Under the Tap

Craft Beer, Craft People, Craft Places

Currahee Brewing Company

          

Last month I was invited to bring my camera and curiosity over to Currahee Brewing Company to hangout as they mashed-in this season’s Kawi Coffee Milk Stout. I was interested in seeing their set-up and getting to know their brewmaster, Taylor Yates.

Taylor got his start in the brewing industry in Georgia. He had been brewing at home for awhile when a friend asked if he was interested in brewing on a professional level. He accepted and learned all about the red-tape of a start-up as they opened Georgia’s first nanobrewery, Burnt Hickory Brewing in Kennesaw. From there he headed to Moon River Brewing in Savannah, GA where he was instrumental in their change from English yeast strains to American yeast strains allowing them to make some of the great American pales and IPAs.  Lucky for us here in western NC, the state of Georgia couldn’t keep him.

My visit started at the top of the brewing process. We started talking about the beer and the  brewery while the mash tank was filling with hot water. Taylor is very passionate about what he does and is so full of knowledge that I almost couldn’t keep up! The first thing I noticed was something on the side of the tank that looked like a massive sight glass. It’s called a lauter grant. It allows you to see the runnings of what is being brewed. It started out full of water. Then the malts were added and it started clouding up. When the coffee was added it slowly started to darken and slowly I began to see the color of the Kawi itself. So cool. I love learning new stuff. Of all the breweries I have visited, this was my first time seeing one of these devices. Why doesn’t everyone have one!!??

Currahee cares about the ingredients. They know where the coffee comes from. They mill their own malts.  Taylor spoke passionately about every detail of brewing beer. Aside from quality of ingredients, we talked about wood, barrels, and the aging process. He has a lot of plans for barrel-aged beers and has already made some really tasty ones. I’m excited to hear there will be more. The Cuvee that was bottled for Currahee’s one year anniversary was a blend of whiskey barrel-aged stout and a dark ale aged with wild yeast and Lactobacillus. Funky and wild yeasts are something else that gets Taylor excited. I was lucky enough to get to try a beer that was unlabeled and unnamed. It used funky yeast to imitate the tropical flavors of certain hop varietals. My first sip was heavenly and it was hard to convince my taste buds that there were no hops in the beer. I loved it. Microbes are so intriguing. I can’t wait to get my taste buds on some more of Taylor’s funky brewings.

Outside of the bottle, I have always loved Currahee’s logo. From a distance, a simple black and white design of an eagle, but take a closer look and you’ll see the mountain horizon and a river representing the beauty of the area they’re in. The word “currahee” is a Cherokee word meaning, “stand alone”. The name does more than just pay tribute to the Cherokee, it also honors the 506th Infantry Regiment, originally designated as the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (506th PIR) during World War II, a unit of the 101st Airborne Division. The unit was made famous by their role in Operation Overlord (D-Day), Operation Market Garden, the Battle of the Bulge, and many other campaigns throughout World War II, and the Vietnam War. Currahee is also a mountain located in Stephens County, Georgia, near Toccoa, and was the training site of the 506th PIR at Camp Toccoa. Currahee mountain became the motto and gave rise to the famous quote: “3 Miles Up, 3 Miles Down.” This quote gave way to the name of Currahee’s Berliner weisse, Three Mile.  The brewery name and the names of the beers aren’t just silly ideas, they stand for something……just like the guys behind the brewery.

Thanks, Taylor for opening up your space to me. I enjoyed the beers, the visit, and the company. And congrats! Shortly after my visit Currahee’s Kawi Milk Stout took home a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival!

 

Located in Franklin along a beautiful stretch of the Little Tennessee river, Currahee’s taproom and patio are the perfect place to enjoy a tasty North Carolina craft brew.

16th Street Brewhaus

In March, Aj and I had a couple of days off and decided to drive to Norton, VA to visit our friends Cindy and Vernon Reeves. Cindy has been a dear friend to my family as long as I can remember.  Her husband Vernon has been brewing beer at home for at least 5 years. He’s also super smart so Aj really enjoys talking to him. We arrived late and were fed a tasty dinner of roast and potatoes. The food made a good base for all the beers we were about to taste.  Vernon had the coolest “man cave”. It was the perfect place to hang out and drink a few. He isn’t scared of variety and had plenty to share!  From a black IPA to a porter to an imperial IPA and everything in-between.

We sat with our hosts and talked beer, brewing, and crafts. It was fun to catch up. Bedtime rolled around and we were shown to our bedroom for the night. We were excited to find out that it was only steps away from those tasty beers…….

The next day started early, since we decided during our beer drinking that we’d get up and brew a Permafrost IPA. But first sausage, eggs, and a tasty breakfast stout that Vernon made.

After breakfast, we took to the porch where the brewing began. We got our yeast going the night before so it would be ready to go. Vernon used an extract kit from Northern Brewer Homebrew Supply. He walked me through the whole process. The wonderful smells that brewing beer produces will never get old. I love it all. The grain, the malts, and especially the hops. This particular beer called for one of my favorite hops, Australian Galaxy. I can’t wait to head back that way soon in order to taste it! I got a text just the other day from Cindy letting me know he had already started and finished another one! Time to plan another trip!

 

Enjoy these photos from our brewing experience!

  

 

Mountain Layers Brewing Company

Mountain Layers Brewing Company is open! Our little mountain town of Bryson City now has two craft breweries to draw in craft beer lovers. They have done a great job of creating a place for everyone to feel welcome!  While they don’t serve food, they do have non-alcoholic beverages and pretzels to snack on. They also welcome you to bring food in from one of Bryson City’s many food establishments to enjoy with your beer. (Loretta’s Snak Shak is right across the street and will deliver to the brewery.)

A lot of time and hard work was put in, and it was worth the wait. The space is welcoming and open, the people are friendly, and the brews are fantastic. You can sample them all from one of their cute picnic table flight boards. Brewer Noah McIntee has made some tasty brews to share with us. Mark and Kim made a good call bringing him in to join the team.

Owner Mark Pettit is retired from public safety and truly knows what it means to serve and protect. As a show of appreciation and respect, in the stairwell there is a  wall to “Honor & Remember” all of the people who have risked their lives for our freedoms and our safety. Badges from many of our local rescue squads, first responders, and veterans are on display there.

At the top of the stairs you’ll find a second bar and seating area, TVs, and access to the rooftop deck. Offering great views of Everett Street, the Tuckaseegee River, and the surrounding Smoky Mountains, this may just be the place to be this summer. I think I’ve already picked out my regular spot.

Right now they are holding shorter hours, with plans to stay open later this summer. Also, stay tuned for a date and details about their grand opening taking place in May.

Mountain Layers Brewing Co. is located at 90 Everett Street in Bryson City, NC. Don’t forget to visit their website and find them on Facebook.

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.

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