Under the Tap

Craft Beer, Craft People, Craft Places

Category: Craft Nonsense (page 1 of 2)

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.

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.

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.

 

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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New Belgium Asheville

Last month my husband AJ and I attended the opening of New Belgium’s taproom in the River Arts District of Asheville, NC. It wasIMG_1550 Tuesday, May 2nd and even though it was a weekday, I knew everyone was looking forward to this so I wasn’t surprised by the turnout. We visited in the mid-afternoon and while the place was packed, the open layout kept it comfortable. The sign at the door told us they loved us and when we entered the taproom, we really felt the IMG_1531love. The folks on staff were grooving and did an awesome job keeping up with the masses. Table and bar service alike were excellent. There seemed to be no first day hiccups. I was thrown off by there being no place to leave tips, not on the card and not in a jar. Then I remembered that New Belgium is an employee owned company. That was the only logical explanation I could come up with.  It also helped me realize why everyone was in such high spirits. This is more than just a job to them. It is their life. They care about the company and the company cares about them. To the consumers this translates to happy, knowledgeable,  and caring bartenders serving up a quality product. Serving up something to be proud of.

We enjoyed our beers in the grassy yard next to the taproom. The porch was full and the sun was out, but we were the first to brave sitting in the new, thick grass. Soon others followed suit. We all watched as, in the distance, the brewery’s production facility wasIMG_1527 being finished. Enjoying craft brew and watching a brewery come together. I love that feeling.

Deciding to stay true to what I like, I had the Citradelic Tangerine IPA. Aj ordered the Botanical Imperial IPA. Both were tasty. Aj’s beer had a nice spicy, citrus flavor and aroma. Glad he IMG_1533went with one we hadn’t tasted. I almost ventured into the watermelon lime beer, but decided against it. Although, it does seem intriguing. Maybe I should have…..

New Belgium Brewing has done well, not just for themselves, but for the communities surrounding their breweries. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is glad they chose Asheville as their second home.  And they chose a beautiful spot too! A nice place along the river. You can see the artwork from businesses on the other shore from the deck. While the landscaping was mostly still under construction around the brewery and taproom, you could tell a lot of thought and concern were going into the planting and planning of watershed areas.

We are excited to come back with friends and tour the facility. We are also looking forward to future events and releases. Thanks for having us!

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Doc Holliday Beer, Wine, and Art Festival

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Pearl Bottom Radio entertaining the crowd.

This weekend I was in my old hometown of Griffin, GA and had the pleasure of attending the Doc Holliday Beer, Wine, and Arts Festival.  First, I must say that I was happy to see that the town I left has some progressive thinkers and that festivals like these are happening. While it was small and humble, it lacked for nothing. There were great beers , fine IMG_4368wines, and even finer works of art. The stage hosted some very talented local IMG_4374musicians. Ice cold bottles of water were free for the taking and the same tent was offering free breathalyzers to make sure everyone was good to go.  The Grazing Here food truck was on site serving up a tasty lunch. The set-up was orderly and the people were friendly. Even the local law enforcement helping with gates and road closings seemed to be enjoying the crowd.

The ticket price was more reasonable than I expected. While early-bird and VIP passes are available, I paid the general admission price of $10 which got me through the gates with my own commemorative pint glass. I was then able to purchase tickets for beer tastings. They were $1 per 3 oz pour, which was cool. If you really liked a beer, you just cashed in IMG_4363four tickets and to get a full 12 oz pour.

I tried lots of GA beers,however there was craft brew from all over being poured. I tasted the Fixin’ To Session IPA from Jekyll Brewing, the Cadence Belgian Ale from Reformation Brewing, and the Cannon Dragger from Burnt Hickory Brewing. I also enjoyed sampling beers from Monday Night Brew, Jailhouse Brewing, Wild Heaven and Creature Comforts. Georgia has a lot to offer in the way of craft beer. The scene is growing. I am happy that my home state is producing some tasty brews.

Now for the coolest part? Doc Holliday Beer, Wine, & Art Festival is used as a way to raise money for various local charities. This year the proceeds went to Camp Southern Ground, a camp that allows children to “overcome academic, social and emotional difficulties so they may reach their full potential and provide the tools necessary to achieve excellence in all facets of their lives”. Sounds like a worthy cause to us.

IMG_4365 I am looking forward to attending this festival again next year. The beer and people were too good not to want more. Festivals aren’t easy. A lot of behind the scene stuff goes on before the fun begins and the work doesn’t stop when the gates close. Thanks to all of the dedicated people who made this happen. I was glad to be a part of it. Cheers!

 

Brewer Noah McIntee

Somewhere between his dedication to Lazy Hiker Brewing, time with his young family, and service to his communitylazy hiker and pets 008 brewer Noah McIntee found time to sit down with me earlier this year.

Noah came to the small town of Franklin, NC with an extensive work history in the craft beer industry and the personal dream of building a brewery from the ground up.  It all started with a team , an idea, a building, and some money. Noah came in with the brewing experience to make lazy hiker and pets 003it all a reality. Lazy Hiker Brewing came together in just six months and at a low cost due to the team’s dedicated vision.  Noah had his hand in every aspect of the brewery – even traveling to China to design the tanks used on the premises. So why all the attention to detail? Taste their beer and you’ll know. While Lazy Hiker is still a young brewery, celebrating one year on June 11th, you can taste the experience. They hit the ground running with quality brewing standards and the knowledge of how to “make beers that work”.

 

So what’s Naoh’s Favorite Lazy Hiker beer? He says it’s the Slackpack IPA. “I was nervous when I settled on this recipe. It’s not a west coast IPA, it’s not an English IPA. It uses American yeast and American hops that make it a little spicier and more floral. It has a flavor profile that I like.”lazy hiker and pets 010lazy hiker and pets 009

When I asked Noah what his favorite part of his job or this industry was he answered, “the connections with people and the sharing of ideas over a beer.” That’s my favorite part too, Noah. Thanks for taking the time, the people here really are great!

 

lazy hiker and pets 012 lazy hiker and pets 016 lazy hiker and pets 017

Lazy Hiker Brewing is located at 188 W. Main Street in Franklin, NC. Visit their website for more info.

 

Derailed Bar & Lounge

beers and some 059In Bryson City, North Carolina, Anthony’s Pizza has always been a popular place for locals and tourists alike. I mean, who doesn’t love a New York style pizza? Plus, you can get a pie to-go and walk two doors down to enjoy it at Nantahala Brewing Company.

Now you don’t have to leave to get a good beverage. Last year, on top of an amazing makeover of the restaurant, they added a separate bar and lounge for the grown-ups. Dubbed Derailed, this lounge offers amazibeers and some 060ng cocktails, wine, and, of course craft beer.  Situated just across the street from the depot of The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, it’s in the hub of town making it a great place to people watch! Plus, the porch is kid and dog friendly and there’s live music on Saturday nights. However,  if you’re trying to escape the hustle and bustle, kids and dogs, then step inside and find yourself a cozy corner to hide-away. The lounge area is 21 and up. Seating ranges from bar stools and tables to velvet sofas and leather recliners.

I love this environment. A place where everyone can drink together regardless of their choice of beverage.  My last stop in found me at the bar enjoying a draft Green Man ESB and laughing with a stranger who was sipping a high dollar glass of wine. Her partner enjoyed a regular ol’ beer and a shot of whiskey.  Something for everyone.  I always scope out the craft beer bottle list, as their selection rotates. They also have a couple microbrews on tap. We’ve found beers from New Belgium, Green Man, Lazy Hiker, Sierra Nevada, Founders, Natty Greene’s , Brewery Ommegang , and more.

So, whether you’re looking to share a cold brew and a hot pizza with friends or enjoy a cocktail all by yourself, this is a great place to check out on your next visit to the mountains. This little town is full of surprises!

beers and some 052 beers and some 051 beers and some 053beers and some 054 beers and some 055 beers and some 050

Bhramari Brewhouse

In February, I was in Asheville alone on a random Tuesday afternoon. Instead of cruising around aimlessly, I decided to check out a new brewery.

I pulled up to Bhramari Brewhouse sometime in the very early afternoon.  In a town full of parallel spots with parking meters and paying to be in a parking garage a mile from where you need to be, I was happy to discover that they had their own parking lot! A rarity in downtown Asheville. They were just opening and I was greeted kindly by everyone I encountered.

I took a seat at the bar. The place was beautiful. I loved the industry meets nature feel, lots of cool metal sculptures placed among warm woods, rocks, and plants. The tables had little landscapes in the middle with rocks and succulents. They also had a wall of plants that made me feel like I was back in Portland. Everything about this place made my senses happy. Even the music selection fit.

They only had three of their own beers on tap, but their guest selection was great! Lots of Asheville beers: Hi-Wire, Green Man, Catawba, Asheville Brewing, and Twin Leaf. They even had something from Boojum and Raleigh Brewing. All great North Carolina beers. I started with Bhramari’s three, afterall that’s what I was there for. First the Carolina Common.  Not really my style of beer, but it was well executed so I decided to try it infused. They offer a different infusion every couple of days. That day they were forcing the brew through vanilla and coffee beans. The vanilla stood out more than the coffee, but I figured that later in the day the flavor would get stronger. It was still delicious. I ended with a half-pint of their sour, The Good Fight. Not too sweet, not too tart. Slightly malty, very refreshing.

I was just about to leave when a friend came in and joined me at the bar. Ian works for Country Malt Group and was there on business checking it all out. He ordered a flight of their beer as well as a flight of their sodas. I hadn’t even thought to try their house-made non-alcoholic drinks. With an offer to share, we sat and sampled together. Wow! I have to say, Bhramari makes a wonderful soda! I enjoyed the Charred Lemongrass Ginger Beer the most, or was it the Thai Coconut? I couldn’t decide. Each soda offered a new, complex surprise for the taste buds.

I had just dropped by so I didn’t take a tour,  ask a lot of questions, or get any pictures. I will have to make it a point to go back soon. Would love the chance to go back on a brew day and meet the rest of this wonderful crew. Thanks guys and gals! Can’t wait to get back.

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A Visit to South Carolina

palmetto bottleThis winter we visited family in Mt Pleasant, S.C. in order to shake the winter blues. While there we took an afternoon to visit just a couple of South Carolina’s many craft breweries.

We started in familiar territory with Palmetto Brewing Company. Having tried several of their beers in bottles we decided to head over to the source. We parked in front of the brewery and walked through the front gate into a large courtyard. palmetto brew gateWhen we entered the taproom, Trampled by Turtles was playing overhead. We sat down at the bar and instantly found ourselves in conversation with other visitors, other tourists, looking for the best in craft beer. The couple next to us even recommended other breweries in the southeast region to try, Southern Pines Brewery and Railhouse Brewing. Two new places to visit added to the never ending list of new breweries to try. The bartenders were friendly and knowledgeable. We ordered a flight of four beers: an amber, a California common, a pale, and an Imperial stout. The two that stood the most were the Amber Ale and the Ghost Rider Pale.

palmetto brewThe Amber Ale is one of their flagship beers. It was very light and easy drinking at 5.4% ABV and 27 IBUs. The Ghost Rider Pale was probably my favorite beer this entire trip. A citrusy American Pale Ale with smoked ghost peppers. I am a huge fan of spicy and this beer had the bite that I love, yet it was mellowed out nicely by the use of cherries. I believe this beer was a limited release, part of their 843 Series. Should have taken more home!

Next we drove up to North Charleston and had an interesting time with google maps trying to find our next destination. When we finally found it, we discovered that the view alone was worth the freehousedriving around. Freehouse Brewery is in an old building along a stretch of railroad tracks that makes it look like it used to be a warehouse of some sort. The front yard is a large grassy place next to the Ashley River. There was a woman sitting on a picnic blanket with two small children who waved when we stepped out of the car. Even though the weather is mild, yet warm for this time of year, the porch is full. We make our way inside and realize just how small the brewery is, but obviously it’s not the size that matters. Most, if not all, of their beers use organic ingredients. This is not an easy task for microbreweries as ingredients become more costly and harder to find. However, their prices remained reasonable. We tried six beers. freehouse brewFreehouse had a lot of brave flavor combinations. A favorite was one that I ordered out of sheer curiosity; the Kiwi Blueberry Sourlina. This was a very easy drinking sour ale that was not too complex with a perfect balance of tart and sweet.  Would love to visit this place again to see what other bold flavors they can think of. The staff and patrons were both friendly. I even ended up leaving my bag there by accident, when I returned later it hadn’t been touched and the bartender jokingly asked if I could prove that it was mine.

South Carolina craft beer is on the rise and we were happy to support these two fine breweries. Next time we’ll have to take some tours. This time was purely for relaxation and beer drinking. Thanks Charleston. See you again soon.

 

 

 

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