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Blind Tasting League

Lou Collichio came to Metro Wines with twenty eight years of experience in the spirits industry. He started his career in New Jersey first managing a small wine shop and then working for a chain of discount beer, wine, and liquor stores as a beer buyer and assistant store manager. After moving to Asheville in 2006, Lou worked for both...

Asheville Brew Blog

Blind Tasting League

Lou Collichio came to Metro Wines with twenty eight years of experience in the spirits industry. He started his career in New Jersey first managing a small wine shop and then working for a chain of discount beer, wine, and liquor stores as a beer buyer and assistant store manager. After moving to Asheville in 2006, Lou worked for both Greenlife Grocery, and Whole Foods as a beer and wine buyer. His passion for all things craft beer started at the dawn of the American craft beer movement and has continued unabated to this day.

Lou says he is a "recovering musician." We haven't heard his music yet but what we do know is that Lou has stories! He plans to share some of his greatest hits with us and you on "Brewing UP a Storm" our beer blog. did you know that Lou was in a 7th grade play with James Gandolfini and lou stole the show? Stay tuned!

Anita Riley is the cellarman at Mystery Brewing in Hillsborough, NC and continues to blog for "Brewing Up a Storm." She holds the title of Certified Beer Server through Cicerone, USA, and is a native of WNC.



Beer JUST for Dogs


When Megan and Steve Long's Rottweiler mix, Rocky, started having digestion problems, the couple needed a way to help him keep his food down.

Megan scoured the internet looking for remedies, but none seemed to do the trick.

"I'm not a crazy dog lady. I just really wanted to prolong my boy's life," she said.

Then she stumbled up a solution she could brew: "Beer" for dogs – a nonalcoholic beverage packed with healthy ingredients for pooches. Fast forward almost a year, and Good Boy Dog Beer company sells three different beers throughout Houston in more than 20 dog-friendly restaurants and bars.

And they're not alone. Across the U.S., dog "breweries" have sprouted up in the past 10 years crafting beverages for dogs that allow owners to share a cold one with their pet while also giving them with a nutritious treat.

Entire Story HERE!

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"Beer Hacks"

Malaprops Says:

A tour de force of 100 tips and tricks, Beer Hacks is the ultimate guide to becoming a better beer drinker. Includes an emergency bottle opener on the front cover 

Discover the very best and most creative ways to serve, share, store, and savor your favorite brews. There's problem solving: Warm beer? Chill a bottle in about a minute with a can of compressed air. DIY projects: Turn empty bottles into guitar slides. Party tricks: The only thing you need to know to safely tap a keg--and the one foolproof technique for shotgunning a beer. Flavor bombs: A French press is all you need to infuse ale with fresh berries.

Whether you're replenishing after a workout (that's right: beer has electrolytes), or relishing the singular tranquility of a shower beer, Beer Hacks is the ultimate guide to taking drinking to the next level, making it more fun and more practical. 



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Ab Tech's Jeff Irvin Starts Brew Biz

From Black Mountain News:


Shiny stainless steel tanks, visible to drivers along one of Black Mountain’s busiest roads, makes it hard not to wonder what’s brewing at 131 Broadway Avenue.

That answer is simply “fine craft beer,” according to the logo for Black Mountain Brewing, which will open its doors to the public in the coming weeks. However, the question that might shed the most light on what to expect from the Swannanoa Valley’s newest craft brewery is “who’s doing the brewing?”

Jeff “Puff” Irvin loves beer. He was working for a brewery in Ames, Iowa in 2013 when he found his dream job in Western North Carolina - more specifically as the brewmaster for the Craft Beverage Institute of the Southeast at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. The program was launched in 2014 to support the region’s ever-growing craft beverage industry.

Irvin became the director of the program, the only one of its kind in the country, in 2016.

Irvin came to the mountains with plenty of credentials. He earned his undergraduate degree in biology at Iowa State University before completing the Master Brewers Program at University of California, Davis. He then became a diploma brewer through the Institute of Brewing & Distilling in London. 

“The program at A-B Tech is the first two-year degree in brewing, distillation and fermentation in the country,” said Irvin from behind the bar in the brewery he is opening with partners John Richardson and Matt Schwarz in the coming weeks. "We've been visited by 32 programs in the last two years trying to emulate what we're doing."


Richardson was one of the first people Irvin met when he moved to Asheville, and the two quickly began talking about one day opening a brewery together. Richardson, a longtime resident and owner of Black Mountain Ale House, has already successfully developed a concept that suits the community. 

"At the Ale House we've always just tried to have a relaxed atmosphere where everyone feels welcome," he said. "With a brewery, the idea is to make great beer and have that same kind of environment."

Irvin will use the five barrel system at Black Mountain Brewing to create beers conducive to "sitting down and spending time with friends and neighbors."

"I like the idea of sessionable beers (typically less than five percent alcohol by volume) that people can drink together while having a conversation," he said. "Imagine that, people getting together and focusing on talking to each other instead of looking at their phones."

"It's about time" Irvin opened a brewery, said Kendra Penland, the former executive director of the Asheville Brewers Alliance who stepped down in early July to launch a media management and public relations firm with a focus in the food beverage and entertainment industry. 

"The Craft Beverage Institute of the Southeast and A-B Tech have been important partners and associate members of the Asheville Brewers Alliance, and Puff is training the brewers that are impacting the craft beer scene," Penland said. "He's nationally known as a consultant for start-up breweries, distilleries, wineries, you name it. He's helped a lot of businesses in that craft beverage space get started."


Few people understand the craft beverage industry the way Irvin does, she said. 

"He understands everything from concept to getting the beer in a glass in front of a customer in a way that few people do," Penland said. "A lot of folks are experts in the production or the conceptualization or operations, but it's rare to find someone who understands all those vital aspects."

Executing his craft in a brewery will allow Irvin to sharpen his skills in a sophisticated beer market while staying "fresh and relevant," he said. 

"It's really a creative outlet for me," he said. "I hate the term 'brewmaster' because there are maybe only five people in the whole world who have mastered it; I learn something new every day. There's always a trick we can do better or a process we can streamline and this helps me apply that practical knowledge I'm trying to teach."


In the collaborative world of craft beer, Black Mountain Brewing will potentially give Irvin the opportunity to team up with former students. 

"Some of them have gone out west or up north, but a lot of them have stayed right here in this area," Irvin said of his students. "I've got some great students who have done very well for themselves and I hope to collaborate with some of them."

It's that willingness to work with others in the field that Black Mountain Brewing brings to the table, Penland said. 

"We have such a great craft beverage scene in Western North Carolina," she said. "What's special about this project is that they're not trying to take over anything, they just want to add to the already vibrant scene."

Richardson just hopes to create a space that captures the welcoming spirit of the town. 

"It will be the kind of place where people come in and enjoy a beer or two with the same faces they see around town," he said. "I think it will be something Black Mountain can be proud of."



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Flour that Fights Waste?


A Brooklyn bakery uses flour tossed out by craft breweries to make its products.

New York Times reports: "Breweries throw out millions of pounds of used grain everyday that could have other uses. While some is repurposed as animal feed, compostable products or heating fuel, little has been exploited for its value as food."

Entire story by Lairssa Zimberoff HERE!

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Beer Beats Arthritis

Beer Beats Arthritis!

American experts found that beer protects women from a deadly disease. Specialists from the Harvard Medical School in Boston conducted relevant studies, reports ” Medic Forum “.

In the observations of scientists participated 250 thousand women. In the course of the experiment it turned out that the use of certain types of beer allowed participants to reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. As a result, the probability of the disease decreased by 31%.

Beer, The Laboratory People

“Perhaps a moderate use of alcohol two or three times a week can reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in women,” the study authors said.

Researchers have not yet been able to explain how exactly physiologically beer helps women reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease of unknown etiology, characterized by symmetrical damage to cartilage and bone tissue. The disease leads to a deterioration in the quality of life, disability and premature death.

Earlier in the UK, a 100-year-old woman explained the longevity of love for beer .


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Ancient Yeast in Beer

By Mike Cherney for Wall Street Journal


Tim Decker hoped some lichen he found in the California hills last summer would contain an exotic strain of yeast that would give a unique flavor to his home-brewed beer.

Have an old one
Have an old one

Mr. Decker put the lichen in a jar with a sugary solution to see if the liquid would ferment, a sign that yeast, which consumes sugars and releases alcohol, could be present. Weeks later, a small wormlike grub appeared, likely crawling out of a bit of wood attached to the lichen.

“I knew pretty quickly that wasn’t going to be something I was going to want to put in my beer,” says Mr. Decker, 33 years old, who writes the AltBrau beer blog and plans to start a commercial brewing operation. In another such experiment, he found a spider floating in the jar.

Mr. Decker is in the vanguard of a brewing movement in the beer world: trying to find the weirdest, funkiest yeast. Even global drinks companies are entering the contest, hoping new and exclusive brewswith a story behind them will entice consumers who are increasingly migrating to wine and spirits.

But finding new yeasts and successfully using them in a modern brewery can take years of work—and there is no guarantee of success. Brewers sometimes have to dump thousands of gallons of undrinkable beer.

Entire Article HERE.

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Up Country Brewing Company Tasting


News Release: Friday, January 5th, 2018

About: Up Country Brewing Company Tasting @MetroWines
Please join us on Friday, February 2nd from 5 to 6:30 for a beer tasting "on the house" hosted by Up Country Brewing @MetroWines. We are pouring beer @MetroWines just in time for SuperBowl.
About Up Country Brewing Company:

At UpCountry Brewing, we believe that craft beer and the outdoors go hand in hand. This is the basis of our Mission Statement – “To create memorable experiences while sharing our passion for craft beer and for getting outside with family and friends.”

UpCountry Brewing was founded in 2016 by John Cochran, a craft beer industry veteran since the mid 1990’s. While John has worked many beer related jobs in his 20+ years in brewing (including co-founding Terrapin Beer Company), he sees UpCountry as the culmination of all he has done so far. “It was in 2013 that my wife Irina and I purchased an old farmhouse in the Carolinas,” says John. “We’ve always enjoyed being outside, whether it’s hiking, fishing, boating, or skiing in the winter. This farm has become our home base for exploring the Carolinas, especially the Blue Ridge mountains. I see UpCountry Brewing as being an extension of that. It’s a way I can share my dual love for craft beer and for the Carolina outdoors with others.”

We are committed to being a local, Carolina only brewery. “UpCountry beers will not find their way outside of the Carolinas”, states John. “This allows us to put all our efforts into working with and supporting local causes in the Carolina communities where our beer is sold. And that starts right here at home in West Asheville.”

UpCountry Brewing loves our neighborhood and we are excited to be West Asheville’s community brewery. With a taproom that serves a wide variety of craft beer styles and provides a full food menu, a complete bar, live music and a large outdoor area for your daily shenanigans, UpCountry Brewing is a fantastic place to meet up with family and friends.

We are proud to be a kid friendly and pet friendly brewery. Come have a beer with us—we’ll see you soon! Cheers!

Contact for Up Country Brewing: Miranda Michaels
Contact for MetroWines: Gina Trippi
Charlotte Street! It's the Next BIG Thing!
"Big Shop Selection. Small Shop Service"
Shop:  828-575-9525
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Asheville is #1 Beer Town in USA

Story by Dillon Davis

Asheville Citizen Times


ASHEVILLE — For the second year in a row, Asheville is able to raise a glass to being the top U.S. city for beer drinkers.

Financial advice website SmartAsset said this month Asheville finished in the top two cities for the third year in a row, calling it "a beer lover's paradise." It takes home the top spot ahead of other sudsy cities, including Portland, Maine; Duluth, Minnesota; and Cincinnati.

"The biggest draw to Asheville is the city’s plentiful breweries," SmartAsset said in the post. It also notes that given Asheville's population compared to other larger cities on the list, it has the most breweries per person.

Data from SmartAsset shows Asheville has 25 microbreweries, giving the city 28.1 breweries per 100,000 residents — about 11,000 more residents than was measured in the most recent U.S. Census data for the city. 

The site also takes into account bars per 100,000 residents, average Yelp scores of local breweries and the average cost of a pint of beer to develop a composite score. Data was studied from 300 cities and collected via the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 1-Year American Community Survey and several other beer-centric data outlets.

Other cities rounding out the top 10 include Austin, Texas; Missoula, Montana; Portland, Oregon; Denver; Green Bay, Wisconsin; and Seattle. The only other North Carolina city to crack the top 25 is Wilmington, which checks in at No. 19, just above New Orleans.

Asheville has been a popular target in recent years for lists by national and regional. media outlets, ranging from travel and tourism to restaurants and other hospitality items.

Earlier this month, Forbes placed Asheville on its list of the 15 Coolest Places to Go in 2018. It was the only U.S. city to land on the list. 

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Pink Boots Society

Our Own Anita Riley, Emeritus for WNC Woman

Building the Pink Boots Society 150w, 50w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px 0px 0px 25px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; float: right; background: transparent;">When I began this column in 2015, I didn’t set out to build a community of women within the North Carolina beer industry. The Pink Boots Society and the countless women working with beer far longer than I have were already doing that. The community existed in tiny pockets across the state. Through Brewing Up a Storm, I have had the privilege of meeting dozens of spectacular women that are individually awe inspiring. Most of the time, they don’t even know it. What I’ve enjoyed most, however, are the phone calls and emails from one amazing woman asking me if I know an equally amazing woman with expertise in another part of the industry that could potentially help her with a challenge she’s facing, and being able to say “yes.” Without realizing it, I have become a human Rolodex of awesome. I am not upset about this! 282w, 150w" sizes="(max-width: 400px) 100vw, 400px" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px 25px 0px 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; float: left; background: transparent;">I can’t help but draw comparisons between my experience and the journey of Teri Fahrendorf, founder of The Pink Boots Society. After a 19 year career as a Brewmaster, Teri decided to give up her job in exchange for a cross country trip of a lifetime. She visited 71 breweries and brewed with 38 of them. Along the way, she met dozens of women working in these breweries that all believed they were the only woman in the industry. They didn’t have a support system of women who could offer guidance, advice, or lend a sympathetic ear. They worked in male bubbles. Each meeting with a new Brewster (the feminine term for a brewer) reminded Teri of an article she had read or a colleague she wished she could introduce to the Brewster in front of her.

When she returned from her five month trip, Teri began The Pink Boots Society, named for the pink brewing boots that she wore during her trip. At first, she only set out to offer a list of resources and a database of women in the industry that other women could turn to when they needed a boost. In the ten years since The Pink Boots Society was formed, it has become an international nonprofit organization that seeks to assist, inspire, and encourage women to pursue their careers in the beer industry through education. I can’t emphasize education enough.

As women in a male dominated industry, we have to be exceptional at our work in order to compete with men in job interviews. We have to work harder, be more knowledgeable, and roll with the punches more fluidly than our male counterparts. Education is vital to our success. Through the scholarships The Pink Boots Society offers women in the industry, we are able to stand out in the crowd of applicants clambering to get into this growing industry. I didn’t know about The Pink Boots Society until I had been in brewing school for a year, and they didn’t have scholarships established for accredited degree programs. Granted, fermentation education in the United States was quite limited prior to 2013, with two schools in the country: University of California Davis, which offered a master’s degree that required a bachelors in either chemistry or biology, or Siebel in Chicago, which is private and unaccredited. Both are geographically and financially limiting, with a waiting list that is years long. Today there are five community colleges in North Carolina that offer fermentation education, and two public universities. My goal is to start a scholarship fund for women to attend each of these schools.

With this goal in mind, I began writing ‘Brewing Ambition,’ a collection of homebrew recipes donated by Pink Boots Society members, along with an article about each woman that participated. It was released this year in March at the inaugural Biere de Femme Festival, which celebrates women in the beer industry by showcasing beers they designed and brewed. These two projects have knitted the community of the North Carolina Pink Boots Society together in unexpected ways. We have worked together across the three tiers of the beverage industry (supplier, distributor, and retailer) and collaborated with other breweries to create the beers and organize a festival that exceeded all of our expectations.

As excited as I am about the experience we were able to provide our ticket holders, I am even more excited about the experiences we have been able to offer our members since the festival. So many women came together to make Biere de Femme possible that we were able to envision new possibilities. We are growing in leaps and bounds both in membership and in action. I am thrilled to see this growth and to have a clear vision for continued growth in 2018.

The Pink Boots Society of North Carolina is proud to announce the second annual Biere de Femme Festival! Saturday, March 3rd at The Raleigh Beer Garden in downtown Raleigh, NC, beginning at 1pm for VIP ticket holders, while general admission begins at 2pm and ends at 6pm. Food will be available along with samples of beers created especially for this festival by women employed from each participating brewery. Proceeds from the event will benefit the scholarship fund of Pink Boots Society, which exists to ASSIST, INSPIRE, and ENCOURAGE women beer professionals through EDUCATION.

Tickets go on sale Friday, December 1st. General admission is $45 and includes samples of beers throughout the festival and a souvenir glass. VIP tickets are $75 and include an extra hour of sampling, access to the VIP area with food and private restrooms, along with a festival t-shirt. For tickets or more information about the festival, visit

Anita Riley is the Cellar Tech and Assistant Brewer at Lonerider Brewing Company in Raleigh and serves as Co-Chapter Leader of The Pink Boots Society’s Eastern NC Chapter. Her book ‘Brewing Ambition’ that benefits The Pink Boots Society’s Scholarship Fund can be found at Anita is a Certified Beer Server Cicerone and studied Brewing, Distillation, and Fermentation at AB Tech in Asheville as well as Rockingham Community College in Riedsville, NC. Her blog, Brewing Up a Storm, focuses on women in the beer industry: Anita is a native to North Carolina.
Anita Riley is also the author of "Brewing Ambition"
Copies signed by the author!! @MetroWines.
Great read and a great gift!

Brewing Ambition : Recipes & Stories from the Women of North Carolina Craft Beer

By Anita Riley
Brewing Ambition : Recipes & Stories from the Women of North Carolina Craft Beer
Homebrew recipes by the women of North Carolina's Craft Beer Industry and the stories behind them. Proceeds from the sale of this book benefit The Pink Boots Society's scholarship fund, which seeks to assist, encourage, and inspire women in the beer industry to further their careers through education.
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Arizona to Asheville


  The following was submitted to "Brewing Up a Storm" by Guest Blogger Bruce Howard. We hope Bruce will continue to share his thoughts with us about travel and beer! He writes about his trip to Asheville from Arizona via Maryland with his wife Marion and Corgi, Max. Full disclosure, Marion was my colelge roommate at SMU in Dallas and is a dear friend who balied me out of unfortunate situations time after time including the recent appearance of a reptile in my garage!


Here's Bruce...............

You would have thought Marion, Max and I would leave Maryland after a two week stay and drive back to Arizona.  Not for us, there were more friends to see and more IPAs to drink.  We took a direct path south from Maryland and traveled to Asheville, North Carolina (NC)  not quite a direct path west.  If you have never been to western NC or eastern Tennessee you are missing some of best views in the United States.  What took us to Asheville was Marion’s college roommate Gina and her husband John live there.  I was shocked how many breweries are located in Asheville.  So I attempted to do my best and visit some of them.  This is the 2nd of three (3) blogs in the “Across the Country” series.

The first and by far the largest brewery was the Sierra Nevada facility which is located in Mills River, just down the road from Asheville off Interstate 26 (you know you have made it when there is a sign for the facility located on I-26).  Why come to Asheville to open a brewery – the water - which is basic for life (I mean water not beer). We were amazed at the beautiful facility and surrounding land.  The brewery and associated facility are huge.  We did not take the tour (there is one specifically for IPA) that is for the next trip. 


Prior to drinking beer I thought (or maybe it was Marion’s idea) it would be a good idea to have food.  The Taproom layout is beautiful and the wood interior is amazing.  But the view out the rear of the facility is breathtaking.   I tried three IPAs (before I get ahead myself the food was outstanding – try the duck fat fries and green chile pork).  I was not sure which IPA to try (I mean have a pint) so I went for the sampler (Audition Rye IPA, Hop Hunter IPA, Serrano Pale Ale and Torpedo Extra IPA).  The Audition (ABV 5.9/IBU 38) Rye IPA had a smooth flavor which surprised me with the citrusy hop taste and rye being added but it was nice combination.  The Hop Hunter IPA (ABV 6.2/IBU60) was more of a traditional IPA with more of a hoppy taste.   If you like hops the Torpedo Extra IPA (ABV7.2/IBU65) would be my recommendation.  The Serrano Pale Ale (ABV5.4/IBU 42) has a unique flavor for someone who enjoys a little spice (Serrano chili) in a Pale Ale.

My favorite was the Audition Rye IPA. You would have thought I would have had a pint. Wrong. I had a pint of the Tropical Torpedo IPA (ABV6.7/IBU55).  It had a different citrusy hop taste. If you like citrus that is not orange this is your beer.

I am aware of Sierra Nevada beers in my local stores.  But until I visited the Asheville facility I did not realize the variety of beers they produce and the quality.  If you are like me you want to support your local brewery – I know Sierra Nevada is the second largest microbrewery of beer (second to Boston Brewery Company) but some of their business practices support local small business - buying the majority of their produce from local farmers.  You can guarantee my next visit to Asheville will include a trip to the Sierra Nevada facility (including the IPA tour).

You may have thought the Sierra Nevada facility visit was enough and you would be wrong. Gina and John owners of Metro Wine (have an excellent selection and variety of wines).  Their main focus is wine but they have a number of beers to purchase (they are always doing something to support the community and have great tasting events – please look at their calendar section for information on wine/beer tastings). 


So being a good friend and “Consumer” expert I purchased a few bottles from Hi-Wire and Wicked Weed Breweries.  I began with the Hi-Wire Brewery selection of Lion Tamer Rye IPA (ABV7%) which is a seasonal beer brewed and bottled from late July to late October and Hi-Pitch Mosaic IPA (ABV6.7%/IBU 55) a flagship beer brewed year around.  The Lion Tamer Rye had a very strong spice taste which is probably the rye.  If you like rye then this is the beer.  The Mosaic IPA had a bitter/hoppy and a citrusy hop taste (do to the Mosaic hops) to me (which I enjoyed)This is the first time I reviewed a beer from the bottle, if you try the same one at any brewery it may have a different or fresher taste.  I did not visit Hi-Wire Brewery on this trip but certainly will go on my next one.

The second selection of beers were from Wicked Weed Brewery which included their Freak of Nature double IPA (ABV8.5%) and Pernicious IPA (ABV7.3%) that are brewed year around.  The Freak of Nature Double IPA was off the charts hoppy (literally – the IBU rating is ? on their homepage), it is Wicked Weed Brewery’s first and maybe best flagship beer.  As with most Double IPAs it has a high AVB so be careful how many you drink at one time.  The Pernicious did not taste as hoppy and had a citrus taste (the brewer uses Mango hop aroma – I am not sure my pallet is sophisticated enough to detect the Mango influence) but it was smooth – so I had more than one.  Based on conversations with local beer drinkers I had heard good things about Wicked Weed Brewery which seems to be one of the most popular breweries in Asheville so I visited the one downtown. 


I have never (and I have been to a few of them – just ask Marion) visited a brewery that had such a variety and selection of beers on tap.  As I sat at the bar and pondered the meaning of life (or at least which beer I was going to try) I noticed they had Pumpkin beers (a seasonal treat for me).  There were three on tap: Smokin Pumpkin Porter (ABV8.3%/IBU18), Chai Pumpkin Stout (ABV7.3%/IBU28) and Pumpkin Up The Volume (ABV7.6%/IBU 17).  As with all pumpkin beers I chose the one that had the color of a pumpkin.  My selection was Pumpkin Up The Volume.  It was smooth and hit that distinct pumpkin taste – it was excellent.  I should have taken a growler back with me back to Arizona.  I would highly recommend visiting Wicked Weed Brewery on your next trip to Asheville.

I could have spent days visiting all the breweries in Asheville (oh – I did not mention our tour of the Biltmore you have got to experience it) but we had to make our way west back home to Arizona.

We had a great time and thank you Gina and John for being wonderful hosts.

Have a Hoppy Day.

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Sommariva Conegliano Prosecco Superiore

  • Bright and fragrant, this offers scents of acacia, herbs and stone fruit accented by a hint of nuts. The bright palate offers white peach, green apple and citrus framed in vibrant acidity together with a frothy mousse.

Imported by Kermit Lynch



For several generations the Sommariva family worked the vines on the high plains of the Veneto, growing a mix of French and local varietals and selling off most of their crop as was common practice at the time, but it was Caterino Sommariva who pinpointed the slopes as the best place for vines and began purchasing hillside vineyards together with his wife Urbana in the 1970s. The couple also had great faith in the Prosecco varietal (now known by its historical name, Glera) and decided to plant it exclusively on their new property, which gradually grew as they continued to snatch up adjacent parcels over the years. This great foresight put them in a very advantageous position when Prosecco and the hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene began to gain recognition in the late ‘80s for the light, clean sparkling wine we know so well today. Caterino and Urbana’s daughter Cinzia remembers watching her parents work and thinking as a child how hopelessly difficult the harvest seemed; so she chose another path in life and pursued studies in marketing. As she got older, though, she regularly returned to the estate and began to see her parents’ work through different eyes, slowly discovering her own passion for the hard work of winemaking. She eventually joined them and has since become a dynamic and enthusiastic partner in the estate.

The name Palazzo Rosso, meaning red building or palace, is a historic epithet for the zone that refers to the russet color of the earth here due to its high content of iron and other micronutrients. Despite Prosecco’s reputation for being light and easy, the Sommarivas take their work very seriously, adhering to eco-friendly practices in the vineyards, harvesting manually, and keeping a very close watch over the vinification process while many of their neighbors settle for easier methods and mediocre wine. These are perfectionists who only sit back once the work is done and it’s time to enjoy the delightfully fresh, elegant fruits of their labor.

Wine Enthusiast says: Bright and fragrant, this offers scents of acacia, herbs and stone fruit accented by a hint of nuts. The bright palate offers white peach, green apple and citrus framed in vibrant acidity together with a frothy mousse.

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    Bright and fragrant, this offers scents of acacia, herbs and stone fruit accented by a hint of nuts. The bright palate offers white peach, green apple and citrus framed in vibrant acidity together with a frothy mousse
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Brandi Hillman: Keeping with Tradition

If you ask Brandi Hillman where she gets her tenacity from, she’ll tell you it comes from her mother, who learned it from her mother before her. “My maternal grandmother was from a large tobacco farming family in Madison County, and my maternal grandfather was from a very large family with long term roots in Jackson County.  All the North Carolinian women in these families were strong influences and creating a true connection to Western North Carolina’s independent attitude,” Brandi said.

Brandi’s Mother, Wanda Stephens Herren, set an example for her daughters that if you want something, you go out and do it. She never let anything stand in the way of her goal. Brandi recalls her mother overcoming obstacles as a single parent with a dream. If there was something she wanted she would find a way to raise the money to get it. She earned her real estate license and her contractor’s license so that she would have the means to support her family. This entrepreneurial spirit spilled over to Brandi and her sister Nikki. Both of the sisters eventually chose to pursue their education at North Carolina State University. Nikki studied landscape architecture in college, practiced in that field for many years, and taught agriculture at the local high school. Brandi was a business major that also studied animal sciences and poultry science and was part of an all-girl agricultural fraternity, CERES. Together the two of them started Tuckaseegee Trading Company, a feed and seed store, on an old farm in Cullowhee. Their mother built the building for the store. Nikki has the background to be able to provide excellent wisdom and planting advice for the store’s gardening customers, while Brandi can offer the same level of expertise to livestock and poultry farmers. The store is twelve years old and going strong. But that’s just a small part of Brandi’s entrepreneurship.

In addition to Tuckaseegee Trading Company, Brandi owns three Subway restaurants with her husband, Greig. They take a lot of pride in making their restaurants the best they can be, but they found that they were neglecting a shared passion for craft beer in Asheville. Brandi got bitten by the craft beer bug in the late nineties. She and some friends had gone to Yellowstone National Park to live and work for a year in 1998, and Brandi immediately noticed that the shelves of the beer section didn’t look like they did back home. There were craft beers there from all over the West. She fell in love with Moose Drool by Big Sky Brewing.  “People used to make fun of me in college because they would buy the big cases of [macro beer] and I would be holding my little six pack of Spanish Peaks Brewing Company’s Nut Brown Ale because that was the only craft beer I could find in Raleigh. I caught such hell for my ‘fancy beer’,” She recalls.

 When she and Greig met years later, she converted him to being a craft beer drinker. Shortly after they were married, Greig got a contract with the Army to work as an airplane mechanic in Germany. Brandi and Greig toured several of the breweries in Bavaria, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria, and Belgium during their two and a half years abroad. They really fell in love with the dedication to quality they experienced in each beer they tried overseas. They also got to experience a lot of the biergartens and festivals that define the European beer tradition. The love of beer, food and appreciation of nature were instilled at every little biergarten they went to (and that was lot of them). 

Meanwhile, Greig’s brother Brad was homebrewing as a hobby in a tiny Brooklyn apartment. Every time they got together, the brothers talked about starting a brewery. Geography made the logistics of such a venture impossible until late 2015 when Brad moved to Asheville, where Brandi and Greig had been living for several years. The planning for Hillman Beer began in earnest almost immediately upon Brad’s arrival. The three began brewing together in their garage and sharing their beers with friends. Each one of the three Hillmans have their own strengths that contribute to a successful brewery. Brad will be doing most of the brewing. Greig will oversee the business operations and has the skillset to do any maintenance the brewery requires. Brandi will draw on her extensive business experience to manage the bookkeeping and focus on outreach and organizing events at the brewery. They found a location just outside of Biltmore Village and started their renovation in July 2016, with opening day in April 2017. Hillman Beer will start out with a five barrel brewhouse and a line-up of classic styles brewed in the traditional way. They want to bring a little bit of Europe into their taproom experience by offering beers in their purest form.

You can follow their progress and learn more by visiting

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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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Anita Riley Book Signing TODAY

News Release: IMMEDIATE

Anita Riley in Shop TODAY from 3:30 to 4pm
Anita Riley, formerly of MetroWines!, stops in shop TODAY from 3:30 to 4pm to sign copies of her new book: "BREWING AMBITION: Recipes and Stories from the Women of North Carolina Craft Beer."
Anita Riley is Certified Beer Server Cicerone. She studied Brewing, Distillation, and Fermentation at Rockingham Community College and ABTech. After starting the Beer Program @MetroWines, Anita joined Mystery Brewing Company ( as the Cellar Operator in 2015. In addition to writing her first book, Anita Riley still contributes to local publications and regularly posts on "Brewing UP a Storm" for MetroWines (
Contact for MetroWines: Gina Trippi
Charlotte Street! It's the Next BIG Thing!
"Big Shop Selection. Small Shop Service"
Shop:  828-575-9525
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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

To order tickets for the Biere de Femme Festival visit!event/2017/3/11/biere-de-femme-festival

To learn more about Mystery Brewing Company, visit


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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 or on social media @drinkmodern or .
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Midas Touch from Dogfish Head

Wall Street Journal posts "The Clued-In- Brewer" Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione shares his tips on elevating a basic wardrobe. We don't have the wardrobe but we have the beer!


About Midas Touch from "Dogfish Head"

All of the ideas about what our ancient ancestors were drinking–whether a wine, beer, or mead–come together in our research on the so-called King Midas funerary feast, because surprisingly all three were mixed together in the drink.  The gala re-creation of the feast in 2000 was at the Penn Museum.  A spicy, barbecued lamb and lentil stew, according to our chemical findings, was the entree, and it  was washed down with a delicious, saffron-accented rendition of the Phrygian grog or “King Midas Golden Elixir” by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.  Dogfish is the fastest growing microbrewery in the country, and “Midas Touch” has become its most awarded beverage (3 golds and 5 silvers in major tasting competitions, with a few bronzes tossed in for good measure).  The extreme beverage took another silver in the Specialty Honey Beer category at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival in Colorado.

It all started with a tomb, the Midas Tumulus, in central Turkey at the ancient site of Gordion, which was excavated by this Penn Museum in 1957, over 50 years ago.  The actual tomb, a hermetically sealed log chamber, was buried deep down in the center of this tumulus or mound, which was artificially constructed of an enormous accumulation of soil and stones to a height of some 150′.  It’s the most prominent feature at the site.  There was indeed a real King Midas, who ruled the kingdom of Phrygia, and either him or his father, Gordius, was buried around 740-700 B.C. in this tomb.  There’s still some uncertainty, since there’s no sign announcing “Here Lies Midas or Gordius!”

When the Penn Museum excavators cut through the wall, they were brought face-to-face with an amazing sight, like Howard Carter’s first glimpse into Tutankamun’s tomb.  The excavators first saw the body of  a 60-65-year-old male, who had died normally.  He lay on a thick pile of blue and purple-dyed textiles, the colors of royalty in the ancient Near East.  In the background, you will see what really got us excited: the largest Iron Age drinking-set ever found–some 157 bronze vessels, including large vats, jugs, and drinking-bowls, that were used in the final farewell dinner outside the tomb.

Like an Irish wake, the king’s popularity and successful reign were celebrated by feasting and drinking.  The body was then lowered into the tomb, along with the remains of the food and drink, to sustain him for eternity or at least the last 2700 years.

None of the 160 drinking vessels, however, was of gold.  Where then was the gold if this was the burial of Midas with the legendary golden touch?  In fact, the bronze vessels, which included spectacular lion-headed and ram-headed buckets for serving the beverage, gleamed just like the precious metal, once the bronze corrosion was removed.  So, a wandering Greek traveler might have caught a glimpse of this when he or she concocted the legend.

The real gold, as far as I was concerned, was what these vessels contained.  And many of them still contained the remains of an ancient beverage, as seen in this close-up photograph of the residue, which was intensely yellow, just like gold.  It was the easiest excavation I was ever on.  Elizabeth Simpson, who has studied the marvelous wooden furniture in the tomb, asked me whether I’d be doing the analysis.  I just had to walk up two flights of stairs, and there were the residues in their original paper bags from when they were collected in 1957 and sent back to the museum.  We could get going with our analysis right away.

What then did these vessels contain?  Chemical analyses of the residues–teasing out the ancient molecules–provided the answer.  I won’t go into all the details of our analyses, in the interests of the chemically-challenged (please refer to the attached pdf’s).  Briefly, by using a whole array of microchemical techniques, including infrared spectrometry, gas and liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry, we were able to identify the fingerprint or marker compounds for specific natural products.

These included tartaric acid, the finger-print compound for grapes in the Middle East, which because of yeast on the skins of some grapes will naturally ferment to wine, especially in a warm climate.  The marker compounds of beeswax told us that one of the constituents was high-sugar honey, since beeswax is well-preserved and almost impossible to completely filter out during processing; honey also contains yeast that will cause it to ferment to mead.  Finally, calcium oxalate or beerstone pointed to the presence of barley beer.  In short, our chemical investigation of the intense yellowish residues inside the vessels showed that the beverage was a highly unusual mixture of grape wine, barley beer and honey mead.

You may cringe at the thought of mixing together wine, beer and mead, as I did originally.   I was really taken aback.  That’s when I got the idea to do some experimental archaeology.  In essence, this means trying to replicate the ancient method by taking the clues we have and trying out various scenarios in the present.  In the process, you hope to learn more about just how the ancient beverage was made.  To speed things up, I also decided to have a competition among microbrewers who were attending a “Roasting and Toasting” dinner in honor of beer authority Michael Jackson (not the entertainer, but the beer and scotch maven, now sadly no longer with us) in March of 2000 at the Penn Museum.

I simply got up at the dinner, and announced to the assembled crowd that we had come up with a very intriguing beverage that we needed some enterprising brewers to try to reverse-engineer and see if it was even possible to make something drinkable from such a weird concoction of ingredients.  Soon, experimental brews started arriving on my doorstep for me to taste–not a bad job, if you can get it, but not all the entries were that tasty.

Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery ultimately triumphed.  He also came up with an innovative label of our re-created beverage, showing the Midas golden thumb print.

Just one footnote: the bittering agent used in Midas Touch was not hops (which was only   introduced in to Europe around 700 A.D.), but the most expensive spice in the world, saffron.  Turkey was renowned for this spice in antiquity, and although we’ve never proven it, the intense yellowish color of the ancient residues may be due to saffron.

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Wicked Weed Hop Cocao


Lou in The Beer Department says:

Hop Cocoa is a silky smooth Porter brewed with Dutch cocoa powder, and dark cocoa nibs from the French Broad Chocolate Lounge.  Rich, dark and delicious with Wicked Weed's unmistakable hop style.

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Holiday Parties?

Wine, Beer and Event Space for Holiday Events

  Planning a holiday office party, celebratory event or searching for a unique idea for a gathering of family and friends? Consider a wine tasting @MetroWines! 

  We can plan an event especially for you. You pick the theme. Maybe Bordeaux, Rueda or Sicily or even a Blind Tasting!

Even Football !!

  Hosting an event or planning a wedding, we offer a wide selection of wines that vary by varietal and price and expert pairing advice. And if you are in our delivery area, we can bring the wine to you.

 We also offer a Gift Registry for any occasion. Someone retiring at the end of the year? Received  a promotion? Relocating? Getting married!?

  Call a consultant at 828-575-9525. Let us take one more task off your holiday to-do list! And thank you for the opportunity to be part of your holidays.

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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 or visit their tasting room Fridays and Saturdays 1-6pm at 8 Merchants Alley in Weaverville, NC. 

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