Under the Tap

Craft Beer, Craft People, Craft Places

Category: Craft Stories

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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