I can’t believe it’s been over 3 weeks since my last post. In my defense, we all know how busy and hectic the holiday season can be. I didn’t start this post with any particular idea of what to write about. I guess I’ll start by telling my readers about my pre-Christmas vacation to Asheville, NC. Yes I know I end up writing quite a bit about my love for good ol’ Beer City USA. Everyone knows I go there as often as my finances allow. However, It wasn’t myself that picked this destination for this particular trip. For some background, I typically go on 2 mini-vacations every year. One right before Christmas and one right before the school year starts. For this Christmas vacation I gave the choice to my 7 year old son, Orion. He picked Asheville (that’s my boy!) When asked why he wanted to go there, he specifically mentioned Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company. He has been many times to their funky little place on Merrimon Avenue. It’s a restaurant that has 2 big sections in the back. One section is an arcade and game room, and the other section is a movie theater. He loves both. Being the Christmas season, they were playing the movie Elf starring Will Ferrell, which just happens to be a family favorite of ours. It’s also the 1st movie Orion ever saw in a real movie theather, back when Regal Riveria in downtown Knoxville first opened. Anyway He picked there because he loves their food and loves to play games. I love their beer, so it was a winning situation all the way around. I booked a room at Downtown Inn & Suites for 2 nights. I love that hotel and in my opinion, it’s the only place in Asheville to stay. From the top floor mountain side, you can honestly see the buildings that 3 of Beer City’s breweries are in. So the day we got there, we checked into our room, then went to Asheville Brewing. We ordered lunch and Orion played games while I drank a few of their delicious beers. I also picked up a case of Shiva IPA in cans to go. The movie started and since I wasn’t driving, I had a few more. I bought a Shiva IPA shirt as a Christmas present to his mom. After the movie was over, we headed to Bruisin Ales on Broadway. This was my Christmas present to myself. I could (and sometimes do), spend hours there looking at beers, reading labels, trying whatever they have on tap and talking with the owners, staff and other beer geeks. I picked out myself a pretty hefty assortments of beverages, and spent a 3rd of my meager savings there. After that we drove out to Earth Fare to get some grocieries and more beer. Sometimes bigger bottles of local beer is on sale there, so I ended up getting a few more bottles. By that time we were all pretty beat, so we went back to the hotel. After a little bit of tv watching, I decided to venture out to the little gas station/ convienance store/ bum hangout called Hot Spot to buy some bottled water. This was literally within site of the hotel. I was hoping to pick up a gallon of water there since I forgot, but they didn’t have it. I ended up paying way to much for a liter of water. I found it disturbing that I could have got a 2 liter of some crappy high fructose corn syrup soda for half of what I paid for my water, if I actually drank that crap. On the walk back to the hotel, I smelled beer wort cooking in the night air. Beer City USA indeed! I dropped the water off at the room, and went across the street for a beer at Jack of The Woods Pub. I had a Green Man ESB that was cask conditioned. I love the atmosphere of this little pub. I sat at the bar nursing my beer and listening to a bluegrass jam. I was pretty tired by then, so after my 1 beer, I went back to the hotel and fell asleep. The next day was even more fun. The plan was to go Christmas shopping for each other in Downtown Asheville. Orion’s mom and I agreed we would each take Orion for half the day so the other person could go shopping for him. After breakfast I headed out solo looking for presents. I couldn’t really find much in Downtown that a 7 year old toy gun obsessed kid would like, so I got in the car and drove to Toys R Us where I was able to pick him up some cool stuff. When I got back, he was still not done shopping for me, so I headed over to Bruisin’ Ales to pick up a few more beers. It happened to be the 5th anniversary of their opening, and the place was packed. The beer was flowing and stuff was flying off the shelves. I got the call that Orion was ready for me to take him shopping. I met him at the hotel where we ate some snacks before going back out. I also needed a little energy, so I poured myself a Terrapin Brewing Company Wake N Bake Coffee Oatmeal stout into an innocent looking to go coffee cup to take with me. So here I am, walking around shops in Downtown Asheville with a cup of what looks and smells like coffee but is really beer. I thought it was great at the time. When we were done shopping, Orion was exhausted from spending all day walking around town. I was able to finally convince him to walk with me to Green Man Brewery, about 1/2 mile away from the hotel. I went and had a few beers and played darts and met a couple from Chicago who had just moved to Asheville and were staying at the same hotel we were. I’m glad I was able to go, because the Green Man brewery is one of my favorites in Asheville. The tasting room is small and cosy, the brewing equiptment is right there, and the place smells great because of the cooking wort. They brew my favorite ESB. The walk back was tough for the kid. We had plans to meet for dinner at Laughing Seed Cafe. By that time Orion was pretty tired and grumpy an there wasn’t anything he liked on the menu. Ultimately, we went down stairs to Jack of the Woods where they had one of Orion’s favorite dishes, Fish & chips. We all stuffed ourselves and his mom and I had some more tasty Green Man ESB. After dinner we went back to the hotel and had us a little Christmas party where we unwrapped the presents we bought for each other. It was really fun and we all gotten some special and thoughtful gifts. We rested a little and then ventured back out to a free Christmas Party at a local gallery a block over. The gallery is called Za Pow! It is a really cool place with many different artist on display. At the party they had free ice cream, a dj, and most importantly, free beer provided by French Broad Brewing Company. I had 2 cups of Wee Heavy-er. Orion and his mom when back to the room, and I went to have a few more beers around town. I walked over to Lexington Avenue Brewery and had a glass of their unimpressive chocolate stout. I love chocolate stouts, but this one was very weak. It tasted like it was made with chocolate extract, and was very thin. So I headed back to hotel and stopped at The Thirsty Monk for one more beer. When I was ordering from the bar, I noticed they had a special deal. For $20 I could get a copy of The Craft of Stone Brewing Company Book and a big bottle of Stone’s Arrogant Bastard Ale. For $10 more, I could get a signed copy. I ordered the $20 bundle and the bartender went to the office to go get it. She came back and told me that they were out of big bottles of Arrogant Bastard Ale, but could offer me a smaller bottle, the book and a pour of Arrogant Bastard at the upstairs bar, or I could make a counter offer. I offered how about the small bottle of Arrogant Bastard and a signed copy of the book. She went to go check with the manager and came back, offer accepted. I took my book and my glass of Blanche de Chambly on to the front patio and started reading. I have since read the entire book, and have to tell you, it’s pretty darn good. It gives a great insight in to the minds of Stone Brewing Company’s founders and has great food and beer brewing recipes. I’m glad I got it for myself. The next day was Christmas eve. We ate breakfast and packed up the car. The plan was to wait until noon and go to Arcade Asheville to play some more video games. For whatever reason, they weren’t open, so we went back to Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company. I handed Orion a handful of quarters and his mom and I sat down at the front bar. They had Shiva IPA on a nitrogen tap. Having this style of beer on nitrogen is pretty unique. We were talking to the bartender about it. I looked over and thought I saw someone I knew standing sideways. Is that Mike I asked? The bartender said yes as I started walking over towards him. He turned and saw me and gave me a hug. See, Mike is the owner of Asheville Brewing Company. I have seen him and hung out with him over the years at the Knoxville Brewer’s Jam. We always hit it off and he knows I’m a huge fan of his brewery. I always give him homebrew and whenever I see him later on, he tells me how much he likes my beers. I happen to bring some of my brews with me, in case I ran into someone I knew. I went out to the car and grabbed the bottles and gave them to him. He gave me a Ninja Porter hoodie. He knows this is my favorite porter in the world. We talked and hung out for a little bit and he had to go make a delivery to another one of his locations. I am so glad it worked out and I saw him before I left town. It was the perfect ending to my vacation.
So there is my story. I know it’s probably long, rambling and boring, but I had to post something.
Now on to New Years. Tonight is New Year’s Eve. I plan on making an appearance at the Downtown Grill and Brewery (of course). Every year for Christmas I bring bottles of homebrew beer or mead to the bar staff there. They take good care of me year round, and it’s my way of returning the favor. I did this before and after my Asheville trip, but I still have a few people I missed. I also won some passes to Knoxville’s First night celebration, so tonight I plan on walking around, maybe checking out a band or 2 before coming home to usher in the new year with a new beer.
Speaking of new year, time to make some resolutions. Besides the basic ones I’m making such as losing weight, eating healthier and exercising more, I have some beer specific ones. In 2012 I pledge to brew more beer then I did in 2011. I will post on my website at least twice a month. I will continue to upgrade my brewing equipment and practices. I will study harder and pass my BJCP test. I will try new beers.
Happy 2012 y’all.