A Weekend in Beer City USA
My long weekend began on Thursday night, with Lonerider Brewing. On Thursday, December 6th, at Broad Street Café in Durham, Lonerider held a preview event called “The Countdown to Showdown 2013.” There will be one event a month until March or so, when a larger event will be organized. I’m still pretty shaky on the specifics of it all, so I’m not 100% sure what the final main event will be, but the events so far have been billed as “bringing together great live music, wild west attitude, and craft beer as only Lonerider could.” At these past two (December and November) events, Lonerider has released a beer: “Pistols at Dawn” in November and “The Beer With No Name” in December. I had expected more people to be present at the Broad Street Café than there were. Even though the crowd was a little lackluster the band booked for the night, “Leeward Fate,” was pretty good and they were rockin’ out the like nobody’s business with a couple classics amongst with their originals tunes. After grabbing a table, and ordering the excellent artichoke dip, I ordered up “The Beer With No Name.” It’s a Belgian style dubble, and is a deep brown/amber, and was slightly cloudy after being poured. It smelled sweetly of yeast, and there were slight notes of malts. The taste was Belgian yeast-y sweet, with a definite spice flavors at first, and then it became slightly bitter with a yeast-y finish.
The next afternoon my girlfriend and I took off for Asheville, NC. After rolling in around 5:30, we had a few hours to kill until our self-guided tour of the Biltmore house on the Biltmore Estate, so we made reservations at Cedric’s (named after the Biltmore’s Saint Bernard) on the estate’s grounds. I had one of the best burgers I have ever had, and I was also happy to find that the Biltmore Estate has started brewing beer exclusively for sale on the estate fairly recently.
I was more than happy to sample the two:
Cedric’s Pale Ale – Pouring a golden orange, it has a light head. It has a distinctly hoppy scent, and it makes me think of something light, and almost citrus-y. The flavor is crisp and citrus-y, with a light mouth feel, and is followed by a light hop finish.
Cedric’s Brown Ale – This one poured a copper brown, with a light, swirly head. It had a nice nutty scent to it, with light notes of roasted malts. Having a smooth mouth feel, it tastes of roasted malts and roasted nuts. It all winds up with a smooth caramel finish. Brown ales aren’t really beers that I consider to be on my go-to list all that often, but this is definitely one of my favorites.
Our excellent dinner was followed by a self-guided walking tour of the Biltmore mansion. The house is quite amazing; I highly recommend you visit if you’re ever in the Asheville area. Everything from the felt and silk wall coverings, to the tapestries from the 1530s, to the library that holds half of George Vanderbilt’s 23,000 books, are all awe-inspiring to see.
On Saturday we returned to the estate to explore more of the grounds. Even though nothing was in bloom, the gardens were nice to see. Then we headed over to the winery at Antler Village. It opened in 1985 and has been making quality wines ever since. The wait for a spot at a tasting table was a tad long, but was definitely worth it. I like more red wines than white, and the Biltmore Winery has a wide variety of both to satisfy either palette. After purchasing several bottles for ourselves, Christmas presents, and for paying back friends for dog sitting for us this weekend, we headed downtown for pizza on a tip from a good friend. We stopped off at Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria, which totally hit the spot, and I was reminded why Asheville was voted Beer City USA three years in a row. There were too many local brews to drink at once, so I decided to go with a flight.
Catawba Fire Water IPA – This IPA poured a golden yellow, and was crystal clear. It smelled hoppy, slightly sweet, and a little bitter. Tasting bitter right off the bat, it had a smooth mouth feel, tasted of crisp hops, and had a light hoppy finish.
Catawba Valley Farmer Ted’s Farmhouse Ale – The ale was a bright, crisp yellow. It even smelled light, lemon-y, and slightly of yeast. The taste matched the scent: light, crisp, and almost pilsner-y. Having a definite yeast-y finish, it gave way to bread-y flavors.
French Broad IPA – French Broad makes a crisp, clear, copper colored IPA. It has a floral scent, sweet, and smells of crisp hops. The taste is of bitter hops, with sweet notes, and a definite bitter hop finish.
DuckRabbit Hoppy Bunny American Black Ale – Like it’s name says, it is black. Pitch black. It’s topped with a thick brown head. It has a scent of chocolate notes, roasted malts and sweet yeast. Tasting of roasted malts, it’s slightly bitter with chocolate flavors, and has an almost smoky, organic taste. It has a surprisingly bitter finish.
This just about wrapped up our evening. During dinner it had gotten a bit cooler outside, and I was in no shape to do much else but walk around the downtown area. It was definitely too bad that Wicked Weed Brewing wasn’t open yet, it was a block away from where we were at, but they’re building looked like it was coming along nicely.
Sunday brought the end of our trip. Lunch was at Chai Pani, an awesome Indian restaurant off of Biltmore Avenue downtown. We split the non-vegetarian Thali, which happened to be butter chicken, and I ordered up one last Asheville area beer: Asheville Brewing’s Rocket Girl Lager. The lager is a golden orange color, a smooth pour, and leaves a thin head. It smells light and crisp, slightly citrusy, as well as a slightly yeasty. Lightly carbonated, it has a nice fizz, and tastes yeasty, slightly bitter at first, and has a bready finish. Sadly, The Thirsty Monk was closed for the day. I was looking forward to getting my hands on a few more local brews.
I enjoy traveling. As it so happens, my trips seem to somehow always become food and beer related. I love doing research on where to get the best eats, as well as where to get the best local craft beers. It was nice getting to sample beers from breweries that I can’t get in central North Carolina. If you have the time, you should take a trip to Asheville, NC. It’s not called Beer City USA for nothing!