The Thanksgiving holiday was an extended weekend for myself and I thought what better way to celebrate then getting out of town. Plans were made to do just that. Thursday I had a quick dinner with my son’s family and hit the road. When you want to have a quick beercentric get away close by that won’t break the bank, there’s only really one place to go: ASHEVILLE!
Originally the thought was to go camping but a check of the weather made me realize how little I was willing to freeze my ass off. I called my favorite Asheville hotel, the Downtown Inn and Suites. They had rooms available and at a really good price. With lows expected in the twenties overnight, this sounded much more appealing then pitching a tent in the mountains.
Arriving in Asheville early evening, the 1st thoughts were to see what was open. Thanks to Blog Asheville for responding to my twitter inquiry with a list of what would be open downtown on Thanksgiving night. A quick walk around downtown confirmed that my normal watering spots were closed.
The first spot I went to was the Bier Garden on Haywood Street just a few blocks from the hotel. I have seen this place before but always passed it up. Staying open on Thanksgiving must have sucked for the employees but it was smart business because the place was packed. They have a few beers on tap but not as many as I thought a place calling itself “The Bier Garden” would have. They did seem to have an extensive bottle selection. I ordered some fried dill pickle spears and wanted something on the lighter side to go with it. I ordered a Drunken Baby Pilsner brewed for Bier Garden by Foothills. It was light, full flavored and enjoyable. I wanted to do as much adventuring as possible so after paying for my beer and food it was time to head down Walnut Street to Scully’s Bar & Grille. I hadn’t even heard of this bar before but that’s because when I go to Asheville I usually go drink at breweries and not bars. I like this place. It was small, cozy and had a laid back neighborhood bar feel to it. It was the type of bar that had everything from Bud light to cocktails and a decent craft beer selection. The staff was also super friendly. I discussed beer options with the server who recommended Natty Green’s Freedom American IPA. I liked this beer. Very good american style hoppiness with a solid caramel backbone. Since I was bar hopping, it was time to head to the next spot. When getting checked into the hotel room, I was relaxing and channel surfing when I saw the local news doing a story on places open on Thanksgiving. They were featuring Pack’s Tavern. So it was added to the list.
I had visited Pack’s Tavern briefly during Asheville Beer Week but just to meet up with some friends upstairs. This was my 1st time actually sitting down at the bar and ordering. They had a really good selection. All the seasonal beers were on special, so I elected to try Duck Rabbit’s Marzen, an Oktoberfest beer that I haven’t had before. I drank my one beer and headed to the next spot that I was told would be open, Storm Rum Bar and Bistro. I walked there to see what looked liked a recently closed bar. Had I gotten there an hour early, I’m sure I could have had a drink. Oh well, no big deal. I headed towards the last place I knew was open, Asheville Yacht Club.
Out of the all the places I visited over the course of the evening, the Yacht Club was my favorite. I have always walked pass this place. It’s pretty much next to Jack Of The Wood, which is one of my favorite Asheville spots. I’ve always seen the sign that says it is a private club. North Carolina has a stupid law that states you can’t have a place that serves drinks unless it also serves food or is a private club. The good thing is that it’s super easy to get around this. You simply pay a dollar to become a member and your membership is good for a whole year. Then you sign in at the front every time you come. So I walked in the door and signed in. Loud music was playing, in this case Primus followed by old Metallica. I loved it. The decor was very ocean and pirate themed and I wish I had taken more pictures. They had a full bar. I didn’t see if they had beer on tap, but they did have a decent bottle selection. I elected for Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA since it was on special that night. A few bottles later and I called it a night and headed back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.
The next morning I woke up with one thought in mind: COFFEE! I don’t drink hotel coffee which I find taste like it was the leftovers that were swept off the roasting room floor. After hitting up the free breakfast in the lobby, I went out in search of a good cup of wake up juice. Nestled in between The Thirsty Monk and Weinhaus I found Firestorm Cafe and Books. On the Patton Avenue level it was just a doorway leading downstairs. Unless you are going in from the street around back, this place is really easy to miss. I walked down and could tell this was the type of place the local activist and anarchist frequent. A majority of the books on sale were alternative press and of the DIY ethic. Unfortunately the person working the counter didn’t know the simplest thing, the origin of their house roast beans. I know it’s a such little thing, but it’s knowledge I take for granted that a barista should know.
With all the adventuring I had planned for the day, it was now a matter of waiting for places to open. The first place to go was Asheville Brewing Company’s Coxe Avenue location. I saw online that they had planned to release a new beer on tap that day. In the back of my mind, I figured that they wouldn’t put it on tap until much later, but I had to try anyway. I got there and sat at the bar. My fears were confirmed that the new beer wouldn’t be tapped until much later. Oh well. I did have a half pour of Scout’s Stout. While sipping on my beer I spotted head brewer Doug Riley from across the room. He was kind enough to give me a tour of the brewery and talk beer with me for a little bit.
I bought the least amount of beer I ever purchased there but I did get some goodies. I next headed over to Appalachian Vintner to get a few more bottles of Terrapin’s rare Georgia Theater releases that I saw when I was there on last week’s Bearden Beer Market road trip.
With so many more brewery visits planned, I only had time for 1 beer. I chose Green Man’s Oktoberfest, Harvester. It was the perfect beer for sipping on the outside patio. My friend and all around cool guy Dalton met up with me along with a few family members of his in town for the holiday.
I got to Frog Level late Saturday afternoon and the place was pretty busy. The only one behind the bar was the owner and head brewer Clark Williams. With all the patrons clamoring for beer, it took a bit before mine was poured. I elected to stay with sample sizes and tried the ones I hadn’t had before. After Clark had a chance to catch up, he came over to chat a bit. We talked about his new 3 barrel system and he took me back to look around.
As Clark showed me how his brewery was put together, he gave me a lot of helpful hints and tips. Being an aspiring nano-brewer myself, Clark was an overwhelming source of inspiration. He showed me how certain things can be used in a brewery setting and how to put together a functioning nano-brewery with less costly tools and equipment then I had though possible. He also told me prices on items and where to get them. I thanked Clark for all the advice and set out to my next stop, Headwaters Brewing Company a few blocks away.
I first heard about Headwaters Brewing Company from a NC Facebook list put together by Win Bassett. I read post about the brewery as it made progress and opened for business. Last month while at the Great American Beer Festival I was standing in line for the Dogfish Head booth and saw Headwaters. I passed on trying their beer because I knew that since they were close by, I’d eventually go visit them. While at GABF I really just wanted to try beers that were not in the region, since they are harder to come by.
I sat at the bar and ordered a flight of 4 Headwaters samples. I tried the Upper Falls IPA, Big Sky Rye, Heady Eddy Pale Ale and White Water Hefeweizen. They were all incredibly good. Usually when I try a flight there is at least one beer I don’t like. This was not the case at all with Headwaters. My favorite was the Upper Falls IPA. It was 11% but did not taste like a high alcohol beer. It was deceptively smooth. As I sat and drank my samples I met the owner and head brewer Kevin Sandefur. As we spoke I asked him what size system he brewed on. I was surprised when he said it was a modified 1 barrel Sabco Brew Magic. Next thing I know, I was in the back checking it out.
As I looked around and spoke with Kevin, I got even more inspired to start my nano-brewery. They are still fermenting in 6 gallon glass carboys and built their own custom temperature controlled fermentation chamber.
I was very grateful for Kevin taking the time to show me around. I really like Headwaters and can’t wait to visit again. He told me that they plan on expanded to a 15 barrel system in the near future and I wish them nothing but the best.
It was starting to get late and time to go. Originally the plan was to go see visit Dieter and his brewery, Heinzelmannchen in Sylvia, NC. However due to the time, I had to skip it this go around. I am sorry it was so, but plan on making it up during my next visit to that area. I headed straight to Nanthala Brewing Company in Bryson City. By the time I got there, it was cold and dark. It’s a good thing they built a small heated bar in the big quonset building.
As soon as I walked in I saw owner Joe Rowland and head brewer Greg Geiger. It’s always great to see these guys. I come to Nantahala not only for their great and amazing beers, but to be around other like minded folks who enjoy them as much as I do. Also they were having a “Black Friday” sale on all their previous bottle releases. I love these beers and could not pass up a chance to get a deal on them. I talked to the guys for a few minutes and went at sat at the bar to enjoy a beer. A few minutes later Greg came back and waved me over. He wanted to show me something back in the brewery. He had just finished brewing and wanted me to check out the hop back full of whole leaf Simcoe hops. It smelled so incredibly good.
Well as much as I could have stayed at Nantahala all night talking about beer with Joe and Greg I knew it was a long drive home. I went next door to get something to eat at a small pizza place. The food was bland and the wait was incredibly long. It was over an hour until the food came out. Afterwards I went back next door to the brewery to say my goodbyes. Greg mentioned that he would be in Knoxville the next day so I invited him to the Knox Beer Crew meeting. He said that he would only be in Knoxville in the morning, but he would leave growlers full of beer for us at Bearden Beer Market.
After the long drive home to Knoxville I went to bed and had one of those good solid back-in-my-own-bed sleeps. Waking up on Saturday fully refreshed, I took my son to the last UT Volunteers home football game of the year. We left at half time and I dropped him back off at his house. I then headed over to Bearden Beer Market where the previously mentioned monthly Knox Beer Crew meeting was taking place.
This month’s meeting focused on stouts and porters and took place in Bearden Beer Market’s Yazoo room. Kevin LA was in town visiting family for the holidays and it was good to see him at the meeting.
After awhile a majority of the people left the meeting and we opened up the growlers that Greg from Nantahala had generously left for us. I took one last picture so I could text him the crew toasting him and his beer.
Well that was pretty much the end of Thanksbeering weekend. Sunday I only drank 2 beers right before bed. It was really fun getting out of town and can’t wait to do it again the end of December for Beersmas.
I just wanted to mention to my friends reading this that I really do plan on brewing again on Sunday. Yes I know I said that last post, but this weekend was too hectic and I had to balance out all the beercentric stuff I did with spending time with my son. So if y’all want to come lend a hand or just hang out, I plan on mashing in no later then 10 am. I’m just going to do a 10 gallon batch of a basic pale ale. I’m hoping Dalton, Richard and a few others show up. Also please don’t forget that a week from this Friday on December 7th is First Friday downtown. It is also the Knoxville Christmas parade. This year the parade passes right by Jackson Avenue Market where I’ll be pouring FREE SAMPLES of my winter seasonal called “I’m Warming You!” Please come out and support this event and try some tasty home brew. We are going to start at 6pm. Come down, have a few drinks and watch the parade go by at 7. I am hoping to see you all there.