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!
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 www.metrowinesasheville.com 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.