Under the Tap

Craft Beer, Craft People, Craft Places

Month: March 2017

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!

 

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