Drinking Asheville: Day 1.2

{See how my night got started with Drinking Asheville: Day 1.1}

Once again, I climbed up Coxe towards Hi-Wire Brewing, set just a block off the main road, its entrance harboring a little crowd despite the crane looming above their heads as someone worked on the brewery’s sign. Though the darkness hampered my ability to take photos, I could still revel in the interior’s whimsical theming. The bar, walls and tables were covered in a mix of blue, red and natural wood, highlighted by the bright signage and coasters.

A kind, bearded bartender took my questions and poured me the Bed of Nails Brown (not as malty as I usually like) and the Hi-Wire IPA, which I loved once the initial punch of grapefruit and hops settled down.

I also tried the red wine barrel-aged Belgian, the first of new Elephant Ringmasters series that bartender described as “fancy beers.” Aged in first-use, French-oak Zinfindel barrels, this beer took on a rosy tint and a tart flavor. The aim of the series is to bring one-off beers made with high-quality products, so look for more additions in the near future.

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[Apologies for the lack of photos going forward, as the scene was too dark to capture anything.]

By now it was at least 10 p.m. and I was strongly considered returning to my hotel. With a final heave, I tackled the rest of Coxe to stop at Thirsty Monk. Though I’d originally planned to stay longer at this epic beer locale, the upstairs was ferociously hot and somewhat busy. With a quick sip of Appalachian Mountain Brewery’s Black Gold Porter, I headed across the street to my final destination: Jack of the Wood.

The heavy doors opened to loud banjo plucking as a bluegrass band wooed a dancing crowd. The pub was uncomfortably dark, making it hard to see what was on tap, so I sought the bartender for advice. I accidentally got a full pour (rather than a small pour) of the casked ESBmy favorite Green Man beer served unpasteurized and unfiltered. I imagine this rich, uncarbonated beer would do well in a bourbon barrel (can’t we just put everything in bourbon barrels??).

Ultimately, I was glad for the large drink because it made me stick around to both enjoy the music and the hilarious antics of a drunken, birthday-celebrating trio… the first of whom almost toppled me over as he came swerving towards the bar. Complaints about poetry and “old” age (from these 27-35 year olds), free Fireball shots, pleas for Denny’s, carrying* the inebriated** away from traffic: these are the stories adventures are made of!

*Carrier = sober me
*Inebriated = my swerving, pancake-obsessed friend for the evening
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Drinking Asheville: Day 1.1

(An explanation of where I’ve been this summer)

Laura Huff of Carolina Epicurean contacted me weeks ago about participating in the Asheville Beer Bounce beta. Huff needed a group of dedicated drinkers to test a new online program that uses QR codes to check into breweries; nine locations had agreed to participate and offer special sample-sized pours, with a percentage of sales going to charity. Naturally, I was in.

On a Thursday eve, I set off to the southeast’s Beer City idol with instructions in hand and a new app 20140727-225457-82497874.jpgon my phone. With walkability in mind, I found a parking spot on Coxe, the perfect place for tackling the southwest segment.

Sauntering into the first stop, Burial Brewing Company, felt like walking into someone’s house party. Conversation spilled from the worn, house-like facade. Burial, a nano-brewery in the process of expanding to a 20-barrel system, had a small but tasty selection. The night started with Tong & Fork Belgian Amber, a mix of two of my favorite styles, as well as a Sickle Session IPA and the Cemetery Gates Belgian IPAa Pisgah collaboration that had an unexpected meaty umami.

The creator of the program I was testing happened to walk in the tasting room at the moment I was struggling with my first check-in. What luck! His group also mentioned there was a food truck around the corner at Green Man Brewing. You know how I feel about food trucks.

Eager to try as many stops as possible, I headed around the corner to Green Man. Despite a long-standing love of their ESB, I’d never actually been in the brewery. The tasting room offered a sizeable bar, various tables for gathering and games, a dart board, and two TVS: one playing The Originals and another with It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Interesting variety.

Sweet Molly behind the bar poured me a Leaf Blower, and I headed through the long, covered outdoor space to order from Taste & See. Talk about a perfect combination: pork belly sliders and sweet potato fries and beer! Here, I had the pleasure of meeting both Mrs. Huff and John Pepper, a bounce participant and co-founder of Boone Independent Restaurants. We chatted about our towns and restaurants and favorite brews while I finished off my Patersbier and Porter.

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With night falling, I said my goodbyes at Green Man and set on the road to my next stop: Hi-Wire Brewing. But the bright lights of Twin Leaf beckoned me to detour and try this brewery I’ve been following since before it opened.

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Brightly lit and filled with natural wood furnishings, Twin Leaf offered a quiet pauseuntil the crash of the life-size Jenga game signaled a winner.

I took a seat alone at the large bar with a smooth, rich Mexican Chocolate Stout (one of my favorite beers from the whole night), and by the time I left, I’d made two more friends. Sam, owner of The Ale and the Witch in St. Petersburg, FL, began chatting with me after he saw me writing at the bar. He introduced me to his wife and talked about his bar while I told him more about the beer bounce, Asheville and Greenville’s beer scene.

But the night was middle-aged, and I still had plenty of other brews to discover.

{Follow the rest of the night’s drinking antics at Drinking Asheville: Day 1.2}