Under the Tap

Craft Beer, Craft People, Craft Places

Author: Liz Nance (page 2 of 3)

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.

New Brewery Coming to Bryson City, N.C.

Mark and Kim Pettit have been vacationing in Bryson City for 15 years. I had the pleasure of meeting them several years ago during one of their many visits to Nantahala Brewing Company. Sharing a love for craft beer and music, and a passion for people, we hit it off. I’d look forward to seeing them every year, either in the brewery while I was working or in the audience at various performances. These were two people who genuinely loved people, art, music, and the beauty of our small mountain town.  Lovers of the finer, yet simpler, things in life.

IMG_5024The renovation of the building they chose in Bryson City started awhile back and has had everyone’s curiosity peaked. Is it going to be a restaurant? A bar? It looked cool, like a place I’d love to hang out. Imagine how happy I was to find out it was going to become Mountain Layers Brewing Company! And then even more excited to find out that it was Mark and Kim who were opening it!

Since they’ve moved to Bryson City full-time, I’ve looked forward to getting together withIMG_5021 them, but building a brewery from the ground up takes a lot of your time.  Mark and Kim have a kind of excitement about life that radiates. It makes you want to get pumped. This past Monday I had the opportunity to stop in and see how the place was coming along. Their enthusiasm made it very easy to get excited for them and their future. They have been working hard and are looking to have beer on tap sometime before the end of this year. Mountain Layers will have a bar on two levels. IMG_5023The downstairs bar will give patrons a view of the brewhouse. You’ll be able to enjoy a beer and watch the magic happen! The bar upstairs will be a little bigger and has a rooftop deck with amazing views of historic downtown Bryson City, the Tuckaseegee River, and the surrounding Smoky Mountains. I can already see where my regular seat is going to be….IMG_5022

Even though Mark and Kim have some brewing experience under their belts, they didn’t want to get in over their heads. Going from home brewing to a full scale brewery has its share of challenges. In order to keep them ahead of the game they have recruited some outside help. Noah McIntee is joining the team as Head Brewer and General Manager. Noah comes to Mountain Layers by way of Lazy Hiker Brewing Co. in Franklin.  In their recent press release, Noah had this to say, “Mountain Layers is being built on an infectious passion for community and people – two of the core traits that define craft beer culture. I’m honored to be working with Mark & Kim in this exciting venture that embraces and explores the many layers of this amazing region.” Mark and Kim commented, “Noah brings a commitment to quality and creativity as well as a genuine embrace of the community.”

Mountain Layers Brewing Company is planning to open this fall. Autumn just cannot get here fast enough. Find them on Facebook to keep up with their progress and plans for opening.

 

Mountain Layers Brewing Company™ is going to be a  7 barrel craft microbrewery and taproom.  Located on Everett Street in beautiful downtown Bryson City alongside the Tuckaseegee River. Located in Swain County at the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, the new brewery is built on the belief that the mountains have layers of history, cultures, and people which are all reflected in our ancient blue mountains stacked one after the other to the horizon.

Haywood Smokehouse

A VW van pulled up in front of my house…..and I got in. dogwood winter 039

We grabbed our fiddle player and headed NE out of Bryson City in search of tourists to entertain. This was to be the beginning of our tiny bus concert series. We cruised through Sylva, NC first, but movie filming madness made it hard to get anywhere. So we back tracked to Dillsboro, NC. There were a lot of cars around, parking lots were full, but no one was walking the sidewalks. We figured this was due to the fact that it was lunch time. Edogwood winter 057veryone was inside eating. We parked the bus, strapped on our instruments, and walked into Haywood Smokehouse. There we were, a three-piece band, instruments in hand, totally unannounced and uninvited. We asked the lady at the counter if it would be possible for us to occupy a small corner and entertain her lunch guests. Luckily someone in the kitchen recognized us and vouched that we “didn’t suck”. I believe, those were his exact words. Soon we were shaking hands with the owner who was asking us to follow him. We walked out the front doordogwood winter 054 and around the building, where he led us down the sidewalk to a banquet room. As we approached the door, the man tells us that there is a Mini Cooper club in town. They had reserved the room for their group of 50 or so drivers and we were to be their dinner music. So we took a place in the corner of the room and shared our music with car enthusiasts from all over. Once they were wrapping up, we decided it was our turn to sit down for some BBQ. We had made enough in tips from the drivers to feed the band and cover gas. We made our way back to the main dining room of the Smokehouse and got seated.

dogwood winter 053We grabbed menus and I, of course, noticed they had a few craft beers, both on tap and in bottles. I ordered the IPA from Highland Brewing. This particular restaurant has changed hands a few times since I’ve lived here. The fine folks who own it now aren’t new to the Smokehouse business, they have a location in Waynesville, NC as well. I ordered the brisket quesadilla, which ended up being an instant favorite and something I will return for. We were a happy band of well-fed girls enjoying our afternoon, and our lunch wasdogwood winter 059 complimentary for sharing our tunes.

As we were leaving, instruments still in hand, a huge storm blew in and kept us from making it off the porch. What the heck, one more beer!dogwood winter 061

 

 

 

Haywood Smokehouse is located at 403 Haywood Rd in Dillsboro NC and 79 Elysinia Ave in Waynesville NC 28786. Check our their website for hours and a menu.

Dogwood Winter is an acoustic all girl band consisting if Erin Worley on banjo and vocals, Alma Russ on fiddle and vocals, and Liz Nance on guitar and vocals. They play an interesting mix of original ballads and strange rock/pop covers that make you feel like they were all written in the mountains. The band formed a couple years ago on the porch of the Nantahala Brewing Company and can be seen gigging around western NC.

 

Beer or Coffee? How ‘Bout Both!

13528327_10154035139932107_6598488559337948026_oMy two favorite times of the day are morning and beer:30. Rich, bold, black coffee before a breakfast consisting of a muffin when I’m in a hurry or a bacon, egg, kale burrito when I have the time. And then a cold craft beer….the lunch beer. A great way to break up the day.

Lately, maybe because it’s warmer than usual in Bryson City, my go-to beers have been IPAs. People who know me well know that I started out as a dark-beer-only kind of drinker. Pounding stouts at 100lbs and keeping up with session IPA drinkers weighing in at over 175lbs was easier for me than you would imagine. Now with that being said, you can imagine how excited I am that so many brewers are bringing my favorite stout and porter flavors to the IPA. I know it’s not a new thing, but it hasn’t always appealed to me the way it does now. They also haven’t always been this well executed. I know there are a lot of great coffee IPAs out there so I’m only going to touch on a couple that I have enjoyed recently.

13576635_10154063865102107_1541417171997625220_o Let’s start with the Mocha IPA from Stone Brewing Company. I picked up a 6-pack of 12oz bottles in Sylva, NC at PJ’s BP. The bottle states that it is a “style-defying double India pale ale with cacao & coffee”. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s seeing a tasty description like this on a beer, getting excited about it, then never tasting any of the flavors they claimed I would taste. However, this one did not disappoint. Because it is a double IPA it was slightly similar to a white stout in mouthfeel and booziness, yet it was still crisp like a traditional IPA. The cacao and coffee aromas were strong but did not cover up the wonderful scent of hops. I was actually very surprised at how the coffee and hop flavors coexisted. My husband was quick to let me know that he had found a new favorite beer. I was with him when we first saw it, but he couldn’t bring himself to try it. Glad we finally did!

The next beer is a collaborative brew that was released last month.  Appalachian Mountain Brewery13559012_10154063865112107_2353976034691015384_o joined forces with Fonta Flora to bring us Baba Budan Coffee IPA. We purchased a 4-pack of 16oz cans from Ingles in Bryson City, NC. Baba Budan was a 16-century Sufi who is said to have smuggled the coffee bean to India from Yemen, making it available to the rest of the world. If that is true, we owe him a great deal of thanks. What better person to name a beer after? When I cracked open the first can, the aroma reminded me of my favorite part of a shot of espresso, the crema. The color was beautiful, slightly golden orange. The head was a creamy off-white. The IPA part of this beer is in true West-coast fashion and packs a citrusy punch. The combination of citrus and espresso notes made me think of the tropical places that both originated from. I expected all these flavors to give way to the bitterness of coffee and citrus, however the finish was dry and clean. It may be dangerous how drinkable this one is for me. Two of my favorite NC breweries combining two of my favorite things. Thanks, guys! We’ll be purchasing this one again….and again.

So my two loves have found each other in a way I never saw coming. Thanks to these brewers for realizing how many craft beer lovers are also coffee lovers. I can’t wait to explore more. I started strong, these two may be hard to follow. On my next off day, I may just have to skip the hot cup of joe and opt for a breakfast beer!

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Appalachian Mountain Brewery is located at 163 Boone Creek Drive in Boone, NC. Fonta Flora Brewery is located at 317 N Green Street in Morganton, NC. The Mocha IPA was brewed at Stone Brewing’s World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido, CA.

Pj’s BP gas station is located at 237 Asheville Hwy in Sylva, NC. Though you wouldn’t guess it from the outside appearance, this place has one of the biggest and best beer selections in western NC!

All three breweries can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and all those other fun social media outlets, so check ’em out!

 

 

 

 

Hoppy Trout Brewing Company

We wrapped up a show at Andrews Brewing Company around 9pm and asked the bartender if there was somewhere nearby to get food. She recommended Hoppy Trout Brewing Company. This is one thing I love about this industry, one brewery sending us to the next brewery.

We drove over to Hoppy Trout only to find out that they stopped serving food at 9pm, but their bar stays open until 10pm. We decided that since we had found ourselves in a brewery we’ve never tried we might as well wait a little longer to eat. So we decide to get food later at the Huddle House and made our way to the bar.The place was busy with people finishing their meals. The physical bar itself was a cool mix of woods patched  together. Everything seemed simple, not over the top, yet super comfortable. They had a great variety of their own brews on tap. They also had a few guest taps, one from Noble Cider and one from Boojum Brewing. We, of course, wanted to try theirs. Fresh in from playing music, I wasn’t thinking about tasting and reviewing beers. I went straight for a full pint of their All Hail Ceasar IPA, a deliciously orangy beer. Aj put more thought into it. He tasted the Nelson Sauvin Single Hop IPA, the Mungo Double IPA, and the Dr.Smore on Nitro. Each beer was a tasty surprise. Another new brewery making great beers right out of the gate. The guy serving us knew his stuff and was really fun to talk to. We found out before we left that he is a brewer for the Hoppy Trout. Judging by the brew, he’s a good one and he’s working with good recipes.

Once we had beers in hand, we toasted to new beers, small businesses, and a good show. Behind us we could see the guys cooking in the kitchen and the flames of the brick oven pizza. They were moving fast, you could tell their night was almost over. The bartender disappeared for a minute and came back with good news. The cook in the kitchen was Tom Rodeck, the brewmaster and co-owner of the establishment and he wanted us to try their pizza. What?! We don’t have to eat Huddle House?! The night just kept getting better. Soon we had a delicious pie in front of us. WOW! Crust, sauce, toppings, it was all perfect! Since we were the last pizza out, Tom came out of the kitchen to say hello and ask what we thought.. It turned out Tom had seen us play once before at Andrews Brewing and was looking forward to having us play at the Hoppy Trout once their patio is built. We’d be glad to! Everyone was so friendly. From wait staff to owners to patrons, we were surrounded by smiling faces.

hoppy troutSo there we go! Another awesome addition to the brewing community. More great people and more great brews! We can’t wait to go back and take a tour of the facility. I hated posting this with no pictures other than the fuzzy shot I captured that night, but decided to get the word out anyway. Go check it out for yourself!

 

 

The Hoppy Trout is located at 911 Main Street in Andrews, NC. Find them on Facebook or check out their websiteLiz and AJ Nance are an Americana duo performing around Western NC.

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter to Brewery Owners

“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”  – Edward Abbey

IMG_1527We are well into the rise of the craft beer scene and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. New breweries are opening, seemingly every week. Lots of small breweries have kicked it in to high gear to expand. The interest is there so, why not? Banks are ready to give business loans to brewery owners with dreams. Private investment firms want a chunk of the action so they are chomping at the bit to get involved and expand their portfolios. Even big beer wants in.

It is a fabulous business to be a part of and a wonderful time to get in. It is full of great people producing great products, and long-term breweries willing to share their knowledge.  However, with a growing scene there is a growing sense of competition and with competition, often times, comes ego. While many of you are managing to grow while staying humble and true to your roots, some of you are letting it go to your head. And I don’t mean an awesome frothy head.

11958174_10153103929540905_1996659729759751727_oI once served as VP to a fast growing NC brewery. When I first started the job we used to jokingly say that this industry was less than 1% asshole. After doing the job two years, I was sure I had met the entire 1% or else the number was climbing. I have seen breweries leave their small towns for beer fests with their chests puffed out so high they can’t see their consumer. Their ego blinded them from every customer that wanted to make contact, from every blogger that wanted to say hello, and from every fellow brewer who just wanted to feel like part of a team. I have seen tourists stop owners and brewers to offer compliments and be treated like a waste of time. I have visited brewery taprooms where pretentiousness flowed more freely than the beer. I can’t wrap my head around this. You are producing something that makes people happy! Why not let the people tell you how happy they are?

Now with all that said, I do understand ho12065503_10153499761747107_8462991802045593468_nw much work is involved in running a full-scale production brewery. I know that stopping to tell someone they are appreciated isn’t what’s on your mind when you’re trying to figure out how to fill 5 pallets with bottled beer in an afternoon and your Maheen just went down. A lot of these small courtesies are often left to other employees. Taproom managers, bartenders, and wait staff should be trained, not just for the physical labor part of the job, but to have your best interest in mind when speaking to customers. There’s nothing worse than being a day laborer who has to say “that WAS the owner” after unpleasant experiences are had and complaints need to be made. Most of you are excellent at managing money and time, but aren’t made to be in the public eye. That’s ok! Let your employees be the smiling face you can’t be!

It is possible to be awesome and not think you are better than everyone else. Don’t forget where you would be without the customer. Another important thing to remember is that every time a patron leaves your bar, they are taking the notes from that experience back to their families, friends, and social media accounts. Word of mouth is a great asset. Don’t ruin that by letting a sense of pride do the talking for you. Also, most of you are bringing an amazing economic impact to the small towns you are in, but that doesn’t mean you should treat the locals like you’re doing them a favor by being there. Be partners with your community! Make them more than grateful you are there.

I guess this could be an open letter to all business owners and operators. Choose community over commerce and let the growth happen naturally. As you expand, do so with your roots in mind as well as your goals. Slow steady growth is better than rushed ideas and poorly executed visions. Rely on your team. Be leaders, not bosses.

If you’re doing something you love, why not do it with love?

Stay Humble. Cheers.

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