Under the Tap

Craft Beer, Craft People, Craft Places

Greg’s Next Adventure: A Send Off

For the last 5 years and 8 months Greg Geiger has been the man behind the tasty brews at Nantahala Brewing Company. During his time there he helped bring about the Trail Magic Ale Series, which was born out of a love for the outdoors, local and wild ingredients, and his time spent on the Appalachian Trail. He also started the brewery’s first sour program, with great success.

Greg started  home brewing at the age of 19 while attending the University of Florida. He graduated as an industrial engineer and worked in Florida as an Environmental Tech Consultant.   His travels and love for the mountains would eventually land him in Bryson City, where he would become the “Mad Zymologist” for Nantahala Brewing.  

I have to add a few personal notes here. Engineers are the best brewers. Greg not only understood the beer, he understood the equipment. During my time working with him at Nantahala, I watched him repair, replace, and rebuild almost every machine or tank in the building. I can’t imagine a small brewery having to pay a repairman to do the things he accomplished. The expansion at Nantahala happened fast. There was a lot Greg’s brain power and handiwork involved.  I enjoyed watching him work and learned a lot from him, both about beer and life.  When the work day was over (which sometimes for Greg didn’t happen since he lived there), he’d hop in his Land Cruiser and head for the wilderness. Greg once told me, “If you want to survive a job, leave when you aren’t working. Don’t forget to get outside.” So true, no matter where you work.

While working together, we shared many grand brewery adventures; from trips to Portland for the Craft Brewer’s Convention where we got to “meet” Larry Bell to Sweetwater’s 420 Fest and Atlanta’s big ferris wheel to Colorado and beyond. I am glad that Greg was a part of so many of my adventures, and possibly the reason for a lot of them.

Once as a teen Greg purposed the question, “Why do people retire at the end of their lives?” He started throwing around the idea of working really hard for 5 years then taking a year off before finding something else to work hard at for the next 5 years. “At first I thought the idea was crazy, but everyone seemed to like it, saying if I could make a living doing it, I should.” And that’s just what he has done.

Now it’s time for his next journey. He’s already on his way. I believe he is somewhere in Texas and heading west as I type. So cheers, Greg, wherever you are! Thanks for all the tasty brews and the fond memories, no matter how hazy some may be.

On a Beer-with-a-kick Kick

This past year led me to my true love, well in terms of beer anyway. I have always enjoyed spicy foods, maybe to the point that it could be considered an addiction, so you can imagine my excitement  when I stumbled into spicy beers. I couldn’t get enough. I found myself on a search for tasty brews with a kick. Over the year, I found beers that satisfied my desire for heat and flavor.  Here’s a fairly brief run through of a few that I have had the opportunity to try.

I will start with the beer that started it all for me. During a brief visit to Charleston, I stopped in Palmetto Brewing and found Ghost Rider Pale on tap. This beer was a limited release, part of the brewery’s 843 Series. I had never had a spicy beer, but I love spicy food so I got excited when I saw it on the menu. A pale ale brewed with ghost peppers and cherries. The cherries add just enough sweetness to knock back the heat at the end of this American Pale. My only regret is not taking it all home with me.

I first had this next beer on tap at City Lights Cafe in Sylva, NC. The girl working that night said the magic words, “People have complained that it is too spicy. Want to taste it first?” Nope, bring on the full pint. It was the Dragon’s Mouth Pepper Pale from Mystery Brewing in Raleigh, NC.I loved the flavor and heat on this one. I was lucky enough to find it on tap again at Cork & Bean in Bryson City, close to home. While enjoying a pint there, I researched the beer a little. This beer was originally released in 2012 and used Tobago peppers, which were not as spicy. When they decided to bring the beer back, Mystery Brewing used Habanero and upped the heat. A great decision, guys!

Flying Dog Brewery has an entire heat series! Unfortunately, I have only had a chance to try one, the Jalapeno White Ale. I am not usually a white ale drinker, it’s just not my favorite style of beer. It’s a Belgian style ale with a Belgian yeast taste that I usually don’t like, but the way the peppers compliment that yeast is amazing! Great flavor with a small amount of heat. I look forward to trying other beers in this series, like the Ancho Lime Paradise Lager.

I also had another beer from Flying Dog that was spicy, but not part of the heat series.  The  Mango Habanero IPA was released in February 2014 as part of the Brewhouse Rarities series. This one was lightly spicy and tropical. I absolutely loved the flavor of this beer!

I did have a let down in the realm of spice. The beer itself was very tasty but I bought it based on what the website said, EXTREME HEAT WARNING! Spicy is a vague term painted with a broad stroke across edibles ranging in flavor from slightly peppery to tongue-numbingly hot. So, let us be frank. Crime and Punishment, our chile-infused bastardizations of two of the more robust members of the Arrogant Bastard Ale clan, are more than just spicy. They are downright incendiary. If extreme heat isn’t your thing, they just might hurt you. Are you up to the challenge?”  I was up for the challenge, but apparently previous versions of Stone Brewing’s Crime were hotter than the year I bought a bottle.

Several small local breweries doing small batch beers did some pepper infused beers that I really enjoyed for the flavor. Boojum Brewing Company out of Waynesville, NC has a lovely Jalapeño IPA, it isn’t hot since it is brewed with seedless peppers.  In Andrews, NC I enjoyed a Jalapeño Saison from Andrews Brewing Company. I even cut up a fresh pepper from the garden for garnish.  Birdsong Brewing out of Charlotte, NC has a light Jalapeño Pale Ale that has a wonderful flavor with not so much spice. Jekyll Island Brewing in Alpharetta, GA has a nice Pineapple Habanero version of their Hop Dang Diggity IPA. I’ve picked up a 6 pack of this every time I make a trip to Georgia.

There are still a lot of great spicy beers out there. I have a few bottles in the kitchen now, just waiting for a clean palette. There’s the Thai Chili Wahoo from Ballast Point Brewing and Rogue’s Chipotle Ale. Excited about both of these.  I’m still looking for new spicy beers to try and I’ll gladly take recommendations.

Cheers!

 

New Beer Adventures

I’ve been working at Bryson City Outdoors, a small but growing outdoor retailer in western North Carolina. But this isn’t a day job, this is quickly turning into more of a career move. Recently we expanded our retail space and built new sturdy shelving perfect for glass bottles and cans of delicious craft beer. BCO has always been a reliable source of trail and travel information for tourists and locals alike. Now we want to offer the same great service to our beer customers. The expansion will give me a place to utilize my craft beer knowledge and to share it with my community. Dubbed the BC Outdoors Craft Beer Department, we are a one-stop shop for all of your beer and gear needs. Bryson City locals now have a closer place to find their favorites and tourists will have a chance to take home some fine NC craft beers.

We’ve just started filling the shelves. Shopping for beer has been exciting and each delivery day is like Christmas morning. We’re also offering beer related merchandise; everything from Stanley growlers to beer bread to beer soap and candles. We’ll have a grand opening this spring, so watch out for that, but we’re selling now. So stop by and let’s talk beer! Then pick up a few you’ve never had. All bottles and cans are available in singles so you can try them all……but maybe not all at once.

Looking forward to new beer adventures! Cheers!

Bryson City Outdoors is located at 169 Main Street in Bryson City, NC. 828-342-6444

 

 

 

Bikes and Beer at Tsali Cycles

Outdoor enthusiasts everywhere have proven time and time again that we can lead healthy beer lifestyles.img_2342 Mountain biking and road cycling take skill, endurance, and strength…..and they also burn a lot of carbs and calories. Why not have a beer afterwards? Such a tasty reward.

img_2347Tsali Cycles in Bryson City is the place to make that happen. Located along the Tuckaseegee River and the border of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, you can rent a mountain bike to take on local trails and end your trip with a craft beer. What better way to replace those burned carbs? Have your own bike? Need a tune-up?  Let their knowledgeable mechanics do the work while you enjoy a local brew and talk shop.

Looking for something to help with sore muscles after a longimg_2336 ride? The newest addition to the shop is Tsali Yoga with instructor Susan King. There is a weekly schedule that can be found on the Tsali Cycles website, but our favorite day to visit is Friday after work. Tsali Yoga brings together pints and poses. Enjoy a yoga session, brews, and fellowship, the perfect way to balance out your week.

 

Tsali Cycles is located at 35 Slope Street in Bryson City, NC. 828-488-9010

 

 

Appalachian Brew, Stew & Que

It was a Tuesday night in October when Wyatt called.  He was helping with a beer fest in his hometown. It was only 4 days away and one of the bands had canceled. “I know it’s short notice, but is Dogwood Winter available to play a beer festival this Saturday?” As most of you know, Dogwood Winter is a musical project that I am a part of with two very talented gals in Bryson City. I was scheduled to work and I was sure Alma had a show with another band, but I couldn’t say no. I mean, a chance to get paid to play music with a couple of my best friends AND taste some new brews?! Sign me up! I started photo_11making calls and with a little juggling we made it work and accepted.

That Saturday afternoon we piled into a VW bus with the band and some friends and headed south to Hiawassee, Georgia. On the way down we rehearsed harmonies and enjoyed the beautiful fall scenery. What a perfect day for a festival!

If you’ve never been to the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, you’re really missing out. The venue is reminiscent of a small lakeside mountain community. Instead of rows of tents like you see at most beer or craft fests, there are little cabin-like structures for vendors to set up in. This not only made for a good looking event, but a convenient one as well. Vendors just brought their wares and were provided weather-proof space complete with electricity.

This was their first attempt at a beer festival and I think it went over well. There were somewhere around 21 breweriesphoto-2 present, some from Georgia and a couple from North Carolina. I was able to try some beers from a few breweries I had never heard of. My favorite of the day was probably the Coconut Porter from Cherry Street Brewing Co-Op in Cumming, Georgia. I also got a chance to try a beer made from grits brewed by a small brewery in my hometown of photo_51Hampton, Georgia, Jailhouse Brewing Company. Erin, our banjo player, is gluten-free and found some tasty ciders from various places.  Along with the craft beer, several people were serving up food. BBQ fresh out of the smoker and Brunswick stew made from scratch. It smelled like heaven strolling through the fairgrounds.

In the middle of it all was a stage. Several regional acts took the stage throughout the day. We went on mid-afternoon and then took the stage again later that evening as a part of an Americana music jam with Wyatt Espalin, Rob Tiger, and some of their talented friends. There were tables and chairs set-up so people could eat, sip, and enjoy the tunes. We had a blast!

Everyone did a great job. Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds first beer fest was a success. Thanks for the invite. Let’s do it again next year!

Check out Wyatt Espalin’s website for more info about his music and how you can get it. www.wyattespalinmusic.com

 

The Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds are located at 1311 Music Hall Road in Hiawassee, Georgia.

Beer & Wine Express

There’s a fancy new beer store near me, so you know I had to check it out…….a lot. And of course, I went back with my camera.img_5123

Beer & Wine Express is located in Cherokee, NC just off of Highway 74 on Highway 441 North. For me this is just a scenic drive a couple exits up from Bryson City. It is a family owned business and they have made me feel more than welcome every time I’ve visited. The building is brand img_5126new and the store is always spotless and orderly. They have a very large floor plan with a lot of room for growth.

 

The craft beer selection contains all my favorites and many I have yet to try. The shelves are stocked with plenty of brews from right here in North Carolina. I’ve also picked up beers from all over the US that I’ve never seen here. I wish I could give you the full list, guess you’ll just have to check it out for yourself.

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Mountain Layers Brewing Gets Tanks!

I was enjoying a leisurely morning at the house when my friend Ben called.

“Are you at La Dolce Vita?”

“No, I’m at home.”

“They’re moving tanks in at Mountain Layers Brewing.”

I got dressed, grabbed my camera, and headed out the door. He was right. Right now, even as I type, they are moving in  shiny new tanks. This is a huge step for them. A lot of hard work has accumulated to this moment. The place is buzzing, and they aren’t even making beer yet!

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As I made my way down Everett Street today I could see the big wooden crates out front and began to feel the excitement. Upon arrival, I shook hands with owner Mark Pettit and asked to take photos. Kim Pettit took me in through the back door to show me how close things were getting inside. I felt like I was part of the experience. Mark and Kim make everyone feel that way.  I was happy to see the teamwork going into getting the tanks unloaded and moved inside, which is not an easy feat.  Along side owner Mark and brewer Noah McIntee was Greg Geiger, brewmaster from Nantahala Brewing Company.  A beautiful sign of community, businesses working together to bring more people into our small mountain town.

I will be making my way back over for more photos once all the tanks are in place. I always love being a part of the action. I am posting some photos from this morning for you to enjoy. Can’t wait for these things to be filled with liquid goodness!

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Mountain Layers Brewing Company is located at 90 Everett Street in Bryson City, NC. Check out their website or follow them on Facebook to keep up with the progress.

Why Fear Big Beer?

There are always going to be big guys and bullies. There is always going PBR3to be competition and challenge. Why fear it?

They started small, or smaller, like you. They chose their path, as small breweries will have to do as natural growth occurs. Big beer has always been there,  why fear it now? Is it because they are buying us out? But, some of us are selling. Is it because they appear to be bullies? We know how to deal with those guys on the playground……don’t we?

What do we do? To consumers, craft beer lovers, and small business supporters, I say this: continue to buy local craft brews! Buy them from small breweries, gas stations, grocery stores, and bottle shops. Order them at bars and restaurants, and if your favorite spot doesn’t carry them, ask! To taproom, bar, and restaurant owners: buy local craft beers! Support your local and regional economies. There are small craft breweries all over the U.S. and the numbers are growing. To brewers and brewery owners: Keep on being awesome people in a world of bullies. Keep on brewing. Keep on coming up with fresh ideas and reinventing old favorites. Keep giving your distributers a reason to push your product. After all, when you make a tasty brew that sells itself, no incentives are needed.

Ales and Kindness

I can’t cND3A8035ontinue to write about craft beer in my neck of the woods and not mention Nantahala Brewing CompanyND3A2609.

Here in Bryson City, NC where the Appalachian Trail crosses Hwy 74 just 13 miles from downtown, the term “Trail Magic” refers to random acts of kindness and encouragement offered up to thru-hikers, often by strangers known as “trail angels”. The trail angels in this story are brewmaster Greg ND3A2703Geiger and the guys at Nantahala Brewing. Their random acts of kindness? A little money and a lot of awareness for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and three delicious new beers a year for us. Yea us!

I had the great opportunity to be a part of several of these releases in my time working and hanging out there. For Trail Magic #11, I zested limes for three hours. My12440593_10153502662570905_4145938362579960319_o hands were so tired, but I smelled absolutely heavenly. That beer, Greg’s first sour, was worth every minute. Trail Magic #5 surprised me because I come from a Natty Light drinkin’ bunch. My dad came to visit me at work and after trying  several beers, his favorite? The Wild Honeysuckle Saison. I would have never guessed. It was a tasty brew though, made with honeysuckles that Greg and Joe had harvested by hand from the mountains of North Georgia near the southern most end of the Appalachian Trail. While these beers were all limited releases to never be brewed again, the recipes or ideas would show up as bases in other new releases. Trail Magic numbers 1, 4, and 7; these were my favorites. All Russian Imperial Stouts, these would eventually lead to the regular release of Judaculla. Aaaaah, but I’ll never forget the perfection that was #4. For my tastes, anyway.

ND3A8551In 2015, during the Nantahala Brewing Company’s 5th year anniversary celebration we broke them all out. We tasted and reminisced.  We popped the tops on bottles of Trail Magic Ales #1-#10 and threw in two bottles of Witch’s Brew for good measure. A wonderful line of delicious beers that really show off Greg’s creativity and the love for the place he and everyone at Nantahala Brewing call home.trail magic 12

Cheers and happy trails!

 

 

Trail Magic releases happen three times a year during hiking seasons: a spring release in March, a summer release in June, and a fall release in October. Check their website and Facebook page for information on future releases.

Nantahala Brewing Company is located at 65 Depot Street in Bryson City, NC.

 

 

 

The Geeky Bartender

One of my favorite places in Bryson City to hide out and enjoy a craft pint is The Cork & Bean Bistro. Their beer selection is always fresh and always centered around North Carolina’s finest. During a recent visit, while sipping a deliciously spicy brew from Mystery Brewing, the bartender asked, “Why do you always have a beer? When are you going to try one of my cocktails?” I believe my response was, “I’m a craft beer drinker and writer, and I think I found a way to write off beer as a business expense.” He asked how he could get me to write about him. I told him he would have to use beer or something from a tap. I wonder how long he thought about that…..

bank draft cocktailc&bBrad is a mixologist who prefers to be called a “geeky bartender”. With a curled up mustache and his knowledge of fancy bitters, this suits him well. We often find him entertaining guests with his drink knowledge and sparkling personality. He has tended bars in more places than most of us have lived, picking up new ideas for new drinks along the way. He invented the cocktail menu for Cork & Bean, and it is extensive. The names of the drinks play off of the fact that this bistro is located in an historic building that once housed Bryson City Bank.

The drink that finally puts Brad in my blog is the Bank Draft. Needing something involving beer, he used Duck Rabbit’s bank draft cocktailc&b rocksMilk Stout to cook up a new syrup, a salted espresso stout syrup! I tried the syrup by itself and loved it, so I made plans to come back after work and have a drink. Brad reserved two seats at the bar for me and my husband. Once seated, he mixed the drink right in front of us. Another couple sitting to our right began asking questions about Brad’s mixes and bitters. He is very knowledgeable and doesn’t mind sharing what he knows. Even with a packed house, the entertainment never stopped. The flavor profile of my cocktail was very complex, my palette and mind were doing flips. Not being a huge liquor drinker, I was impressed at how strong the drink was yet I could still feel all those different hits to my taste buds. The ingredient I had to look up in this cocktail was the Burlesque Bitters. The primary flavors are Hibiscus flower and sour berries, but there is definitely a peppery spice to it as well. Loved it!

Now this was just one drink on a very thorough list! I highly recommend going out and trying one for yourself. Call ahead for reservations and to make sure Brad is working. You won’t regret it.

Thanks to Brad, the geeky bartender for helping us expand our horizons. If you havn’t had the chance to enjoy one of his cocktails, it’s time to find your seat at the bar in Bryson City.

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