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Metro Wines Blogs

Metro Wines Asheville, NC

Anita Riley studies Brewing, Distillation, and Fermentation and holds the position of Cellarman at Mystery Brewing Company. She holds the title of Certified Beer Server through Cicerone, USA, and is a native of WNC.

Brianna Craig : Four Generations and One on the Way

When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, the Federal Government instituted the Three-Tier System for alcohol. This mandated a “middle man” between the producers of beer, wine, and spirits and the retail establishments that sell them. In order for a bar, restaurant, or bottle shop to have alcohol available to its customers, they must have a state issued license to purchase their alcohol from a distributor. The motive was to prevent the violence and mayhem that existed during The Great Experiment’s era of bootleggers, speak easies, and Mafioso’s.  That same year, Robert Harold (RH) Barringer started a beer distribution company of the same name.

Like the rest of the beer industry, RH Barringer started off with only a few brands, predominantly Budweiser. As the industry diversified, so did RH Barringer. Today they offer the largest selection of North Carolina craft beer brands than any other distributor in the state, and at the helm of the Craft Beer Division is Robert Harold Barringer’s great-granddaughter, Brianna Craig. She represents the fourth generation of the family to take an active role in the company since its founding eighty-three years ago, and the first woman to take an interest in carrying on the RH Barringer legacy. Now that she’s expecting her first child - a daughter - she’s looking forward to raising the fifth generation to blossom in the growing craft beer industry, while she is still growing into the shoes that have been set out for her.

“Craft beer is what ultimately drew me to the company,” Brianna explains. “I pursued an accounting degree at NC State because I wasn’t sure if the company was going to be a good fit for me. At the time it was mostly domestic driven which consists of sales, loading trucks, deliveries and drivers which are more physically demanding and not as [mentally]challenging as I would have preferred. Craft presents challenges and opportunities to constantly learn, change, and grow and this ultimately drew [me] in. I started feeling like I had a field I could really contribute to.”

I think this is the first time I’ve heard anyone say something quite like this, and I wanted to know more about her take on craft beer being the catalyst for women entering the field. She continued, “I’ve never thought of beer as a ‘man’s industry.’ It’s not that women weren’t allowed in, rather it’s that women didn’t have an interest in beer before craft. Now we are seeing a shift in the demographics. Here at RH Barringer, we started out with just two women in our office. Now about half of our office staff is female, let alone our sales staff, which is about 30% female. Whereas before the craft movement, there just wasn’t a whole lot to tickle your fancy. It was a lot of the same styles with subtle differences. It was a dude’s drink, and women preferred wine. I think a lot of that has to do with how many styles of wine there are. That keeps it interesting. Now craft comes along, and there are a lot of styles of beer. All of a sudden beer is interesting to women the same way wine has been.”

Brianna, who is a Certified Cicerone, is excited to see the industry growing and changing in a way that continues to engage women across the three tiers of the beer industry. In this family run business, she has found a unique way to blend the roles of motherhood and Craft Beer Specialist.  “I get to be that woman at the beer festival that people look at and wonder, ‘Why is there a pregnant lady here?’ That’s when I get to explain that I’m here helping with the festival in a professional, educated capacity. I get to be the odd ball person that people notice because they aren’t used to seeing [other pregnant women] in that atmosphere. I think I can use that to let people know that there are more aspects of beer than just drinking it.”

So how does Brianna plan to balance her leadership role with RH Barringer and her leading role as mother to her protégé?

 “I like the idea of having her grow up here,” she explains, referring to the facility she and her family operate. “We did. We had our family Christmas gatherings here in the conference room. We hunted Easter eggs in people’s offices. We’d roll around the warehouse and get all freaked out when they’d close the door to the trailers on us. These are all fun memories to have, but I also want her to be more hands on and learning the processes of what’s going on around her. I just want to teach her as much as I can. I wish I had years more knowledge than I had starting out. I just want to give her all the opportunities. I’d like her to see all the positions from the brewing side to retail, so she can have a better idea of what she’s interested in and what she wants to do when she grows up. I want her to know that she can choose where she wants to go. I think by the time she grows up, this industry will be very different. More women are entering all the time. By the time she’s ready to start her career, she’ll fit right in.”

Brianna also has a lot of goals for her own course and the path of RH Barringer. In our brief conversation, it became clear that this family business hasn’t lost the family feel after eighty-three years and major growth. The company has grown to include four branch offices, each with its own warehouse space, plus a wine distributor. Brianna’s main goal is to continue building the family atmosphere of RH Barringer that extends to their staff and their local community. She is looking forward to continuing the work that RH Barringer has already set forth. The company is a community resource through offering Cicerone education and by hosting homebrew clubs and beer enthusiast groups in their state of the art homebrew kitchen. She’s also looking forward to strengthening her team by identifying each person’s strong suits and putting them in the right positions to showcase those strengths. “Every employee is like family. It’s our job to support them and make sure they have everything they need to be successful,” she finished.

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Happy Brew Year!

“Regarding 2015: I do not care to repeat it. It was a lot of hard work and struggle, but I can say that I am proud of the strides I made this year. My son became (gulp) an adult, I managed to pull off a 4.0, I became a published writer, grew Metro Wines’ beer department from three skus to nearly 100 and added keg sales, worked two full time jobs or was a full time student working full time, and landed my dream job. I have enjoyed the successes, make no mistake. I don’t have plans to slow down any time soon. I have sixteen goals for 2016, and I plan on rocking each of them.”

This was my Facebook status on December 31st, 2015. It was, indeed, a lot of work. In fact, the last three years had been very similar with one exception: there hadn’t been a light at the end of the tunnel. To use a yeast metaphor, I had been in lag phase for a really, really long time. The lag phase is when the yeasts outwardly appear to be dormant, but there is truly a lot of unappreciated work going on. They are taking up oxygen and creating new cells. To the naked eye, all we see is that there isn’t any fermentation happening yet. In other words, the payoff hasn’t started paying off. If 2015 was my lag phase, 2016 has been my exponential growth phase!

I resolved in 2012 that I would go back to school to learn a new skill. It was becoming more and more difficult to eke out an existence with my first career. The recession and technological advances had changed the face of my field along with many others, leaving a large swath of the population wondering, “Now what?” In 2012 my son was entering high school, and my hopes of saving for his college tuition were dwindling with each trip to the unemployment office. It took me a year to work up the nerve, chose a program, and get my ducks in a row to return to school after thirteen years of brain atrophy.   I knew that at one point I had been a good student. I was also acutely aware that if you don’t use it, you lose it, and I had effectively lost it. I sat for my math and English placement test and flunked the math portion with such grandeur as to sentence myself to a year of math classes to relearn the basics. The English, however, I aced like a champ. Is anyone surprised by this? It was clear that the amount of work that lay before me meant that I would be graduating the same semester as my son would graduate high school, not a year or two before as I had hoped. Perfect.

I’m not sure that I can fully recount what it’s like to be a single mom, working full time, and going to school full time for three years on end. I didn’t even take summers off. I’m fortunate that my son was older and more self-sufficient while I pursued my studies. I see mothers of young children walking this same path, and I am dismayed at their perseverance. It’s daunting. I went to school and worked like my life depended on it, because it did. And not just my life. My son’s life depended on it, too. I can only imagine that this is a shared motivation with other parents that return to school.

On December 28th, 2015, I drove a moving van three hours from Asheville to an adorable three bedroom home in Hillsborough, North Carolina. It is my dream house. It goes with everything I own. The birds and squirrels and deer and rabbits play in the park-like backyard. There’s a nearby greenway, and I’m walking distance to the adorable downtown area. My son and parents helped me unload the furniture and possessions that friends had helped me load the day before. It was raining and muddy. I was exhausted. Two of the owners of Mystery Brewing came to help just in time to carry my largest and heaviest pieces of furniture into the house for me. As I drove the empty van back to the rental company, I started sobbing. I had worked so hard for this moment. At times I wondered if I would ever see it. Between work and final exams at school and the logistics of moving, I hadn’t really taken the time to let the gravity of the situation sink in.

As I wrote my resolutions for 2016 just a few days later, I couldn’t have known what was lying around the corner for me. I had just attained so many long term goals all at once, that I didn’t even know how to answer the inquiries from my friends about what I was shooting for next. I couldn’t have anticipated my boss would trust me to Adopt a Highway in the brewery’s name or that he would be handing me the reigns to host International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day at Mystery Brewing during the first quarter of my employment. This is an annual event that takes place on International Women’s Day, March 8th of each year, and raises money for The Pink Boots Society’s (PBS) scholarship fund to support professional development of women in the beer industry. I was only employed at Mystery a few weeks when I was given the task. We ended up hosting twenty women at our brewery that day. The result was “Field and Flower” a blueberry, lemongrass, and jasmine Belgian wit beer. The seven barrels (217 gallons) that we brewed sold out quickly. I couldn’t have been more proud to have it as my first commercial batch of beer and to have been able to share its creation with so many spectacular women.

Since then I have become more involved with PBS than I could have predicted was possible a year ago. I am currently in the midst of writing my first book that will benefit their scholarship fund so that more women can pursue and further their careers in the beer industry. I am working with other state and regional PBS leaders to organize and host the first ever all women’s beer festival, Biere de Femme, in Shelby, NC on March 11th, 2017. The North Carolina chapter of PBS has gone from meeting in small groups once a year for our annual brew day to holding quarterly meetings and social gatherings. In short, we are Brewing Up a Storm over here! 

As proud as I am of these achievements, I am even more proud to have gotten to see my son graduate high school in the spring. Talk about the culmination of a lot of hard work! He and I both put a lot of effort into making that day a reality. There is a dichotomy that exists for parents. We try to enjoy each day with our children because everyone tells you how fleeting those moments really are. At the same time, though, some days don’t seem very different from the one before it. It’s like pressing the fast forward button and pause at once!  It’s remarkable to finally be able to say that I am exactly who I wanted to be when I grew up. It’s exponentially more satisfying to say that my son is exactly who I hoped he would be at this age. He is my life’s work, and I couldn’t be more proud of the man he has turned out to be.  

It’s rare that I write about myself. It’s uncomfortable for me. But knowing how rare these kinds of years are, I took a deep breath and decided to write about it. In part because I think it’s worth celebrating. I could do that on my own, though. Rather, I chose to document it publicly because we all have lag years. Sometimes we have lag decades. It seems like we’re getting nowhere or that our destination is just a moving target that we’ll never reach. 2016 has been one of those great reminders for me that hard work actually does pay off, big picture goals are reachable, and one step at a time will eventually get you where you’re headed. I hope you’ll push forward on your path. I hope that you look over shoulder at the year gone by and realize that there was a lot of unappreciated work happening even if you didn’t always notice it. I hope that you take time to celebrate the large and small strides. And if you are fortunate enough to have reached a mountain top in 2016, then I hope that you recognize how remarkable it is before you set your eyes on the next peak. I hope you impress yourself in 2017. Cheers!

To learn more about The Pink Boots Society visit https://www.pinkbootssociety.org/

To order tickets for the Biere de Femme Festival visit https://www.pinkbootssociety.org/events/#!event/2017/3/11/biere-de-femme-festival

To learn more about Mystery Brewing Company, visit www.mysterybrewing.com

 

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Lara Murphy of Modern Romance: Finding the Lump in the Road to Starting a Brewery

Lara Murphy and her husband, Paul Hobson, embody the name for their brewery in planning: Modern Romance Brewery. Their story is a thing of beauty. They dated for two years when they were in high school, but when Paul went off to college, Lara was only in her sophomore year.  The relationship just sort of fell apart. Paul finished college, got married, and moved to Texas. Lara went to college a few years after Paul, then moved to New York City to start her career. While they had each moved on in their own way, neither forgot the other. Some fifteen years later, a twist of not-fate (neither of them buy into the notion) reunited them. Paul had just gotten divorced and moved back to North Carolina. Lara, who had also moved back to North Carolina, had just experienced a break-up herself. She went out with some friends to celebrate their birthday. Almost immediately after they arrived, Lara spotted Paul sitting at the bar with a group of old college friends. He looked up to see Lara looking back at him. It wasn’t long before they were dating again. Just over a year later, they were married. “It seems radical and fast, and it kind of is, but things clicked back into place in such a way. We definitely grew up and matured apart, but we did it in such a way that made us even more compatible, I think,” Paul says. I know, right!? Just when you thought romance was dead! “A lot of our getting to know each other again and date as adults was centered around craft beer,” Lara says as she recounts stories of the brewery tours, bottle shops, and tasting rooms they frequented during their courtship. This naturally led to shared experiments with homebrewing, which led to award-winning recipes, which led to even loftier ambitions.
Fast forward six years to September of 2015, and Modern Romance is really starting to come together. Paul and Lara had savings to use as seed money to start their own brewery. They found a location in close proximity to other Durham breweries and bars, wrote a business plan, found other businesses interested in sharing a multipurpose space, and Lara found a tiny lump on her breast. She recalls the initial diagnosis. “The younger you are, generally, the more aggressive the cancer is. So, when I was diagnosed at thirty-six years old, treatment started pretty immediately. There wasn’t even really time to process what was happening. I was having chemo treatments and going into meetings with our realtor about the space we were considering. At that point, our business plan was really taking shape. We were excited about it, and wanting to move forward.”
Paul continues the story: “At a certain point we realized that as much as we want to push through, we would be in the middle of a build-out in the throes of chemo and surgery. Our designer,” he says motioning to Lara, who has an interior design background, “couldn’t build her own taproom. We would have had to watch from afar.” At the same time, Lara was holding down a full time job that she needed to keep in order to keep her health coverage. Her employer found a way to put her into a position she could do from home while she completed chemo, recovered from multiple surgeries, and underwent radiation. “We had to hit pause on something,” Paul recounts, “and we couldn’t pause work or cancer, so the brewery had to go on hold.”
“Even from a financial aspect,” Lara points out, “we couldn’t really say what we could afford to put down as a down payment, and what we needed to divert to hospital bills. Even with a great health care plan, this has been an expensive year.”
Another down side to chemo is losing your taste for almost everything, including beer. “It was starting to get cooler, and my favorite, Vienna Lagers were starting to show up. There was one that came on draft at Surf Club in Durham. I’d had a few treatments. I couldn’t really tell what was changing. I still had my hair, I hadn’t really gotten sick yet. I took a sip of this beautiful beer that I knew I loved, and it tasted like pennies. And I was just like, ‘It’s starting. What a bummer.’ Losing beer was really crushing because it is this lovely emotional escape when you’re facing something hard. It’s also a great treat after a difficult situation. Especially since my doctors said that I could still have beer, I just couldn’t go crazy with it.”
“It was actually an adventure trying to find something that you did still like,” Paul remembers. “Your go-to’s like Pilsners, Saisons, and IPA’s weren’t doing it for you anymore.”
“All of those styles were really harsh to my senses.  I would taste a lot of perceived salt that wasn’t really there. It was awful. I’m a super taster, too, so to not be able to help with our test batches was also crushing!” Lara lamented.
Paul put that into perspective of what that meant for Modern Romance Brewery. “It was basically a year of relying on my perfectly adequate taste buds, but her sense of taste is so nuanced compared to mine. We just weren’t brewing and testing batches at full capacity at all this year.”
Lara continued, explaining how the couple found a way to move forward given the obstacles. “We ended up working on our barrel aging and sour beers that could take a year to make. We were also lucky enough to get to brew collaboration beers with Pink Boots Society, Bond Brothers Beer Company and Mystery Brewing during treatment, getting our name out there a bit and getting some experience on a pro level. I could smell things. My sense of smell wasn’t wrecked. I just couldn’t taste it.”
She and Paul started to experiment outside of her typical comfort zone. “I was never really a fan of heavy sweet things before, but that’s one of the things you can still taste when you’re undergoing chemo. So I found that I could drink dark, sweet beers like milk stouts. Anything with vanilla. Soft, round sort of beers I could taste…I got an entire case of Moo-Hoo and crushed it. I was actually worried that my palate wouldn’t come back, but it actually came back pretty quickly. We celebrated the end of chemo and my birthday in January 2015 with a bottle sharing party at our house, right as I got my taste buds back. Every sip at that party tasted like victory. There were lots of happy tears surrounded by dear friends that day. ”
“Do you think as messed up as the situation was,” Paul asks, “that this experience altered your appreciation for dark beers?”
“Totally!” Lara replies. She continues, but Paul interrupts with a premeditated, “Thanks Cancer!” I need to stop right here and acknowledge how wonderful these two are as a couple.
We collect ourselves, and Lara finishes her thought.  “It was actually an opportunity to start working on Cookie Mountain, our dark beer with shortbread, caramel, and chocolate that was conceptualized at that point, but we hadn’t brewed it yet.” 
While Paul and Lara both have clearly found ways to get through this past year and still look on the bright side, Lara warns that this is not a feel good story about a warrior that has won a battle with cancer. “A lot of my issues with feeling isolated is that at my age, there aren’t a lot of people going through this, whereas there is an intense support system for older women because they tend to come from the same walk of life. Most of them are worried about their kids. Even the few women my age that are diagnosed usually have kids, and I just don’t have that experience, so the concerns of people that I would otherwise reach out to as peers, were not my concerns.  I found some blogs that were helpful. Mostly they were written by snarky, single women, often living in large cities, who were writing in a voice that I could relate to. I wasn’t looking for someone to be all sunshine and roses. It just didn’t feel right. It made me mad, and it just didn’t ring true. I felt like a lot of those people were getting wrapped up in putting on a brave face so that their friends and loved ones are comforted or so that they can get the admiration of their friends, which is a powerful thing. Even among people that know you really well, there is a powerful pull to want to draw that bravery story out of you. Like you aren’t allowed to have a bad day. A couple weeks ago I said ‘I’m so f*#@ing over this,’ and the friend that I said it to was like, ‘But aren’t you lucky that you’ve…’ and I was all, ‘Absolutely. I’m a white lady in a first world country with great health insurance. I have an immense amount of privilege that I have to check every day, but also, I’m a thirty-six year old with cancer, and it sucks. And I’m allowed to say it sucks, and I’m allowed to have my feelings about it. Don’t gaslight me out of my cancer feelings.” Lara goes on to explain how well intended people can do damage when they think they are being helpful. “There is a flip side to that fighter analogy in that, if things don’t go well with your treatment it means that you didn’t fight hard enough, or you failed, or you’re weak. If there is a war analogy to be made, it’s really more like you’re the battle field, and science is fighting cancer. That warrior analogy can be really hurtful when things aren’t going well.”
But things are going well with Lara’s treatment. Her cancer is gone by all accounts. The science worked. She got her final treatment on August 30, and now she and Paul are picking up where they left off with Modern Romance Brewery, even though their own modern romance never skipped a beat. They are now adding to their business plan creative ways to give back to the non-profits that touched them throughout Lara’s treatment. You can keep up with their progress through their website at www.drinkmodern.com or on social media @drinkmodern or facebook.com/modernromancebrewery .
 
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Gabe Pickard : Factotum and Ebullient Conspirator in the Leavening Arts

I am constantly awed by the diversity of talents that people in the brewing industry bring with them. Gabe Pickard of Zebulon Brewing is the perfect example of this. She is a classically trained dancer, a yoga instructor, a physical therapist assistant, and she happens to co-own a brewery with her husband, Mike Karnowski. To some, this may seem like an awful lot for one person to manage. Gabe turns that logic on its head. In each of her endeavors, she points out, she works with living organisms whether its yeast cells or human bodies to toe the line between art and science.

“Like yoga, when I brew beer I feel like I can drop into a kind of meditative state.” Gabe says. She goes on to point out more intersections of her diverse body of work, “I would love to teach a yoga for brewers class.” She points out how strenuous small batch brewing without the help of automation can be on a person’s body over time. “There are simple exercises that they can do to prevent repetitive use injuries and allow them to work longer in the industry.” Gabe also sees a similarity in the way that people respond to both yoga and brewing. “You can stay on the surface and satisfy a hobby or a workout routine. Or you can go deeper, and take on the philosophy of yoga or a career in brewing. Either are viable options, and there is a spectrum in between.” It’s as if she is weaving a fabric of fluidity, strength, and integrity around her as she speaks.

She and Mike met about twenty-seven years ago. At the time, they were both working in a bagel shop in New York City. What started as a beer after work lead to them discovering that they were both born in the same obscure town in Northern England. It wasn’t long before they were homebrewing together, also. “I don't remember the type of beer we brewed in that particular kitchen, however, I remember we had to drink two cases of Grolsch beer (the beers with the flip tops) because we did not have a capper at the time. Needless to say I do not like Grolsh beer anymore (or any less!).”

Soon after, the couple relocated from Jersey City, NJ to New Orleans, LA. There they opened a homebrew shop called Brew Ha Ha, where she learned how to brew by teaching others the craft of brewing. Whilst running a new business, Gabe earned a BA in Philosophy. She also produced, directed, choreographed, danced in, and wrote grants for an annual music and dance concert ten years in a row. Once they made the move to Asheville in 2007, Gabe continued to push herself. She found work as a yoga instructor and returned to school to earn a degree as a physical therapist assistant. She also helped out at Green Man packaging the specialty beers that made Mike Karnowski a household name to WNC beer enthusiasts.

“Embarking in a new business is a daunting task, however, with dedication, passion, and a lot of focused hard work it can be a rewarding and invigorating task. The tendency of the stresses of a business seeping into the delicate fabric of a relationship can be tricky to navigate, though it is possible and totally can be done.” While Gabe admits that she isn’t an expert, she does offer these words of wisdom, “Everyone is different and has different life and work styles. Each party in the relationship must find their place and space to work that suits them best. A partnership in life (in my opinion) includes people who mutually respect each other, who can communicate, and who are at the heart of it all, friends. I am sure I can go on and on describing the valuable attributes that make up what a well-oiled relationship looks like, but I think I would continue to erase and start again continuously. I guess I think of long lasting relationships kind of like a mandala where the sand is designed and placed perfectly only to be swept aside and started over again on. A continuous work in progress where each party allows the other growth, transformation, and at the same time offers continuity through time. Chemistry is also at the heart of friendly, fun and loving relationships. Chemistry offers that spice to be sprinkled in throughout. My mom used to say that it is unsustainable to be in that first in-love phase of a relationship perpetually, in that phase it is hard just to eat or sleep much less working on projects and creative endeavors.”

“There are a lot of stressful days,” she says, “but the positives out way them.  We feel its important to care about the beer we are making.  We are passionate about it, and focused on quality control and integrity.”  

While Mike is at the helm of all of the brewing for Zebulon, Gabe is busy handling pretty much everything else at the brewery. “My business card reads Gabe Pickard-Karnowski: Factotum, and Ebullient Conspirator in the Leavening Arts. In addition I currently work part time as a Physical Therapist Assistant, I am a Certified Iyengar Yoga Instructor and intermittently toy with the idea of producing a couple more experimental dance/music concerts.”  She is also in the midst of creating a line of beers that will be released annually and will benefit a different women lead and/or focused non-profit each year. “I am working on recipe development for the first one now!” she says.  “We see a way that we can make an impact on a local level by working with area non-profits.”

To learn more about Zebulon visit their web site at www.zebulonbrewing.com or visit their tasting room Fridays and Saturdays 1-6pm at 8 Merchants Alley in Weaverville, NC. 

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Take a Look at Shelby!

Tucked between Asheville and Charlotte, there’s a little town that’s making some big news on a global scale. People have traveled from forty-nine states and thirteen countries to visit the home town of Don Gibson, Earl Scruggs, and Newgrass Brewing Company: Shelby, North Carolina. When I first met Jordan Boinest, Co-owner of Newgrass, I was shocked that anyone would open a brewery in Shelby. I was even more surprised at her enthusiasm to open in the small town she grew up in after having lived in the trendy, thriving towns of Wilmington and later, Boone.  I was afraid I would offend her, but I asked the question anyway, “Why Shelby?” Little did I know that this is her favorite question!

“You know, we distribute our beer to Asheville, Boone, Charlotte, and all the little towns in between. All along the way, I meet new people that haven’t experienced our beer and have never heard of Shelby.  They look confused and ask, ‘Where’s Shelby?’ and then I get to tell them this story about the Earl Scruggs Center and the Don Gibson Theater and all the new businesses opening in Uptown Shelby. It’s crazy because I grew up in this town, and when I was a kid I didn’t come to the uptown district. For all of us it’s exciting to watch it change and evolve and become what it was years ago: A place for community and friendship and business together. It’s been really special."

Special is an understatement. I got to sit down with Jordan and two of her closest allies Emily Epley, Director of the Earl Scruggs Center, and Audrey Whetten, Director of Uptown Shelby Association. What these women have accomplished, along with their respective staffs and countless community volunteers, is remarkable. They haven’t set out to make Shelby something that it’s not. They have dug deep under the surface to unearth exactly who and what Shelby is, and find a beautiful way to communicating that identity to the world around them.

“Earl Scruggs didn’t just play traditional Bluegrass,” Jordan says of the father of the Newgrass genre and the man that developed the three finger picking method known to banjo players today as Scruggs style, “and we don’t just make traditional beer.  Coming back to Shelby gave us the opportunity to make something that is such a part of who we are. We make good beer and enjoy good music. Those are two things that mine and Lewis’ life have revolved around. We love it. I grew up here listening to Bluegrass music. This is home for us. We’re really excited to be part of this community. So when bands like Acoustic Syndicate come and play, it’s like family coming for a visit. You know, I’m seeing people come to Shelby for the first time ever to see a great show and try new beer!” Jordan and her partner and fiancé, Lewis were intentional about creating not only a brewery, but also a local music venue to host concerts of varying sizes.

Audrey describes the Uptown Shelby Association as a non-profit organization that exists to encourage economic development within the context of historical preservation.  Within this framework, Audrey is working with business leaders within the local community to work toward a common vision. “If you can picture an Alaskan dog sled team, we have a lot of energetic folks that are excited to move forward. My charge is to get them organized and running in the same direction.” A Main Street Solutions Fund grant from the NC Department of Commerce helped make the renovation of the historic building that Newgrass occupies possible.

Emily started her work in 2008 as the Executive Director of Destination Cleveland County (DCC). This is also a non-profit organization that was founded out of the concern of local citizens that saw their children going off to college and never coming back. They saw their community drying up, and decided to take action. They commissioned researchers from NC State University to consult with them on a solution. They donated their own time and resources to create and execute a strategy based on Shelby’s unique identity as the birthplace of two legendary music greats. Through capital campaigns, grants, and lots of hard work, DCC has now raised $8 million of the $9 million budget to pay for the Earl Scruggs Center (ESC) and the Don Gibson Theater (DGT). With the opening of the ESC, Emily transitioned into her new role as the Director of the ESC, while the DCC now operates under the supervision of board members.

“It’s such an amazing thing to have folks like Jordan and Audrey who have such enthusiasm and skill sets to do the things that are happening here [in Shelby]. All the positive energy…it’s contagious! It’s like this perfect storm of all these different pieces coming together now,” Epley says. “Now we have people getting on planes in Japan just to come to the Earl Scruggs Center, and they’ll build a two-week itinerary around it.”

Audrey describes the energy in Shelby’s Uptown District as “crackling”. “It’s like this snowball that we’ve been building for a long time.  We keep rolling it around, and it keeps getting incrementally larger. Now we are at a point that it’s taken off! We are experiencing exponential growth with new businesses opening all the time.”

“You know, we just hosted Travis Book of the Infamous String Dusters’ event Bluegrass, Bikes and Beer,” Jordan says. “He put on six events, three in Virginia, three in North Carolina. In NC there were events here at Newgrass, Oskar Blues, and Pisgah Brewing. Out of all of those, we had the largest event with fifty community bikers! It was surprising. I was like whoa!  Look at Shelby!”

I would encourage all of you to take a look at Shelby, especially if you think you know this town. There is so much going on that will pleasantly surprise you, and Emily is right, the positive energy is contagious! 

“This is the only place you could do what we’re doing in this way,” Jordan says. “It’s been incredible working in the beer industry, which is really a tightly knit community.”

“It’s interesting,” Emily interjects, “how similar the beer industry and the music industry are similar in that way. It’s all about collaboration and creativity and support. That’s what the community of Uptown Shelby is like.”

Here’s what’s coming up at Newgrass Brewing and in Uptown:

October 6

Uptown Art Walk

October 8

Second Saturday Festivities

Dear Brother live 8:30-11pm @ Newgrass Brewing

October 14

Beer Festival & Chili Cook-Off

Chalwa live 8:30-11pm @ Newgrass Brewing

October 17

Music, Mush, & Mutts

October 19

Lunch N Learn Through Their Voices: Female Musician Activists in North Carolina (includes Etta Baker, Nina Simone and others)@ The Earl Scruggs Center

October 28

Fright Night Costume Crawl

Halloween Party featuring Harvest live 9-11pm @ Newgrass Brewing

November 5- 7

Annual Rhythm & Roots 5K Walk/Run and 10K Run Race kicks off with Bluegrass band and banjo players playing Foggy Mountain Breakdown and there is live music at several spots along the route.

http://newgrassbrewing.com/

https://uptownshelby.com/

http://www.dongibsontheater.com/

http://earlscruggscenter.org/

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Audra Gaiziunas: Brewed for Her Ledger

It’s no secret that WNC’s economy is closely linked with the beer industry. Asheville has sprung up as a brewing center on a national scale thanks to Oskar Blues, Sierra Nevada, and New Belgium putting down roots here and calling it “home”. While tourism is still the driving force for our regional economy, beer tourism is no small player in that category. But don’t take my word for it. When it comes to numbers and beer, Audra Gaiziunas knows a thing or two about a thing or two. She cut her teeth in the beer industry with a little brewery called Dogfish Head seven years ago. “I was working as a pricing consultant for Caterpillar, selling machinery such as skid steer loaders, mini excavators, and backhoes. In short, it was the kismet of the right place, right time, right skillset, and right personality type. I, along with 276 other accountants, applied for the Controller position at Dogfish Head. After two phone interviews, I was one of two people flown up to Delaware for the final round of interviewing, and lo and behold, I got it. To this day I thank Sam and Mariah Calagione for taking a chance on a gal who had no beery numbers experience. They opened a huge door for me. I was drawn to brewing due to its culture and lifestyle. I felt I could be myself without compromise in this industry. I could work hard, create awesome spreadsheets, and improve our processes while sporting pink hair, listening to techno, and shooting rubberbands at my coworkers. Work hard and play hard. I'm very highly extroverted, so being in front of a computer all day just wouldn't work out for me.  Nothing traditional has ever really worked out for me.....at least I'm consistent when it comes to that. I abhor the status quo and am always looking to improve things. Thus, I grasped the opportunity to improve the operational infrastructure of a brewery, an area I noticed immediately as a weakness in our industry.”

Since then she’s moved on to offer a variety of financial services to breweries across the country from her home base in Asheville. “I own Brewed For Her Ledger, which is my own consultancy. I work with both startup and existing breweries and cideries by writing and vetting business plans and pro formas, implementing financial and inventory management software, designing custom-tailored charts of accounts, training owners and staff on bookkeeping and process flow, conducting valuations on existing breweries, and acting as a project manager throughout buildouts and expansions. I also conduct operational audits, observing how information flows through the brewery and ultimately lands on the financial statements, seeking out and eliminating inefficiencies, omissions, and inaccuracies. I'm a basically a one-stop shop offering c-suite (CEO/COO/CFO) services on a fractional basis at a rate startup and small breweries can afford.” She has worked with breweries in our area such as The Wedge, Bhramari, Green Man, Asheville Brewing, Frog Level, and Heinzelmännchen as well as several breweries in Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, and Greensboro.

Audra is also the national treasurer for The Pink Boots Society, a professional group for women in the brewing industry, as well as Mountain Ale and Lager Tasters (MALT), a homebrew club in Asheville. When we spoke, Audra had just gotten back to Asheville for the weekend. She’s been flying to Baton Rouge, LA every week to serve as the interim CEO of Tin Roof Brewing Company while they are undergoing expansion. Tin Roof was recently granted the opportunity to create the first officially licensed beer for LSU.

I wanted to know what excites Audra about the Asheville beer economy. “People ask me all the time about the Asheville Beer Bubble. We certainly haven’t reached anything like that yet. As long as you can create something new or provide a new experience, there is unlimited potential for growth in this industry. The only limit is your imagination. As long as you can provide a sense of place tied to a local community, the possibilities are endless.” She went on to mention the education that North Carolina offers to people entering the brewing industry. AB Tech, NC State, ASU, Rockingham Community College, Blue Ridge Community College, and Nash Community College all offer professional training with a variety of focuses within the field. “These education programs are raising awareness of Asheville and North Carolina in general on a national level. Companies want to be here because they know we can provide skilled employees.” In addition to a skilled labor force, Audra points to NC’s friendly legislation and even more friendly legislation coming down the pike soon as another example of how we are drawing new business to our area either through east coast expansions of established breweries or by entrepreneurs choosing to open a brewery in their neighborhood.

With all of this growth, Audra and Brewed for Her Ledger have no shortage of work. I asked her what she sees down the road for herself and her business. “I'd love to add a few people to my team in the areas of bookkeeping and financial project management as I continue taking on larger, more involved roles at growing breweries. Who knows what's next after that? I'm not much a planner. I'm more of a journey versus destination gal. As the craft beer industry continues to evolve, the services I offer will as well. Currently I'm focused more on conducting a greater number of brewery valuations for acquisitions and exits, but who knows what will happen after that? The surprises are all part of the fun.”

To help her reach these goals, Brewed for Her Ledger has just been chosen as one of seventeen businesses to participate in the fourth cohort of ScaleUp WNC, which provides intensive growth strategy development and implementation assistance to businesses in the Mountain Biz Works area.

To learn more about Audra and Brewed for Her Ledger visit http://www.brewedforherledger.com/

To learn more about ScaleUp WNC visit http://www.mountainbizworks.org/business-planning-start-ups-entrepreneur-classes-coaching/scaleupwnc/

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Kelsie Cole of Wilmington's Front Street Brewery

Our friends at Front Street Brewing are losing a force to be reckoned with this month. Head Brewer Kelsie Cole is relinquishing her throne.  She will be missed.  What follows is an article I wrote about Kelsie while she was in her role as Head Brewer. I'm just going to leave this here as an homage to her hard work and dedication to Front Street and the brewing industry. Cheers Kelsie!

 

This time of year is all about getting out of our schedules, out of doors, and even [dare I say it?] out of town. I know, sacrilege. But hear me out!  In addition to great beaches, Wilmington has a lot that we in WNC love about our mountain towns: a thriving arts scene, a chic downtown full of independently owned small businesses, plenty of quality local music in a variety of venues, and…wait for it…breweries!  Wilmington boasts eight local breweries, and there are two more coming soon! There’s no reason you can’t see them all over the course of a long weekend, but if you have to choose make sure you visit Front Street Brewery. Celebrating its twenty-first year in business, Front Street is the oldest and most established brewery in Wilmington.  They produce about 1200 barrels (that’s 296,000 pints) of beer each year. Most of that beer is made by Front Street’s Head Brewer, Kelsie Cole.

 Kelsie started working at Front Street as a hostess in 2008, when she was just eighteen years old.  She quickly transitioned to serving, and then bartending her way through college. “With the help of Front Street's former Assistant Brewer, Christopher McGarvey, I started home brewing.  That was the nail in the coffin for my career path in sales, and utilizing my Business/ Marketing degree.  Using my creativity and passion for flavors was more important to me than talking about such flavors. The introvert in me began to realize maybe making the product I'd been selling and pitching for years would be a more appropriate path.”  In 2013, Kelsie made the transition from front of the house to beer production. In three short years she’s gone from cleaning kegs and helping out to Assistant Brewer, to Head Brewer. “The past three years have flown by so fast I'm still trying to press pause and embrace everything.”

Kelsie has literally embraced everything about her role. Very quickly she’s learned to fix pumps and glycol systems. She’s tackled the challenge of a poor barley crop year, and has become one with the twenty-five year old 10 barrel system. Kelsie says she enjoys being in control of the brewhouse, even though she realizes that some things are outside of anyone’s control on an older system. “How involved you are is reflected in how the beer turns out. Being the one person in charge of the wort (unfermented beer) is a lot pressure. Not only do I have Front Street’s legacy to continue, but my name also goes out with every beer that I make.”  Kelsie uses that pressure to constantly improve. “I am always asking myself how I can change a recipe to make it better, or improve my efficiency.” 

Being twenty-six years old and eight years into a career in the craft beer industry, Kelsie has literally grown up in Front Street Brewery. “A few years ago I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I wanted to learn and do as much as I could. These days, I’m trying to focus on finding a balance while taking on more responsibility both at the brewery and in the community. I’m working a lot of hours in addition to traveling frequently to attend conferences.” Now, she says the focus is on not overworking herself and carving out time for relaxation, as well as giving back to nonprofit organizations that are doing amazing work in Wilmington. Her solution to all of these life challenges is Warrior Two’s and Brews, a yoga class at the brewery that takes place every other Monday.  They suggest each attendee donate $10, which is then donated to local charity organizations. Fifty percent of the proceeds are donated to Yoga Village, a small, local non-profit that works to get yoga in classrooms across New Hanover and Brunswick County. The remaining fifty percent goes to another local NP of the instructor's choice.  “Since we started in September, we’ve raised over $2,000 for local nonprofits. It’s so cool to walk into a place and hand them a check and thank them for what they do,” she says. “It feels good to support the people that are the core of the community.” These donations are in addition to Front Street’s preexisting charity beers that are made each year for the sole purpose of supporting different sectors of the community. One of these beers is called Battleship Pale Ale, and supports the preservation of the USS North Carolina, which is docked in Wilmington.  It is retired from active military assignments, and serves only as a museum. This year, the release party of Battleship Pale Ale took place May 23rd on the deck of the ship, with a Warrior Two’s and Brews session to kick off the festivities. “I get goosebumps just talking about it,” Kelsie says. “Here’s this battleship with guns and cannons and implements of war, and in the midst of all of it, we’re doing yoga, which is all about peace and harmony. And we’re going to do a lot of good for our community in the meantime.”

When Kelsie isn’t brewing or changing the world, you can find her educating new hires at Front Street about beer styles and food pairings.  She also gives tours of the brewing facility for the public every day between three and five o’clock, and she even enjoys a good beer herself from time to time. “My favorite beer style is IPA.  I consider my blood type to be Sculpin.”

All photos of Kelsie photo credit Megan Deitz www.megandietz.com

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Kim Thompson: The Story of Becoming Something Else

Most of us are familiar with the main ingredients in beer: water, hops, yeast, and grain (usually barley).  Each one of these ingredients are fascinating and complex on their own if you really dig into them. Hops are incredibly hard to grow. Yeast are particularly complex and finicky single cell organisms. Water chemistry can make the difference between a good beer and a great beer for a number of reasons. And grains.  Grains are the ingredient that make me ask, “How did the ancient brewers ever figure this out?!”  One cannot simply go out to their barley field, thresh a bunch of grains, and start brewing.  The grains must first be malted in order to be useful to the brewer.  Soda shops and malted milk balls have put malt in our common vernacular. We all have heard this term before, but how many of us really understand what it means?  I certainly didn’t have a full understanding of the process myself before entering into this industry. I’ll save you the vocabulary words and the diagrams.  Simply put, the maltster (that’s someone who makes malt) tricks the grain into growing.  They give the seeds just enough air and water to make them start to grow, then they dry it out, and roast the grains to develop the flavor and color. This process allows the starches in the grains to break down into simpler sugars that can then be extracted by the brewer and fermented by the yeast. Skip the malting step, and all you have is seed water. Insert pouty face here.

Until just recently, the only people malting grains were behemoth companies that supplied behemoth breweries. Those companies still exist, but now we are seeing craft maltsters start to work with grains that are locally grown and supply local craft breweries and homebrewers. They are still few and far between, but we are fortunate to have Riverbend Malt House here in Asheville. What makes them exceptional is that they are working with North Carolina grown grains that other maltsters wouldn’t normally bother with. This is bolstering a post-tobacco farming community that has been weeded out of business and struggling to retool their farms to stay in business. 

The work of malting is arduous. There is a lot of shoveling grains onto the malting floor, then into the kiln, then on to final packaging – usually tons at a time. It isn’t often considered “women’s work”, but just like every other part of the brewing industry, there are always a few.  I spoke with Kim Thompson of Riverbend Malt about her role at the facility. “I’ll admit that I come from a spoiled perspective of women in this industry. Riverbend is not a dude-bro club. These guys are conscientious about what they are doing, and the way they treat their employees is amazing. Everyone I've come across has been generous and open. It seems to be a pretty laid back community of like-minded people who are all about shared passions and getting the job done. It may be just around the corner or perhaps I'm just reaping the benefits of the trailblazers that came before me. When I go to work, I know I’m going to work my ass off, laugh my ass off, and learn a hell of a lot, and that’s because of the guys that I work with. I can't take myself too seriously. I appreciate the differences, but so far, in everything I've chosen to do whether it's been unconventional or otherwise, being a woman has never been an advantage or a disadvantage for me. I follow my heart and my gut, I do it with drive and passion, and being a woman has never been an issue. I've actually never considered it or factored it into how I navigate life or chosen professions. ”

Because of the physical nature of the work, everyone at Riverbend moves around to different stations, so Kim is involved with each step of the process from raw grain to finished product. She says that she was prepared for the laborious nature of the job, but was floored (no pun intended) by the cerebral nature of it. “We’re working with a living organism,” she says. “Every day I go into the germination room, I smell the grains, feel them, and taste them to see where they are in the process. I’m a very tactile person, and this is my way of educating my senses. It gives me a deeper understanding and appreciation for the process.”

She points to her childhood and adolescence in Germany and Belgium as the roots for her two main passions: bread and beer.  She knew that she wanted to be a part of the industries that make them happen, and working with the raw materials has given her that outlet.  She also mills grain into flour for Carolina Ground, and artisanal stone mill in Asheville. “I like having a hand in the story that becomes something else. I enjoy doing things so that other people don’t have to them and knowing that what I do makes life easier for other people. Whether the consumer even thinks about malting barley or milling grain, it’s an important part of modern life. We all have no idea how many hands go into the thing that allows us to be in the world the way we are today.” She says she’s comfortable being the human equivalent to a blue screen: the thing that you can’t see, but it makes your experience richer.  “Take our Riverbend Heritage Malt, for example.  I malt that at Riverbend, then I grind it into flour at Carolina Ground.  Then The French Broad Chocolate Lounge uses that flour to make pastries.  The person that eats that cake isn’t thinking about the flour or the malted grains that it comes from. They’re simply enjoying dessert. I love having my hand in so many steps of the process that make that experience possible for people.”

I asked Kim if she has a favorite beer. “Well,” she said, “I tend to go through phases depending on seasons and what's available or being a total nerd and getting into pairing, but saisons or anything with funk are the styles that are most appealing to me.”  And her favorite grain to work with? “Rye is beautiful.  It’s so complex in flavor, and it has this rich mouthfeel. I want to mill some of our malted rye into flour and bake with it at home.”

So why didn’t Kim pursue a career in baking or brewing? “I like being a part of that process on my own at home, but just because you like to cook doesn’t mean you should be a chef. Besides, I like to do things that are [physically] hard to do. What we do isn’t easy, but that’s what makes it so beautiful.”

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A Magical Mystery Tour of the Triangle

I recently moved to the Triangle area to accept a cellar position with Mystery Brewing Company. What does a newly relocated Cellarman and Beer Writer do when finding themselves in unfamiliar territory? Well, we go on a beer tour, of course! I gathered the gals from the Mystery team, hopped in my pickup truck, and took off to sample the beers and meet (did you have any doubt?) the women behind them! Brittany Judy, Office Manager, and Jessica Arvidson-Williams, NC Sales Rep were more than happy to go day drinking with me on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon!




Disclaimer: There wasn't time in a day to get around to all of the breweries in the Triangle that have women in leadership and/or production roles. I have my work cut out for me down here! It certainly isn't close to all the breweries the Triangle has to offer.


Stop #1
Bombshell Beer Company, Holly Springs, NC
This is a 100% woman-owned brewery in Holly Springs, NC just south of Raleigh. I caught up with owners Ellen Joyner, Jackie Hudspeth and Michelle Miniutti on the heels of their second anniversary party, and just as the brewery was preparing to begin canning their beers for distribution. They got their start as homebrewers while they each worked in the corporate world. These women bring their experience in marketing, sales, and product management into their jobs as brewery owners. Each of them are deeply concerned with the quality of their beers, and want every interaction with their brand to be the best it can be. Michelle recounted the decision to stop making their most popular beer, a pilsner, because of quality concerns. "It came down to opportunity costs," she said. Because this lager style takes longer to ferment than ale styles, they weren't making as much of their other styles as they could. Bombshell spent some time taste testing a cream ale with their regular customers, and found that the similar flavor profile was well received in their market. The Star Light Ale was born! Even though they were all nervous about making the switch, the brewery is better off for being brave and taking the chance. They admit that making tough decisions can be hard, but the end result is worth it.
"I love seeing people having a good time and enjoying our beers," Jackie said. "Even though decision making can be difficult at times, we know that it's because we have a great brand and everyone in the room wants what's best for the company."
"You want to come to work in the morning," Ellen added. "Plus, I don't have to wear suits and heels anymore, either! I had to put on heels for Christmas, and I almost fell off of them! It had been that long since I'd worn them!"
Michelle's favorite part of brewery ownership is being more hands on in the community. "We are able to host fundraisers in our space and give back to the community in a more personal way. In the corporate world, we did a lot of high level philanthropy, but we rarely got to meet the people we were helping."
Bombshell has just launched distribution of cans around the local market. "But," Michelle said, "Growth for the sake of growth isn't what we are after. We want to grow at a pace that allows us to continue to focus on quality, ensuring that we are putting the best possible packaged product into the market."
"We work hard," Jackie continued, "we want to have a good product to show for that hard work."


Stop #2
Raleigh Brewing Company, Raleigh, NC
I met up with Kristie Nystedt just after the weekly Sunday afternoon yoga class at the brewery. She and her husband, Patrick opened Raleigh Brewing Company in March of 2013 on the heels of opening two other businesses that they still operate. They Nystedts opened Atlantic Brew Supply (ABS) Commercial, which wholesales commercial brew systems and tanks to breweries in September of 2012, followed quickly by Atlantic Brew Supply homebrew shop in December of the same year. They have now grown to be the largest homebrew supplier on the eastern seaboard!
Kristie says that she and Patrick had always talked about opening a nanobrewery in their retirement. But when her company announced a double merger at the same time that Patrick's company declared bankruptcy, they decided that their dreams didn't need to wait any longer. They have two daughters that were about to enter college at the time, and suddenly what seemed risky from the comfort of secure jobs seemed like the least risky thing they could do. "No one had time to dip toes into the water. We went in with both feet. We knew that the excitement around craft beer was growing, and the time was right."
I was enjoying their most popular beer, the "Hell Yes Ma'am" a Belgian Golden Ale. "This is the beer that I helped create," Kristie tells me. It's the only style she insisted that they carry from the beginning. So, when the guys presented the initial line up of beers that they proposed as their core brands, Kristie immediately said, "Where's the Belgian Golden?" The only proper response was, "Hell yes Ma'am." The guys challenged Kristie to come up with the recipe, which she did. She designed the malt bill, the hop character, and chose the yeast that make up this unique, high gravity beer.
I asked Kristie if she had experienced any advantages or disadvantages by being a woman in a male dominated industry. "If I have, I haven't noticed," she said. "I don't play that card. I have too much on my plate to get wrapped up in that sort of thing. If I run into any push back, I just tell them that they might want to try the beers now. People are usually a lot nicer after a beer. I'm more interested in being a part of the community. I want to help Raleigh grow to be the city that it wants to be. I just want to add a small grain to that," Kristie says of her involvement with several economic development boards and merchant associations.


Stop #3
Fullsteam Brewery, Durham, NC
Amanda Richardson is a brewer from from New Hampshire, though she first discovered her love of beer while traveling in the Czech Republic. She started her career in the beer industry at Brooklyn Brew Shop, orchestrating assembly of gallon kits and brewing on a small scale for events. When she relocated to Durham a couple years ago, Fullsteam's Plow to Pint model spoke to her. Fullsteam is dedicated to locally sourced ingredients, and endeavors to support local agriculture in post tobacco North Carolina. Amanda had already been brewing with local ingredients she found at the farmer's market, and Fullsteam offered the challenge of scale. "It's harder than people think. We have to get a large amount of quality ingredients to brew a la batch. It has to be feasible on our system, and then what if it's a bad crop that year? There are challenges all the way through." The flip side of the challenge is the reward of getting to interact with the people in the community when they bring ingredients to sell to the brewery.
Amanda points out another perk of working in the brewing industry: the people that it attracts. "We come from so many backgrounds, it makes work more dynamic," said the brewer who studied neuroscience in college! She admits that the combination of science and creativity that goes into beer production was a main draw for her entering the field. "It's like I'm providing therapy for the yeasts! We make sure that their needs are met, so that they can do the work that they do. We are like yeast social workers!"
Mary Beth Brandt, Fullsteam's General Manager joined the conversation. She started out volunteering "doing stuff" with Fullsteam before they got the brewery up and running. Sean, the owner, asked Mary Beth for her resume, and a few months later she was hired on, and over time she worked her way to the position of GM. She still defines her job description as, "doing stuff; whatever needs to be done." She encourages anyone seeking a position in the brewing industry to keep searching until the right opportunity comes along. "If you're really interested in beer, don't be afraid to get out there and find a company that will give you an opportunity. You may have to start in one position before you transition into the role that you really want."
"There's a lot of education out there," Amanda adds, "but there are still an apprentice route that could be beneficial to some people."

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The Legend of the Boojum

The Legend of the Boojum
There are mythical creatures that live in the high hills surrounding Waynesville, NC. You may not see them, as they rarely leave their cozy den, but their presence is felt across WNC by many a beer lover. I am speaking, of course, about the brother and sister team behind Boojum Brewing Company.  Kelsie and Ben Baker discovered their mutual love for brewing while they were on opposite ends of the Eastern Seaboard. Ben was working in a nuclear power plant in Florida.  His sister Kelsie was an environmental engineer in Boston. Neither of them knew about each other’s love for brewing until a family gathering, when they each disclosed that they wanted to leave their professions and start a brewery. It only made sense to them to start one brewery together. I had heard about people like this – people that actually enjoy the company of their family members for eight hours a day, every day – but I had never met any in real life. Most of our interview went like this: Kelsie and Ben laughing and getting a long while I cocked my head to the side with a look of bewilderment on my face. 
I was even more surprised to find out that their parents and aunt and uncle are also involved. On the one hand, it makes perfect sense that the two need reinforcements to pull off such an undertaking.  On the other hand, the three ring side show that I have come to know as family dynamics make this all the more unbelievable. But given that they are celebrating their first year in business by adding a line of canned beers that are being distributed across WNC, ramping up production to keep up with demand, and trying to figure out how to expand their taproom and restaurant to accommodate the influx of visitors, I decided to suspend my disbelief and just go with it. 
“You know your family, so you know what to expect. You know what each other’s strengths and weaknesses are, and how to work together as a team for the best result,” Kelsie says. “It can be hard to separate work from family life, so sometimes we find ourselves at a family picnic talking about work when we should be relaxing,” she counters. 
“I think it’s awesome. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Ben insists. “There will be fights, but you’re family, so you get over it. You can’t just get rid of your family members, so you have to find a way to make it work.” And they have. 
Kelsie, 27, handles the day to day operations of the brewery. She schedules the brewing, orders ingredients, helps brew and package the beer, and some of the cellar work so that Ben, 28, can focus on the brewing and making the beers the best they can be. “There are so many good breweries out there, that we have to focus on quality,” Kelsie says. Already this brewery has garnered a lot of respect from the local brewing community. 
Kendra Penland, Director of the Asheville Brewer’s Alliance had this to say, "Boojum Brewing is a great example of how our Asheville Brewers Alliance members and their products can be so distinct, but do such a solid job of knowing who they are as a brand and focusing on the customer experience, that success naturally follows. I think that's why so many breweries not only coexist in our region, but see the value in collaborating with and supporting each other - everyone wants to make great beer their way, and they want to see others do the same thing. It elevates everyone in the industry, so everyone wins."
“We are excited to grow, and we want to take our business as far as we can,” Kelsie says regarding their future plans. “We are looking forward to seeing our cans in bottle shops and grocery stores, but we also want to grow sustainably.  We are focused primarily on Western North Carolina right now, from Asheville west.  We plan to grow as fast as we comfortably can without sacrificing quality.” Having said that, there’s a lot of change coming for the brother-sister team in 2016. Boojum’s King of the Mountain Double IPA just hit the shelves in cans in December of 2015, and Graveyard Fields, their highly coveted Blueberry Coffee Porter and Reward American Pale Ale arrived in February. Mûr, a Raspberry Saison will arrive later in the Spring. “It’s so hard to decide which beers to focus our distribution efforts on.  Ultimately, we went with the ones that people asked us for the most.”  Even as they continue to grow their staff, they are keeping with the theme of family and close, close friends.  They’ve hired their friend, Keller Fitzpatrick, who has literally been friends with the Bakers since they were babies. Keller is heading up the barrel aging and sour program at Boojum. Cody Noble, who attended the same high school. is also a recent graduate of the brewing program at Blue Ridge Community College in Brevard.  He has already come up with some great beers like our Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout & Jalapeño Wheat IPA. Elisa Tathum, a longtime friend from Kelsie’s days in Boston, also worked as a distiller for Blue Ridge Distilling, which makes Defiant Whisky, before coming on board at Boojum. 
Boojum is currently working on developing new recipes and experimenting with new techniques. “We come together and decide as a team how we want the beer to taste, then Ben makes it taste like that!” They are also isolating yeast strains from the local flora and using that to ferment beers. Part of the fun for Kelsie and Ben is keeping the lineup exciting with special releases and new flavors.  At the time of our interview, they were most excited about their Galaxy Far, Far Away IPA that they made for the release of The Force Awakens.  They used Millennium, Falconers Flight, and Galaxy hops to create this English Style IPA. You could tell that they were both huge fans of the films by how excited they both were about this beer.  I could start to see why they worked together so well by focusing on what they agree on and staying true to themselves. I could tell that they were both on the same page when I asked them what their loftiest goal for the brewery is.  “To make the ultimate IPA,” Kelsie said. 
“The best IPA EVER!” Ben echoed!
 
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Jess Reiser: Nurturing a Business and Watching it Grow

You know the old saying, “If you want something done, ask the busiest person to do it”? Following that logic, I think I would ask Jess Reiser, co-owner of Burial Beer, to do all of my dirty work! She somehow manages to make running a thriving brewery while raising two young children look easy. When I spoke with Jess, she was just recovering from Burnpile, the annual fall beer festival that started as a get together in their home with a few friends. The festival celebrates the fall harvest by showcasing seasonal offerings from a variety of breweries across the state. “Festivals are fun, but they are also a lot of work. We don’t have to put on an event like this,” Jess says, “but festivals and events are part of Burial.” She points to the sickle that is part of the logo. “Burial, for some, is a necessary step to reach the afterlife. At Burial Beer Co., we see it as a celebration: of life, of the cyclical nature of harvest and of the brewing process. We find glory in the things that once were.” Bringing the community of brewers together with the community of craft beer enthusiasts in a repurposed building to celebrate this cycle just makes sense. When Jess, Doug, and Tim started Burial in 2013, they had a one barrel system (that’s two kegs in each batch) that made it hard to keep up with demand for their beer. Now, just two and a half years later, they have expanded to a ten barrel system with thirty barrel fermenters. Burial is producing more beer and hosting more guests than ever before. The opportunity to purchase the building they had been leasing arose. This allowed Burial to expand into the outdoor spaces that surrounds the building at 40 Collier Ave. In 2015, they added cans to their line of offerings, and began distribution to other parts of the state, including Charlotte, The Triangle and the Triad. The brewery is currently looking for a second location for additional expansion. All of these are big strides as a young company experiencing steady growth, but they are giant leaps for a mother of two boys, ages four and two. The youngest, Nash, was born just two months after Burial opened! Suddenly, the burgeoning brewery and petite owner appear much bigger than at first glance! Jess has single handedly managed the public relations, marketing, human resources, book keeping, and event planning! Only recently was she able to expand her sales team and delegate tasting room management to their General Manger about a year ago. Even still, she insists that Burial is growing at a pace that is comfortable for them. I had to know how she was able to juggle all of these elements, and so well at that. Prior to opening a brewery, Jess worked at a large nonprofit that worked toward getting homeless adults into housing and connecting them with resources. In her role in the fundraising department, she wrote grants, planned events, managed social media accounts, built and strengthened the brand and their marketing campaign. All of this experience has prepared her for what she is doing now. She also holds a Masters in Art Administration, which has helped with the visual branding of Burial Beer Company. “Tim and Doug also have a great eye,” Reiser says. “I fell in love with European Renaissance paintings while I was in school, specifically Northern Renaissance paintings. Now we have a line of beers named after famous works from this genre.” She adds that they work with an artist to communicate the cyclical theme by including a light side and a dark side to each of their can designs. They show the artist the painting the beer is named after, and he creates new pieces that nod at the original piece while staying true to Burial’s brand. So what’s next for Jessica and Burial Beer? She says that they are currently looking for a second location that would have more space for a larger taproom and production facility. With this new location they hope to grow production, but not beyond 16,500 barrels per year. “Even if we were met with demand and could grow past that, we wouldn’t,” Jess says. “We want to remain a manageable niche brewery. All we really want is to make a living, and retire one day. Maybe take a vacation once in a while, and pay for our kids’ college.” When asked what she would say to other women looking to go into business for themselves, Jess had this to say, “Women are often met with the challenge of wanting to do it all – children, taking on leadership roles, or opening a business – and feeling like they have to choose. I would tell other women that they can do it all. Having a business is a lot like having a child. It’s stressful, and the future is uncertain yet it is extremely rewarding. I have maternal feelings toward my business, and I care for it as I would a child. Parenting and owning a business challenge you in many of the same ways, but they are ways that make you a better person. Sometimes I wish I could fast forward ten years and know that my kids are healthy and happy, and the business is successful. But I think it’s important to remember that we are only human. No one can anticipate everything that will come up. We just deal with the curve balls as they come.”
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Back to the Future for Craft Beer

                There is a growing trend in the craft beer movement toward historical styles these days. This gets me excited.  It means that more people are getting serious about learning about beer, not just seeing who can pound the most flavorless, water-like beverages.  We are going for quality here, not quantity.  Some of these styles have only existed in history books until they were resurrected in liquid form by the craft brewers and home brewers striving for preservation and innovation of libation. In fact, the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) just added an entire section devoted to Historical Styles for judges to go by at homebrew festivals.  This means that more of them are showing up at competitions as well as on the shelves.  What’s all the fuss about?  Let’s take a look, shall we?

Gose [pronounced “goes-uh”]: This sour, salty wheat beer was nearly extinct at the end of the twentieth century. Traditionally fermented with both brewer’s yeast and lactobacillus to add acidity, this style takes its name from the Gose River in Goslar, Germany, where it is thought to have originated over one thousand years ago when adventurous brewers decided to see what would happen if they made beer with the area’s naturally salty water. More commercial representations of this style are coming on the market every day, and the Gose fan club is growing.  Some examples include Westbrook Brewing’s Gose, Anderson Valley Brewing’s The Kimmie, The Yink, and the Holy Gose, Victory Brewing’s Kirsch Gose, Evil Twin Brewing’s Mission Gose, and Braustelle’s  Freigeist Geisterzug Gose.

Kentucky Common: A dark cream ale that sprang up from the mineral rich carbonate water in and around Louisville, Kentucky in the late 1800’s and went the way of the buffalo when Prohibition hit Kentucky in 1919.  As with traditional cream ales, corn grits are used to add mouthfeel.  Unlike other cream ale recipes, however, this one calls for about ten percent of the grains to be caramel or dark roasted.  When carbonate (CO3 ) water is used (often in conjunction with calcium and/or magnesium) in the process as it was in Louisville, the color of the malts is more easily extracted from the kernel resulting in a darker beer than carbonate-free water.  Commercial example: Apocalypse Brew Works Ortel’S 1912

Lichtenhainer: This is a smoky, sour wheat beer made from a mash of smoked wheat and malted barley that orginated from the central German region of Thuringia. It is often thought of as the love child of the tart Berliner Wiesse and the smokey Grätzer (we’ll get to those in a moment). They are characterized by their low ABV (around 4 or 5%) and almost nonexistent hop presence. As with Gose and the Kentucky Common, this style was popular in the late 1800’s.  Commercial examples include Westbrook Brewing’s Lichtenhainer.

London Brown Ale: A caramel, toffee, sometimes chocolatey dessert in a glass! This style uses a hefty proportion of medium to dark roasted barley and carbonate water to get as much the flavors and color out of the grains as possible. They aren’t quite as dark as a stout, and sweeter than a Dark English Mild with an average ABV of only 3%.  We can trace the history of this beer back to its invention by Mann’s in 1902 in London. Brown Ale had previously been a blanket term that encompassed many styles including milds and porters. Commercial examples include Mann's Brown Ale, Harvey’s Nut Brown Ale, Harvey’s Old Ale.

Grätzer [GRATE-sir]: This beer actually has two names because the Polish city of Grodzisk it derived from was called Grätz when it was ruled by Prussia and Germany.  Therefore, you may see it referred to as Piwo Grodziskie [pivo grow-JEES-keeuh].  This is the smokey wheat beer that is rumored to have inspired the Lichtenhainer style we discussed earlier. Grätzer is made of all or almost all oak wood smoked malted wheat, several strains of ale yeasts, and German, Czech, or Polish hop varieties.  It sports a thick, white head of foam and a golden clarity accomplished not from filtering but from the addition of Isinglass finings. While this style was made for several hundred years, it was most popular at the turn of the 20th century and died out after World War II. Commerical examples include Professor Fritz Briem Piwo Grodziskie-Grätzer Ale and New Belgium and The 3 Floyds collaboration Lips of Faith Grätzer (now out of production).

Roggenbier: Described as a dunkleweizen made from a mash of at least 50% rye instead of wheat, this is a light orange to dark red or brown beer with a thick, frothy foam. The rye imparts a creamy mouthfeel and an unmistakeable spice that is balanced with the banana clove esters delivered by the weizen yeast.  Light use of hops in this style keep the flavors of the yeast and grains front and center. This style was never very popular, and was only made in a small area of Bavaria called Regensburg. It struggled to gain widespread production because of the German purity law known as Reinheitsgebot.  In an effort to make more solid bread available for a starving population, the law was enacted in 1516 and dictated that only barley should be used to make beer so that other grains could be preserved for bread production. Paulaner Roggen (formerly Thurn und Taxis, no longer imported into the US), Bürgerbräu Wolznacher Roggenbier

Sahti: There’s a lot of debate over what distinguishes a Sahti from other styles.  Most descriptions include a good proportion of rye in the malt bill, and juniper berries for balancing the sweetness rather than hops, and low carbonation.  The truth is that there simply aren’t a lot of commercial representations of this style, and they vary widely from one another, in part because of the history.  Sahti is a traditional Finnish beer that until very recent history, was strictly homebrew.  Because of the lack of commercial breweries defining this style, home brewers have been free to tweak recipes to their liking.  The BJCP has the most narrow description of the style that I’ve found, claiming that sourness is not appropriate and that the yeast character should be limited to the banana-clove esters of a weizen yeast. Other self-proclaimed Finnish Sahtis include the tartness of wild fermentation, and some do use hops rather than juniper for flavor balance. What is consistent, however, is that this beer does not undergo a boil as most beers do.  This means that the proteins are not omitted from the beer, and stay behind as a slick mouthfeel and a pronounced sweetness. The beer is later filtered over a bed of juniper branches to impart a piney, gin-like flavor in most cases, but not all.  Commerical examples include Dogfish Head Sah’tea, New Belgium Sahti Ale, and Samuel Adams Norse Legend.

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Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow
It’s no secret that I have aspirations to enter the brewing industry. Most of you know that I’ve been working toward a degree in Brewing, Distillation, and Fermentation at AB Tech’s Craft Beverage Institute of the Southeast. I even know what position I want to pursue!  I wrote about it here. So, I am excited to share with you all that I have been offered, and have accepted a position as Cellarman at Mystery Brewing in Hillsborough, NC. If you aren’t familiar with this title or what I will be doing, here’s a fun interview with a few cellarmen that explains it all very well.  I will be making the transition from beer buying to beer producing at the beginning of 2016. 
 
As excited as I am to take this position, I am also sad to have to say good-bye to Asheville and Metro Wines. That includes all of you that I have gotten to know through our interactions in the shop!  I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you and your tastes and preferences and geeking out with you about beer this last year!  While my presence in the shop will be limited to occasional guest appearances, I will continue to share my writing on this blog, as well as Asheville Grit and WNC Woman Magazine!  
 
I am also excited to invite you all to a special tasting of Mystery Brewing Company’s beers at Metro Wines on Wednesday, December 30th from 5-7pm. I’ll be here to share the beers that I will soon have a hand in creating. Jessica from Mystery will be on hand as well as Erika who will be filling my role here at the shop. I hope to see you there, also!  Please come out and share in my excitement! 
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Drink Like a Girl With Dogfish Head!

Drink Like a Girl With Dogfish Head!

Brewing Up A Storm will host Drink Like a Girl with Wes Anderson from Dogfish Head on Friday, December 11 from 5-7 pm. Join us for this free beer tasting featuring four Dogfish Head beers!  Wes will be available to answer questions about Dogfish Head and their beers!  Here's what we'll pour:

This was the first beer in our Ancient Ales series.
 
This sweet yet dry beer is made with ingredients found in 2,700-year-old drinking vessels from the tomb of King Midas. Somewhere between beer, wine and mead, Midas will please the chardonnay and beer drinker alike.
 
For years, Dogfish Head has worked with biomolecular archaeologist Dr. Patrick McGovern to bring Ancient Ales to life. For more on Midas Touch and the experience of Penn Museum excavators as they uncovered the tomb of the legendary King Midas, read this essay from Dr. Pat.
 
An unfiltered, unfettered, unprecedented brown ale aged in handmade wooden brewing vessels. The caramel and vanilla complexity unique to this beer comes from the exotic Paraguayan Palo Santo wood from which these tanks were crafted. Palo Santo means "holy tree," and its wood has been used in South American wine-making communities.

This highly roasty and malty brown ale clocks in at 12% ABV. A huge hit at our Rehoboth Beach brewpub when first released in November 2006, Palo went into full production at the end of 2007.

At 10,000 gallons, our two Palo tanks are the largest wooden brewing vessels built in America since before Prohibition (and we have three same-sized oak tanks right next to them).

Sixty-One, our first new core beer since 2007, was born at the crossroads of serendipity, experimentation and brotherhood.

Whenever Dogfish Head President Sam Calagione and his neighborhood friends gather for drinks, they give each other a big ol' man-hug and order a round of 60 Minute IPA. A few years ago, Sam also ordered a glass of his favorite red wine and poured a little into each pint of 60 Minute. They all dug the combination of fruity complexity and pungent hoppiness, and the blend became a beloved tradition.

Sixty-One captures that tradition in a bottle and marries two Dogfish Head innovations: beer/wine hybrids -- which Dogfish has focused on for well over a decade with beers like Midas Touch and Raison D'être -- and continually-hopped IPAs.

The name Sixty-One is a reminder that this beer is Dogfish Head's best-selling 60 Minute IPA plus one new ingredient: syrah grape must from California. The label, painted by Sam, is a twist on a typical watercolor. Rather than using water, Sam mixed the green pigment with beer and the red pigment with wine. And because Sixty-One pairs so well
with chocolate, he painted the browns on the label with melted chocolate.

60 Minute IPA is continuously hopped -- more than 60 hop additions over a 60-minute boil. (Getting a vibe of where the name came from?)

60 Minute is brewed with a slew of great Northwest hops. A powerful but balanced East Coast IPA with a lot of citrusy hop character, it's the session beer for hardcore enthusiasts!

Every Beer Has A Story...

In our Quick Sip Clip video below, Sam Calagione talks about the 60 Minute IPA. For some perspective, he compares this beer to its predecessor, 90 Minute IPA, and its big brother, 120 Minute IPA.

Sam stepped out of the brewery for the taping of this Quick Sip Clip and comes to us from the place where it all started: Dogfish Head, Maine.

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Thanksgiving Beers!

Thanksgiving Beers!

I'm sure I'll repeat myself many, many times over the next couple of weeks, as I'm already getting asked what I'll be drinking on Thanksgiving Day.  Here are my picks for pairing with hors devours, main course, and dessert! 

Hors devours: Cider!

 Naked Cider, Hendersonville, NC

Their Wicked Peel is a very apple-y cider that gets your salvating glands going!  Depending on your menu, the Blackberry Gold is also delicious!  

Main Course: Light, fresh flavors

Try Twice as Nice Dopplebock from Hi-Wire Brewing, Asheville, NC, Harvester Octoberfest from Green Man Brewing, Asheville, NC, or Ovila Abbey Saison from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co, MIlls River, NC.

Dessert: Dark, sweet, and maybe a little spicy!

Try Imperial Pumpkin Smash from Crown Valley Brewing, Ste. Genevive, MO, or either of these great ones from Blind Squirrel Brewing in Plumtree, NC.

 

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Booze 101

As a parent I have always known that we would have to have "The Talk" one day. Several topics have come up for discussion lately, and not all of them have been...comfortable. I know that it is a parent's duty to educate our children about responsibility with sex, drugs, and alcohol. At times, I have squirmed under pressure to find the right words, knowing all the while that my little boy is no longer so little. He is seventeen after all and beginning his senior year in high school. Like most parents, I have struggled to find healthy ways to approach such subjects as well as making it clear to my son that I am available to talk about these things should he see the need. It's a strange dichotomy I face: hoping that he will trust me enough to talk about what is going on in his life while secretly praying that there isn't all that much to talk about. After a series of particularly stilted conversations about sex I was relieved that he wanted to talk about alcohol for a change! I thought the questions would be different, but as a student of Brewing, Distillation, and Fermentation, I was ready to answer him. What follows is Booze 101, as explained from mother to teenage son:
Q: What's the difference between beer and whisk[e]y?
A: Well, you have to make beer before you make whisk[e]y, or at least something that resembles beer without the bubbles, and it may or may not use other grains besides what is typically thought of as brewer's grains. Regardless of the grain bill, you begin with a substance that is fermented to between six and ten percent alcohol. Then you heat that until it reaches a temperature hot enough for the alcohol to evaporate, but not the water. Because alcohol evaporates at roughly seventy degrees Fahrenheit, you can capture the steam, and there by capture the alcohol. The steam is then cooled back down into a liquid that is a much higher concentration of alcohol than you started out with. Usually between 50 and 70 percent. You can redistill that to get the percentage even higher if you want. In fact, most distillers will automatically separate the liquid that comes out first and last for a second distillation. This is called "The heads and the tails", and is known to carry more of the compounds that give people hangovers. By redistilling it, you can clean it up.
Q: Is that why you can store [distilled spirits] longer? Are there any beers that can be stored for a long time like stronger alcohols?
A: Alcohol is a natural preservative, so that's part of it. You're also removing the compounds that have a tendency to spoil over time, so it's a double edged sword. Molecularly speaking, alcohols aren't as reactive with oxygen as some of the other compounds in beer. Oxidation is one of the most common causes for beer spoilage, and it can present itself by tasting like wet cardboard in the beer. Dark beers naturally contain antioxidants that can help protect the beer from oxidation. Also, hoppy beers will lose their hop character over time, as the flavor either vanishes if stored properly at a cool temperature and away from light, or they will turn skunky if they haven't been treated so well. This is what we call "light struck", and it occurs when UV light interacts with the sulfur compounds found in hops. That's why so many brewers use brown glass bottles or cans to package their beers. Green and clear glass allows UV light to pass through the bottle to the beer, and shortens the shelf life of the liquid inside. If you want a beer that will age well, look for one that has some hops, as they are a natural anti-microbial preservative, but that doesn't depend on hops for their flavor. Barley wine is the most common aging beer, but there are others.
Q: So what's the difference between whiskey and vodka, other than vodka is made from potatoes?
A: Not necessarily. Vodka can be made out of any number of grains as well as potatoes. The main difference is that vodka (in the U.S., at least) must be odorless, flavorless, and colorless. That means that it has to be very pure, whereas whiskies often retain some flavor from the grain itself, and can be barrel aged to impart color as well as flavor. You are right, however, that all alcohol was once sugar, and many times the source of the sugar dictates the name of the distillate. Rum, for instance, is fermented and distilled from cane sugar. Tequilla, however, is the name of the region. So don't get too caught up in painting rules onto bottles with wide brushes. Mezcal is also made from the piña of the agave plant, but it comes from a different region, follows a different method [that includes smoking the piña first], and can be derived from red or blue agave. Tequilla uses only the blue agave.
Q: If Champagne is wine, then why is it carbonated while most other wines aren't?
A: First let's talk about terminology. There are a lot of sparkling wines out there, but only bubbly from Champagne France can be called Champagne. Most sparkling wines get their bubbles from a secondary fermentation in the bottle. Think about bottling beers with me. We add sugar, stir up the solution, bottle it, and cap it, right? That is because the byproducts of fermentation are ethanol and carbon dioxide. By creating an airtight seal in the bottle, we can trap the bubbles in the bottle. By adding sugar, we are giving the yeasts something to snack on so that they can continue the fermentation process. With sparkling wines made in the Champagne method, this secondary fermentation happens in the bottle. The bottles are stored with the corks down on an angle so that the yeast will fall down toward the cork. Someone has to turn the bottles slightly so that the yeast continue to work their way downward during the process. When it is ready, the yeast plug is removed through a process called disgorgement. A new cork is inserted, and the wine is ready. Other sparkling wines only go through a primary fermentation, and carbon dioxide is added just like a carbonated soft drink.
Q: Does it age well?
Some do. Carbon dioxide is yet another preservative. Most microorganisms can't live in a CO2 environment, so it can protect the wine from spoilage as well as oxidation. Proper storage is also a factor.
Q: So what's the difference between white wine and red wine? Is it the color of the grapes?
Yes and no. Champagne is almost always white, but it can be made of three different grapes, and only one of them is white. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier are the grapes. Only Chardonnay is a white grape, so you can make white wine from red grapes. The difference is really the amount of time the juice is in contact with the skins. All grape juice is clear, even the juice from grapes with dark skins. White wine is made by pressing the juice and throwing out the skins. Red wine is made by allowing the skins to stay in the juice during fermentation. How long exactly is up to the wine maker. As the juice ferments, it pulls the color and some flavor out of the skins. That's why there are red and white wines, and red and white grape juice as well!
With this, all of his questions were answered for the day. I wiped my brow and breathed a sigh of relief as I said, "Goodnight." It could have been so much worse!

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Meet the Women behind the Hi-Wire Labels!

Meet the Women behind the Hi-Wire Labels!

Brewing Up a Storm hosts Drink Like a Girl at Metro Wines on Friday, November 20 from 5-7pm featuring special guests, Illustrator and fashion designer, Charlotte Oden,  and marketing director, Abby Dickinson from Hi-Wire Brewing! This free beer tasting will feature four beers from Hi-Wire. Beer writer, Anita Riley will also be on hand. Check out the full article here. If you've ever wondered how Hi-Wire's vintage circus theme comes to life, come by and meet the women behind the story! Parking is free and easy at Metro Wines.

  

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Drink Like a Girl Friday, October 9 from 5-7pm

It's been a while since we've had an all Asheville tasting.  Can you "root, root, root for the home team" during football season, or is that only in baseball?  Anyway, Go Asheville!  To get even more specific, we are featuring all Pale Ales and India Pale Ales on the tasting.  Think you don't like IPA's?  I challenge you to a try the variety that exists in this style before making such a blanket statement!  Here's what we're pouring:

Pisgah Brewing, Black Mountain, NC
Pisgah Pale is a perfect blend of rich organic malts with whole-leaf Chinook and Nugget hops. A crisp, clean profile makes this, our flagship beer, distinct. 31 I.B.U.

Oskar Blues, Brevard, NC
IPA - A Metamodern IPA conceived of hand selected hops from down under. Malt barley and red wheat combine to create a clean malt backbone with foolproof flavor and mouthfeel to support the main act of Enigma, Vic Secret, Ella, Topaz and Galaxy hops. The hops strum juicy and sweet aromas with headline notes of passion fruit, raspberries, pineapple and citrus. This straight-up strain is Oskar Blues IPA (6.43% ABV). To each their own til we go home.

Wicked Weed Brewing, Asheville, NC
Pearfigt – Perfection doesn't necessitate passivity. Pearfigt is a testament to the compatible nature of hops, fruit, and spice. With a carefully selected dry-hop, this IPA is brewed to elevate the crispness of pear, the roundness of fig, and the warming spice of cardamom. Cheers to pearfigtion.

Asheville Brewing Company, Asheville, NC
Shiva IPA - A crisp, citrusy India Pale Ale with a light color, Shiva will destroy all your preconceptions of an I.P.A. A transcendentally simple malt bill accents a generous helping of Columbus hops, lending an intense floral aroma with hints of grapefruit and a pleasant bittering quality. Your palette will be lifted to higher planes of consciousness with a bittersweet finish.

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Leah Wong Ashburn Leading with Grace

Leah Wong Ashburn Leading with Grace

What does it take to captain one of the oldest craft breweries in Western North Carolina? A sharp business sense, a well of creativity, and a dedication to quality come to mind.  When I posed this question to Leah Wong Ashburn of Highland Brewing Company, however, she had other qualities she credited as her keys to success. In my humble opinion, they can all be summarized into one word: grace.  We don’t think a lot about finesse in business. More often than not, the emphasis is on being competitive, tough, hardworking, and holding your cards close to your chest. Ashburn’s approach to her role as President of Highland Brewing Company flies in the face of the conventional business model.  

And while Highland may have started out small on a shoe string in the basement of Barley’s Taproom, it is anything but small today. They produce 42,000 barrels (1,302,000 gallons) of beer a year and distribute to nine states plus the District of Columbia. They have 50 full time employees, an additional 25 part time staff, and a team who works on-call.  They brew five flagship beers year-round, plus six seasonal beers.  They’ve just announced a new line of special release beers, The Warrior Series, and there are countless small batch releases each year that are brewed on their pilot system and available on tap at the brewery tasting room. Highland hosts a number of festivals, concerts, and sporting events.  They also participate in beer festivals across their distribution area.  To say that there are a lot of irons in the fire is a vast understatement.

 How does Leah keep track of everything that is going on at Highland? She points to her father, who is still very much involved with Highland, her husband, and the talented team of employees that Highland attracts. “I rely heavily on a really great team. I wouldn’t do this without them,” she said. There is a meeting every Monday with all the department managers, and the entire company is invited.  In addition to these meetings, there is a sales meeting every other week with all members of the sales team.  Ashburn attends all of these.  She hopes to also attend more production meetings so she can have a better grasp of that part of the business. Even though she is Oscar Wong’s daughter, she says she has never felt entitled to Highland.  “I communicate that to my team all the time.  They know that I still have a lot to learn, and that I respect their knowledge, skills, talents.” 

Wong was reluctant to bring his daughter on board when she first approached him about working for Highland twenty years ago.  He insisted that she pursue her own career. It was important to him that Leah have the experience of gaining her own successes and learning from her own failures. Years later, he gave in and offered her a position, but she turned him down!  “We couldn’t afford her! We still can’t afford her,” he says.  Ashburn admits that she took a pay cut to join the ranks of her father’s brewery, but that isn’t what is important to her.  She is motivated by carrying on the Highland legacy and being a part of the Asheville community.

Another perk that drew her to make the change was the work environment. “There’s a mix of really cool people in the beer industry.  In some other industries, competitors don’t talk to each other.  In beer, we collaborate! And we are in the south, so there’s also southern hospitality.” I asked her if she had experienced any disadvantages based on her gender in a male dominated industry. She said that it actually works in her favor. “There are times that as the only woman in the room, you can bring a different perspective.  It can be a good thing.”

She spoke of her plans for the future of the brewery. “I want Highland to be the brewery that the southeast is most proud of. Our mission is to be the craft brewery of choice in the southeast.  Not the biggest, but of choice.  I hope that people who drink our beers will drink Highland because they want to. Of course we have to grow to be successful, but I want to grow the smart way, the right way.”

 Leah is also excited about the new energy being pumped into Highland. New team members joining the team bring a wealth of experience to the plate.  This is allowing for new beers that fit well with the Highland brand stylistically.  There is a lot of buzz about the expansion that is nearing its completion.  The additional space is allowing for more production and higher efficiencies in packaging, as well as new spaces for visitors to enjoy.  Highland will have an indoor event space along with a rooftop beer garden.  The extra public space will allow for private events that the brewery had largely been forced to turn down in the past.  Now Leah looks forward to the ability to host weddings, corporate events, and trade shows at the brewery.

 It’s exciting for me, as a native to Western North Carolina, a brewing student and beer writer to watch the growth and success of the beer industry in our area. I am happy for my town to have the promise of a thriving job market that the breweries offer. I am so thankful for all of the hard work that Highland and other breweries have done in the last twenty years to make Western North Carolina attractive to new breweries opening facilities in the area. Most of all, however, I am comforted to know that there are people like Leah Wong Ashburn leading the industry and making us proud.  

This article was first printed in WNC Woman Magazine, September 2015

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Drink Like A Girl Friday, October 2 from 5-7pm

This week we are celebrating The Great American Beer Festival medal by Wicked Weed Brewing!  Their Pernicious IPA took home the Silver metal out of some 3,000+ entries!  We'll taste the Pernicious and their seasonal pumpkin beer, the Xibalba!  Here's Wicked Weed's own words about their beers:

Pernicious is our flagship India Pale Ale boasting a silver medal at this year's Great American Beer Festival. This massively dry-hopped ale has minimum malt complexity and a combination of juicy, tropical fruit-forward hops with heavy resinous American hops. Pernicious is the epitome of a West Coast IPA, made right here in the Southeast.

For everything there is a season and tradition. That's why our pumpkin ale, brewed with cacao nibs, ancho, serrano, and habenaro chiles with fall spices, is brewed once a year during the onset of autumn. Inspired by the mythos of the ancients, Xibalba (she-bahl-bah) is an otherworldly reminder that seasons are fleeting and to be celebrated.

 

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