Monday, May 25, 2015

Eating and Drinking Through Asheville, NC: Part 6 the Finale!

In which we wrap up our epic trip to Beer City Asheville, NC.

Day 7

Waking up late and slowly returning to humanity after eating and drinking wayyyyy too much the previous day, we were ready for one more day of this before moving on to the next leg of our journey.  We started the day with visits to some local galleries, then to get some Indian street food at Chai Pani with our friends Andrew and William who happened to be in town that week.  We caught up on events since our trip to visit them in Pennsylvania last Fall and ate some amazing spicy Indian foods.  This was by far the best Indian food I've had and I can see why this place usually has a line to get in.  With a limited beer list, I was happy to find the Pisgah Saison, which went with my food remarkably well.

Next we bought a painting we had been eyeing all week, deciding to bite the bullet and take home some fancy art for our house.

In order to say we went to the mountains, we drove the 20 minutes to the town of Black Mountain, because I really wanted to find Pisgah Brewing, who had made two very good beers I'd discovered over the week.  OK, the town isn't really in the mountains, but it sounded good!  We discovered Pisgah brewing hidden away in an industrial area outside the main downtown.  The brewery itself is located (like most) in an old warehouse.  They have a medium sized bar serving a good number of beers (10+) including cider and rootbeer.  An outside patio area is just outside the large (open) garage doors of the brewery itself.  The place was crowded when we arrived, since there was a Leaf Festival of some type starting up in the town proper a few hours later and folks wanted to get a head start on the festivities.  Our bartender was very busy, but gave us enough of her time to make us feel welcome.

We sampled almost all the beers, and I have to say that I was impressed.  Having had the previous good beers in Asheville, I did have high hopes and they were not dashed after this visit!  Not every beer was amazing, but all were respectable.  I think the GreyBeard IPA was my least favorite, but I was not overwhelmed by any IPA on this trip, and this one was still better than many others.  My favorite was Valdez, a stout made with Dynamite Coffee (roasted just a couple doors down from the brewery) and was full of fresh roasted coffee flavors.  We lucked out and bought one of their last 6 packs to take home and I've been slowly drinking through it since getting back.  Yum!  Juan Valdez would be proud!  I also enjoyed the Red Devil, a cherry and raspberry Belgian ale quite a bit.  I guess these guys are celebrating their 10 year anniversary so they have been doing this a long time now.

Satan sets up his den of iniquity right next to the Tabernacle...

And lo and behold: right next door in the same complex is Black Mountain Ciderworks!  The cidery itself is hidden away behind a curtained doorway, like the Wizard keeping out of sight.  The taproom is beyond tiny, with just a very cute but tall bar and a couple small tables to fill the minescule store-front.  Our bartender was a very nice ex-teacher from New York and seemed happy to discuss ciders with us.  We sampled though the entire lot and enjoyed most of the ciders quite a bit.  Most of the ciders were pretty dry and featured names like The Saxon, The Puritan, Charlemagne, and Zephyrus. It seems that they really are trying to recreate some classic and long-lost cider styles, while mixing things up a bit with new things as well. The Puritan was a great English cider fermented with wild yeast from raisins.  The Golden Hind, a mead with light addition of lemongrass, had just been tapped and we were some of the first to get to try it.  That was our favorite of the day.  One of the cidermakers came out to the bar for a bit for a pint and to work on hand peeling fresh ginger for a new batch.  Sorry I'm going to miss that one!  A cool place, but I think I liked the overall cider range at Urban Orchard slightly more.

Mr. Poe loves some Black Mountain Cider!

Looking at my list of breweries, there was one more to visit in Black Mountain: Lookout Brewing.  This is one of the smaller breweries we visited on our trip, using a glorified homebrew system to supply the taproom.  A tiny yellow sign on the door was the only indicator we had found the right place.  Doors were open to let some breeze blow through the place.  A petite bar in the corner supplied beers to about a dozen locals.  I got the sampler (as always!) to try the lot, and really thought the taster set was cool: a wooden triangle with a labeled poker chip in each glass slot to tell you what the beer was.  Now there wasn't much information about the beers (styles) on the chalk board behind the bar, so I did have to ask a few questions.  The Spicy Hippy and the Session IPA were both very pleasant beers, but I have to be honest I really didn't like most of the rest.  I hate to be too critical of a new brewery, but I wasn't a huge fan of the beers overall.  On the other hand, I think the locals were having a great time and seemed to really love this place, a feeling that can improve the overall vibe of a brewery. Hopefully they can get some more consistency in their brewing over time, since there are hints of potential there.  Still a fun little stop.

We drove back to Asheville and parked the car.  Getting hungry, we had thought about bookending our trip with a dinner at Wicked Weed Brewing again.  In the elevator down, we met a nice stranger named Art who was also planning on going Wicked Weed.  Small world!  Once we realized he had never been to the Funkatorium, we hijacked him and made him come with us for one last glass of the insanely good Red Angel.  Then we forced him at beer-point to go with us to Burial for one last Bolo Coconut Brown.  And then we all went to Wicked Weed for a great dinner and more beers.  I'm really glad we ran into him, since he gave us an excuse to visit all three of our favorite Asheville breweries one last time before heading out.  A great and epic finish to a an epic trip.

Hopefully folks have enjoyed my travelogue and perhaps will get a chance to try out some of these mystical places.  I hopefully have not upset anyone by disrespecting their favorite brewery, but I just call it like I see it!  As at Lookout (above), I know everyone has different tastes in food and beer, and if you love a beer that I think is terrible, I don't want to ruin your enjoyment!  Here is a little wrap-up from our trip:

Favorite Beer--Wicked Wee Funkatorium's Red Angel
Favorite Cider--Urban Orchard's Sidra Del Diablo
Best Wine--I can't remember because who cares about wine when there is that much great beer!
Best Brewery--Burial (Simply because Wicked Week split the vote by having two awesome places.)
Least Favorite Brewery Experience--One World (might be better without the terrible DJ)
Best Restaurant--The Admiral

I'll be back soon posting about some beer events in Huntsville, AL and some other more local brewery and beer reviews!

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