Sam Adams winter seasonal, but to me it plays more like a spring beer. I got a whole bunch of prominent grassy and wild/dandelion green notes. I got less of pine, citrus, and a little bit of funk. It was a decent beer, and fairly good for Sam Adams. I could have used more of the lesser notes to make a little more complex ale.



Beers in Review: Crossing Beer and Ice Cream

First up in BiR is a collaboration from New Belgium Brewing Company. This isn't a collab with another brewery, but the latest New Belgium beer to incorporate Ben and Jerry's ice cream! This Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale utilizes a blonde ale base and incorporates the key ingredients from the ice cream into the ale. Those ingredients, the chocolate chip pieces and cookie dough, are very much present as flavor notes, but they generate a surprisingly low amount of sweetness. To be frank, I expected a beer bordering on the sickly-sweet side, and was pleasantly surprised to find such a low level of sweetness present. The chocolate did become more prevalent and just a hint sweeter as the beer warmed, but still nowhere near the point of intolerance. The beer pours a mostly clear, pale yellow color, and has an ABV of 6%. In addition to the ice cream flavor notes, the beer is fairly grainy and light, and thanks to the low sweetness, I found it to be an easy drinker.

Next up is a Rauchbier, or smoked beer, from the local German-style brewers, Bierkeller Columbia. The beer had a deep red hue, and the smoke note ("smoked beer" IS literal) was quite prominent, and got a tad overpowering for me over the course of the glass. Toasty malt notes are also present, along with a mesquite/grilled meat feeling generated by the smoke. Sadly, this beer is not for me. I have greatly enjoyed some of Bierkeller's other offerings, and despite past experiences, I occasionally give Rauchbiers another try. But I just couldn't get into this. I can respect Bierkeller's efforts--I'm sure they nailed exactly for what they were aiming. That target is just not for me. I look forward to my next Bierkeller Braunbier or Kellerbier.

Beers in Review: Been awhile

It's been awhile since I've done one of these. Admittedly, the start of football season has skewed my bar-visiting habits quite a bit, so I'm going to the beer bars less frequently right now. Regardless, I have a bunch of beers to write about now, so let's get to it!

Starting off our group of beers is one of the few Octoberfests I'll actually be writing about; rest assured, you will be able to check out plenty of Octoberfest beer reviews on the YouTube channel in the coming weeks!

Samuel Adams' Octoberfest had a nice copper color and brought a pretty strong malt backbone to play with other assorted relatively sweet notes. Most obvious were some mild fall spice notes--mostly cinnamon and I think nutmeg (they all kind of blend together for me)--and some very nice darker fruit notes. I picked up plum and hints of raisin and cherry as well. A slight caramel note also came out of the malt backbone. Overall, despite the potential for a sugar bomb, I found this beer to be fairly balanced. The sweetness was moderate and thankfully not overpowering.

Next up is a collaboration between New Belgium Brewing Company and Avery Brewing Company. Officially under the "Fat Tire and Friends" banner, Fat Wild is an American Wild Ale, and it shows, as the drinking experience leads off with a funky tropical fruit introduction. While other flavors came and went throughout the drinking experience, the funkiness was a constant companion that intensified as I reached the end of my glass of the ale. Other notes included a mild, caramel-sweet maltiness, as well some mild berry notes. I also noted the relatively unique mouthfeel of the Fat Wild as I drank it. I found it to be highly carbonated, and almost frothy, almost as if it were a cream ale or under nitrogen. It was an unexpected, though not unwelcome, feeling.

Our final beer of the day is a local White IPA from Swamp Cabbage Brewing Company. It pours a pale yellow color, similar to a light white wine, and the beer plays very much like a wheat beer to open, and an IPA to close. Some cloves and other spices, along with perhaps some mild graininess, before giving way to a mild piney hit and a decent amount of bitterness that carries through the back end of the drinking experience and lingers well after drinking. I felt this was a decent attempt at a somewhat difficult style.

Video Review: New Belgium Citradelic

The latest video review is New Belgium Brewing's Citradelic Tangerine IPA. Check out this tasty beer!


Also note that as there are now some 40 videos on the YouTube channel, and nearly all of them are beer reviews, I have started sorting the videos into playlists. The Travel/"Reflections" videos have all been put together in one playlist, and I've started sorting the beer reviews by style. Currently

Beers in Review: Out of the box hoppy beers

All of the beers in today's write-up are hoppy, but have a little twist to them. Let me tell you, this is a trio of really good beers, so let's get to it!

Juicy Mandarina is an IPA from New Belgium Brewing Company's Hop Kitchen series, and features a whole lot of wheat beer characteristics, including 3 different types of wheat as well as a Hefeweizen yeast. It pours a hazy gold color with a thick white head. It leads with nice mild-to-moderate citrus notes that support a decent hop bite. I got some grassy notes and maybe a hint of dankness as well. There is also a slightly juicy quality in the mouthfeel-definitely present, but not quite biting-into-a-fruit level. I enjoyed this IPA--it hits a good avenue of what I like, combining the wheat qualities into an IPA.

Next up is a seasonal hoppy Red Ale from Coast Brewing Company called Carnie Fire. The first things I picked up were malt with spicy and earthy notes, along with piney hops and a good amount of bitterness. There was also a slight sweet note in there--maybe vanilla or something sugary. Overall, there is nothing mild about this beer. It is a big time flavor experience.

Finally, Founders Brewing Company's ReDANKulous Imperial Red IPA. It pours a deep brown color with some ruby highlights, and some of the initial flavor notes include fruits like cherries and perhaps plum and other dark fruits. There are also some spice notes and plenty of dank hoppiness. For clocking in at nearly 10% ABV, it's not really boozy, which has its advantages and disadvantages. Another beer where these great flavors really push through strongly. Great stuff.

Beers in Review: Two more Pale Ales, plus a Lips of Faith

We start off the latest trio of reviews with Dark Horse Brewing Company's Crooked Tree IPA. Pouring a deep gold and having medium body, the first thing to hit me on the sip were dank and piney hops. This combines with a mild maltiness and some hop bitterness towards the end, but generally this beer is pretty well-balanced. You might also find a hint of caramel in the flavor, as well.

Second is War Flag's American Pale Ale. It poured a hazy straw color, and featured a citrusy sweetness as the primary portion of the flavor profile. There were also some spicy flavors and a mild hop bite towards the back end of the sip, but it wasn't really bitter. I also found this beer to be crisp and fairly straight forward.

Finally, from New Belgium's Lips of Faith series, Le Terroir 2015. As a dry-hopped sour ale, this ale is quite complex. Sours by themselves typically have a unique combination of sweet, tart, and even salty flavors (see this December 8, 2015 review for a little more about sours/gozes). Le Terroir strikes many expected notes, but goes beyond. Early on in the sip, you get a lot of peach sweetness and dark fruit to winey flavors with some mild tartness that is really nice. The drinking experience becomes more powerful as the sip goes on, as the tartness ramps up with the ale becoming quite crisp, and there is even a hint of saltiness. In addition, the hops used in this ale (a unique addition compared to most sours) also make their presence felt in the second half of the sip. The hops make for a complex flavor profile that goes above the usual sour ale flavor profile.

Beers in Review: Beers from New Belgium and Highland

Just a reviews of a couple of beers I ahd this week.

First off is New Belgium's Long Table. It has the standard farmhouse ale sweetness, but also features pretty prominent notes of toasted bread or grains. It makes for a bit of an interesting balance, as the grains kind of put me in a Pilsner state of mind. But that saison/farmhouse fruitiness is fairly prominent, and tends to hang around the palate quite a bit after the sip.

Highland Brewing Company is one of my favorite regional breweries. I could drink their Gaelic Ale forever and probably not get tired of it. Like the Long Table above, Highland's Lost Cove APA also evoked some Pilsner-like feelings. This beer had some mild hop bitterness, but nothing overpowering, along with a nice citrusy bite. (Undoubtedly caused by the hop strains used in this beer, the bitterness and citrus came out in two separate stages of the mouth experience.) The finish went Pilsnery (a word I just made up), with prominent crackery malt notes.

Beers in Review: The night is dank, and full of hops

If I were better at this internet personality/blogger thing, I'd definitely have the "Game of Thrones" theme running in the background of this page. It's fine. Just sing it in your head. I know you know it. Anyway, we'll get to that.

Low Life Pilsner, another in Evil Twin's eclectic line-up, produces grainy, straw-like notes combined with some hoppy sweet notes that set it apart from your typical Pilsner. Initially, I thought I detected some citrusy hop varietals, but these quickly fell into more herbal notes as the beer warmed up.

As folks living in the crossover of the craft beer fan/"Game of Thrones" Venn diagram are no doubt aware, Cooperstown, New York's Ommegang has been producing "GoT"-inspired beers on an annual basis, with Three-Eyed Raven Dark Saison marking their 5th release. Three-Eyed Raven is nearly pitch-black with a thick tan head. Hints of red wine mix with sweet chocolate notes and a fairly strong alcoholic note, pretty surprising given the relatively low ABV of 7.2%. Pretty dry finish.

New Belgium Ranger IPA featured a strong piney hop profile. This hop bitterness dominates, especially in the middle and end of the sip, along with a powerful hop aftertaste. Not for the casual IPA drinkers (whatever that means), in my opinion, but I enjoyed it well enough. It did kill my pallet a bit for  the beer that followed (which was Terrapin Hopsecutioner, which I will retry before giving a fair review).

Beer in Review: New Belgium Pumpkick

So, I may have previously mentioned my relative disdain for the fall beer season. To summarize, no Halloween beers before Labor Day, no Christmas beers until November 1st. But, given this IS a beer blog, I know I have a responsibility to try SOME of the beers of the style. The things I do for a blog that almost nobody reads. So, enjoy my first live review.

New Belgium's Pumpkick spiced ale is pretty obviously loaded with spices like cinnamon, all spice, and nutmeg to go with the strong pumpkin flavors in this ale. The items that help to cut those spices and sweetness are lemongrass and, according to their notes, cranberry juice--this latter addition really kind of kicks it into a more Thanksgiving-appropriate beer. Anyway, for me, the lemongrass is faintly evident as a flavor, but more serves to temper the fall spice mixture, resulting in a more balanced flavor overall. I'm not getting much flavor of cranberry, personally. There is perhaps a slight hint of tartness, and perhaps the flavor itself comes out more at the end and in the aftertaste. Regardless, I'm sure that tartness is also helping to cut down the strength of those fall spices.

I bought just a single bottle of this beer, but I would consider buying a six-pack for the house. I'd probably wait to drink it until Thanksgiving dinner. Overall, pretty decent.