Under the Tap

Craft Beer, Craft People, Craft Places

Category: Craft Beer

Opinions on Beer

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.

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

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

Lazy Hiker Brewing Company

IMG_0602Passing through Franklin, NC on our way home from holiday visiting, we decided to stop in and check out Lazy Hiker Brewing Company. I first met brewery partner Lenny Jordan just before they started brewing. He was looking for someone to paint murals in and around the taproom. I ended up not having time to do the job since I was working long hours in a brewery myself, however it is one that I still wish I would have taken.  On our initial meeting he showed me around and told me about their plans for the brewery. The building is the old Franklin Town Hall and Fire Department, perfect for a brewery and music venue.  They were doing an amazing job with the renovations, taking their time to get everything right before bringing in brewing equipment. I followed the progress on social media and was excited to finally get to taste the beer.

We pulled into Lazy Hiker Brewing Company at 8:30pm the Wednesday before New Year’s eve. The small parking lot beside the brewery was full, but we were able to find a spot right across the street. There was a food truck parked beside the building and while we didn’t order anything, it did smell heavenly. Inside, the place was packed, but the spacious layout kept it comfortable. There were tables full of families and friends gathering for a beer and maybe dinner. An open garage door near the bar allowed customers to access the patio where there were more seats and an open fire pit. It was perfect for the mild winter weather we’d been having.

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Slack Pack IPA photo by Liz Nance

Once bellied up to the bar, I could see that there was only one bartender and she was slammed, but handling it. We waited patiently and ordered a couple beers. I had the Slack Pack IPA. This beer had a great citrus aroma and the flavor to match it. Not a super balanced beer, as there were almost no malt flavors coming through, but I enjoyed the pine notes all the same. It seemed like there was something spicy or earthy mid-sip, maybe? I wanted to know what hops were used and should have asked. Aj ordered the Bourbon Barrel Aged Double IPA. With an ABV of 11.11% you sure could smell the booze in this one! The hop flavor lingered later and was really present in the post-beer burp, but it seemed to be drowning in the booze in the glass. The vanilla (possibly from the bourbon) was very strong. I would love to try this beer dry hopped.

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Headlamp Black IPA photo by Liz Nance

Before we left, I decided to try one more. I kicked up the IBUs with their Headlamp Black IPA. This brew had the malt of a stout with the hop of an IPA. It had the great hop piney-ness that I love, which came through more  after several sips and time for the beer to warm up some.

All in all, three fine brews. We really enjoyed our visit. I am excited to see what brews these guys will come up with in the future. The brewery may be new, but the brewer’s not new to this game. What are you waiting for?

 

Lazy Hiker Brewing Co. opened in May 2015 and  is located at 188 W. Main Street in Franklin, NC. Their current hours of operation are Tues-Thur 12-9pm, Fri & Sat 12-11pm, and Sun 12-6pm. Stop by and visit them in person or check them out on the web at lazyhikerbrewing.com . Be sure to look for them on all your favorite social media sites as well!

(This post was edited to correct misinformation about brewery ownership. Lazy Hiker is run by a team of people dedicated to the industry. Stay tuned for more…)

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