Under the Tap

Craft Beer, Craft People, Craft Places

Tag: beer (page 1 of 2)

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!

  

 

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!

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

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