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.


Brew Up A Storm Of My Own!

This has been a busy semester already!  Right out of the gate, I had a group from UNCA’s College for Seniors ask to tour our facilities at AB Tech.  (Hi Meredith!)  The Brewmaster, Jeffery Irvin, the Department Head, Chef Scott Adams, and I talked about the program, why it’s so unique, and did a walk-through of the brewing facility.  That was only six weeks ago, but it feels like it’s been much longer!  Since then we have begun analyzing yeast cells under microscopes, crushed grapes for wine with our bare feet, made Kvass (a traditional drink from Russia that is made by fermenting bread), and got in our new 10 hectoliter brew system.  The first thing people ask me is how much is a hectoliter?  One hectoliter (100 liters) is about 26.5 gallons.  This is a huge leap from the 15 gallon Sabco system we have been using until this point! 



Here at the shop, we began our weekly beer tastings on Fridays from 5-6:30.  It’s been so much fun picking out the beers for these and sharing them with our customers!  Mike Merriman, winemaker extraordinaire from Merriman Wines in Oregon was in the shop this week to share his wines with our customers and sign some bottles.  I found out that he used to brew beer before catching the wine bug. When he told me he loves saisons, I had to share a beer with him! I think Mike loved being here as much as we loved having him. His words were, “Drinking beer and doing a tasting at the same time? Priceless!” Just goes to show that you don’t have to choose between wine and beer!  You can have it all!  Come by this coming Friday, February 27th for a dark beer tasting from our local craft selection! It's the porters vs. the stouts!  

 We also started a Craft Beer Case Club!  Customers can choose to receive a monthly case with either (24) 12 oz bottles or (12) 22oz/750ml bottles.  Words can’t express how much I love picking out the beers for these cases!  With the selection that our local breweries and our distributors offer, shopping for the case club is like going through the Sears Wishbook during the holidays when I was a kid!  If you didn’t have this experience, I’m sorry.  Your childhood was wasted!  I got to tour a couple of our distributors' warehouses lately.  The amount of beers at my finger tips is daunting! You can sign up for the case club of your choice at


If that wasn’t enough, we also added the Beer Blind Tasting League!  Just like our Wine Blind Tasting League events, we are given four beverages that are not labeled.  We use only the visual, aromatic, and flavor clues to determine what the malts or other grains are, which hops and yeasts were used, and what the style might be.  This is the drinking game you’ve been waiting for!  We don’t take ourselves too seriously, and there is a lot of partial credit awarded!  If you want to give it a shot, we hold these events on the 3rd Wednesday of each month at 6:30pm.  The next event will be on March 18th. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased in the shop or on line at


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The Battle of the Belgians

The Battle of the Belgians

Our beer tasting events have become so popular, we have decided to make them a weekly staple! Every Friday from 5-6:30 we'll be pouring samples from our ever expanding beer selection.  This week features four Belgian style beers.  I could try and describe them to you here, but it would make more sense if I let the beer makers speak for their own brews.  Here's what you can expect tomorrow:

Bell’s Winter White

Taking its cues from Belgian-style white ales, Bell's Winter White Ale offers a lighter yet abundantly flavorful alternative to the traditional heavy winter warmers. Fermented with a Belgian ale yeast, this blend of barley & wheat malts yields a mixture of clove and fruity aromas, all without the use of any spices. Deliberately brewed to retain a cloudy appearance, Bell's Winter White Ale is a beer for embracing winter.

Deep River Joco Winter White

Deep River Brewing Company's JoCo White Winter is a seasonal Belgian Dubbel that is brewed with fresh Johnston County white sweet potatoes, toasted marshmallows, and a blend of spices. This is a... challenge (PAIN) to brew (think marshmallows stuck in your hair) but it's worth it because it's one of our favorite to drink. 7.5% ABV

Pisgah Red Devil

This 9% Belgian-style ale was originally brewed to commemorate Pisgah's 200th batch.  Packed with over one pound of cherries and raspberries per gallon, the Red Devil balances delicately between tart and not-too-sweet.  Treat yourself to a half-pour of Red Devil with a half-pour of Nitro Stout on top for some chocolate covered cherries.

Pisgah Cosmos

Pisgah's tribute to the Belgian tradition and our home-brewing roots, this recipe comes directly out of Dave's old homebrewing notebook.  We combine the rich flavor of a Baltic porter with the subtleness of a special Belgian yeast strain, imagine bananas dipped in dark chocolate liquified in your beer glass.  Honor tradition, Respect beer.

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Take Home a Dirty Girl For Valentine's Day

Take Home a Dirty Girl For Valentine's Day

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, everyone in the rest of the country is trying to find a restaurant still taking reservations, beating down the doors of the local boutique hotels, booking weekend getaways out of town, and stocking up on more chocolate than is humanly possible to eat before the expiration date.  All of these are great recommendations if you or your date are from any typical town.  Asheville, as we all know, is not typical.  We like to hike, climb, bike, and paddle.  Who needs long walks on the beach?  Give me a day in the woods, preferably with a river also involved.  It’s really too bad that Valentine’s Day is in the dead of winter!  That really puts a wrench in this outdoor girl’s plans!  So, what do you do when you can’t get your boots dirty in the Nantahala forest?  Take home a Dirty Girl Blonde Ale from Nantahala Brewing Company! You’re S.O. will giggle at the label.  It goes with everything.  When it’s empty you can play spin the bottle.  With just two people, the odds are good! While you’re showing your love for that special someone, you will also be showing your love for your local wine and beer shop and a local brewery.  It’s a win-win-win!  

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I Know You Are, But What Am I?

I Know You Are, But What Am I?

Talk of the Super Bowl commercials may be drowning out talk of the actual game.  No commercial is getting more attention than the Budweiser ad that attacks the craft beer industry in much the same way that a jilted child folds his/her arms, sits in the corner and pouts.  AB In-Bev has been playing defense for a while now. They have been buying up small(er) craft breweries like Goose Island (who isn’t very small anymore), Ten Barrel, and the latest is Elysian just a couple of weeks ago.  We’ve been watching as one announcement of buyout is followed by another.  The large breweries are losing market shares, and they were so busy doing keg stands that they didn’t notice until it was too late to rebrand themselves.  Rather than go to the trouble of producing beers that appeal to craft beer lovers, they have chosen to acquire companies that can.  There has been a lot of rumbling about this in the beer world, but I honestly thought that it would settle down, things would go back to business as usual, and Budweiser would quietishly gain market shares through the back door.  Then their Super Bowl ad aired.  (Because I refuse to give Budweiser more air time for their buck, I’m not going to include it here.  If you didn’t see it last night, you’ll just have to take my word on it.)

There is no dialogue, only subtitles while a butchered version of Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part 2” because, I suppose, either the advertising budget was exhausted or Mr. Glitter chose not to allow his music to be a part of the debacle.  But what words they were.  I will present them in their unedited form for you now.


Proudly a Macro Beer

Is not brewed

To be fussed over

It’s brewed for

A crisp, smooth finish

This is the only beer

Beechwood aged

Since 1876

There’s only one


It’s brewed for drinking

Not dissecting

The people who drink

Our beer

Are people who like

To drink beer

Brewed the hard way

Let them sip

Their pumpkin peach ale

We’ll be brewing us some

Golden suds

This is the famous


Never mind that their newly acquired Elysian happens to make a pumpkin peach ale called Gourdia On My Mind, therefore BUDWEISER MAKES A PUMPKIN PEACH ALE.  Never mind that they leech all the flavor out of the beech wood chips before they go into the giant steel fermenter to make sure they don’t impart any flavor.  It’s all for yeast flocculation, and has nothing to do with actual flavor.  Do I even need to point out that they said that Bud is not to be fussed over, but then they got fussy about it?  It’s sort of hard to dissect something that is one dimensional and has the personality of poorly treated refuse water.  They are basically spitting in the face of the largest growing sector and saying that they will now only focus on marketing to the least common denominator.  If you want good taste, this Bud is not for you.  They only want the people that are underage and don’t know what beer is supposed to taste like to drink their product.  The demographic that is more concerned with quantity than quality.  That’s their target market. 

This is the point when I realize that I have begun sounding just as juvenile as Bud’s commercial.  Did they convince anyone that likes craft beer to drink Bud?  No.  I’m sticking to my well-crafted, flavorful, aromatic ales.  Did they get everyone who drinks craft beer to talk about their brand?  Yes.  And that means that their commercial worked.  Even negative attention is better than being ignored. We’ve all been tricked! Well played, Budweiser, well played.  You got me. 

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My Dream Team Six Pack

My Dream Team Six Pack

Everybody has been asking me what beers I recommend for their Super Bowl Party, and I’m having a hard time choosing just one.  It’s a good thing we do mix and match six packs so I don’t have to only pick one!  Plus, I’m not left having to route for some beer from across the country, I can cheer for the home team with our selection of local craft beers right here at Metro Wines!  So here’s this Carolina girl’s Dream Team Six Pack. 

  • Cack-A-Lacky Ginger Pale Ale from Fullsteam Brewing, Durham, NC
  • Pinner IPA from Oskar Blues, Brevard, NC
  • Bed of Nails Brown Ale from Highwire Brewing, Asheville, NC
  • Milk Stout from Duck Rabbit Brewing, Farmville, NC
  • Hooligan Scotch Ale Catawba Brewing, Morganton, NC
  • Riverbank Rye-it from Deep River, Clayton, NC

I hope y’all will have as much fun picking out your Dream Team Six Pack as I did with mine!  I can’t wait to see what you choose!  Good luck, and may the best beer win!

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It's A Party!

It's A Party!

You're invited! This Friday, January 30th from 5:00 to 6:30 we will host a free beer tasting at Metro Wines! You can't drink your Fantasy Football team, so let us help you prepare for your Super Bowl Party and pick out your Dream Team mix and match 6 pack or case. We'll have three of our favorites from NC breweries on pour:
• Cack-A-Lacky Ginger Beer from Fullsteam Brewing in Durham
• The new Pinner IPA from Oskar Blues in Brevard
• Bed of Nails Brown Ale from High Wire here in Asheville
Choose from any 12 ounce bottles or cans* from our newly expanded selection of local craft beers. Anita Riley, Beer Server Cicerone will be on hand to answer questions and offer suggestions. Enter to win a free beer tasting event for up to 8 people! Hope to see you there!
*Oskar Blues Ten Fidy singles will count as 2. Don't blame us. Blame the malt bill.

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When on Winter Break, Make Home Brew!

When on Winter Break, Make Home Brew!

This week began a new semester at AB Tech, which reminded me of just how busy I'd been since we broke for the holidays.  Four weeks is a long time!  I didn't realize how much I missed school until I got back on campus yesterday.  I really do love my classes, my instructors and my classmates.  I can't believe how much we've learned in just one semester, and I'm so excited for this new semester!  But all of this reflecting makes me thinking, what DID I do with my time off?

Most of my break was taken up with extra hours here at the shop, holiday preparations, and lots and lots of food.  I did get a little down time, however, and I used it to brew up a storm!  A few classmates and I got together and came up with a Rye Saison, which was a new recipe for us.  Asheville Brewer's Supply was so helpful with pointing us toward the best rye for the style, and telling us what to look for when working with this adjunct like an oily residue that none of us would have seen coming and to watch out for boil overs even more than usual.  We had to add rice hulls for extra filtration, too.  I'm so glad that they pointed us in the right direction.  

Today we bottled our creation, and it came out fabulously!  The rye adds a little spice, and the saison yeasts impart a fruity quality to the brew.  It has two weeks to bottle condition, and wa-la!  BEER!




Capping Duty!  Note the tasty homebrew in the background ;)


This is the Hydrometer in action.  We started at 1.054 and it fermented down to 1.011 

If that all sounds like latin, no worries!  It roughly translates to a 5% ABV  YAY!

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Highland Brewing Company Starts 2015 Off With A Bang!

Highland Brewing Company Starts 2015 Off With A Bang!

Have y’all heard the news?  Asheville’s very own Highland Brewing Company has been brewing up a storm this week!  Leah Wong Ashburn just stepped up to fill the shoes previously warn by her father, Oscar Wong as Chief Operations Officer!  Leah has been at Highland for the last three years as VP, so this isn’t a huge leap for her or for Highland, but I still think it’s very cool that our very first craft brewery in Asheville is now headed up by woman. 

The brewery also announced this past fall that 2015 will be a year for expansion.  More details are being released about that now.  They’ll be adding a rooftop beer garden to the existing facility, moving the bottling line to a separate area that had been unused before, and making room for more tanks so that they can do more of what they do best.  I can almost smell the Black Mocha Stout from here!

To top it all off, they are also bringing in a new woman head brewer!  Hollie Stephenson is coming from California, where she had been brewing for none other than Stone Brewing!  Big props to Highland for continuing to be a brewery that is all about equal opportunity.  I can’t wait to see the new beers and the new facilities as each are released.  The Asheville Citizen Times printed an article that mentions a new summer ale – The Lost Cove American Pale Ale.  I’m sure this is only the beginning of the new possibilities for Highland! 

Congratulations to Leah, Hollie and to Highland on the bright future that lies in store.  Cheers to Oscar for a brilliant vision that has come to fruition and the joy of passing the torch to good hands.  Thanks doesn’t begin to cover what he has done for the craft beer movement in North Carolina and especially in Asheville. It’s a beautiful thing!

To read the Citizen Times article, go here

Photo from Highland Brewing’s site

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Resolve to Drink More Beer in 2015!

Resolve to Drink More Beer in 2015!

Just like a lot of you out there, I’ve spent the weekend evaluating 2014, looking at where I started and where I’ve come, planning what I want to achieve in 2015, and making resolutions.  I can’t remember where I came across this advice, but someone once told me to make a goal for each aspect of my life: Financial, health, career, family, and relationships.  Well, here’s a resolution that covers all of those: Drink beer! 

You probably think I’m joking, but there is actual research to back this up!  I’m not talking about doing keg stands like a frat boy every weekend, but moderate beer consumption has proven benefits that are harder and harder to ignore. 

Financial – That’s a no brainer!  Beer is the cheapest beverage you can order at a restaurant or bar.  If you want to save some serious green, switch to beer with your dinners. 

Health – We hear a lot about the health benefits of red wine, but did you know that beer has a laundry list of benefits as well?  I’m not joking!  It’s true!  There are so many, in fact that the only way I know how to present them is in list form.  Here goes:

  • High in dietary fiber
  • Lower in calories by volume than wine or spirits
  • High B Vitamin content especially B3, B6 and B9
  • Rich source of silicone, which boosts bone health
  • Moderate consumption can ward off dementia and Alzheimer’s
  • Boosts HDL (aka good cholesterol) and is cholesterol free
  • Decreases risk of heart disease by 31%
  • Natural blood thinner
  • Boosts artery health
  • Dark beer carries a high iron content, which helps with oxygenating the body
  • Humulone from hops has been linked to lower risk of diabetes, cancer and other diseases

Career – Research shows that having a beer (or two) at lunch will help increase your creativity and productivity at work!  This is not a carte blanche to get hammered, so don’t tell your boss, “Well, Anita said…”!  There are several articles to back this up.  Instead of giving them my email address, just give them these links and keep to the moderation rule!

Family (and I’m going to lump in relationships here, too) – Ok, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that we all face the same sorts of struggles when it comes to our work/life balance.  We have a lot to stress out about, work, finances, our carbon footprint, our ever more crammed schedules…Too often this translates to not enough down time, and when we do catch a breather, we have a hard time shaking off the rest of the world and focusing on those that we love most.  Am I right?  When it gets to that point, a pint can really help break down the barriers between us so we can get to the heart of what matters most: the people that make up our friends and family.  Because nothing really matters that much without them! 

Cheers y’all! Here’s to a Hoppy New Year!

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Brewing Up a Storm with Jessica Reiser

Brewing Up a Storm with Jessica Reiser

Everyone asks me the same question when they hear that I’m pursuing a career in the craft beer industry, “Don’t you need a beard for that?”

My answer is a resounding “No” followed by a blank stare and awkward silence.  There are actually a lot of women in this industry, and I got to talk with one of them recently!

Everyone, meet Jessica Reiser, Co-owner of Burial Beer in Asheville’s South Slope Brewing District.  She was kind enough to take time out of her cramped schedule to talk with me on the phone. But enough about me, let’s talk about Jessica!

Jessica started Burial in June of 2013 with two other co-owners.  She handles the marketing and PR, event planning, HR, and accounting for the brewery.  This trio moved to Asheville from Seattle, where they had been beer bloggers, gaining an in depth knowledge of the industry and beer styles.  They spent a lot of time visiting other breweries and taking note of what resonated with them, what styles they wanted to make, and what experience they wanted their patrons to have.  Their head brewer also gained several years of commercial brewing experience before the move.

The style that stood out to all of them, and Jessica’s favorite, is the Saison style.  Today about 40% of Burial’s taps are saison taps!  This Belgian, fermentation style is growing in popularity, which is great for Jessica and Burial.  So great, in fact that Burial just expanded their one barrel South Slope brewery to a 10 barrel system, and they will also open a new 30 barrel farmhouse brewery off site next spring!  This new facility will allow Burial to feature more flavor options for their saison-loving patrons as well as to begin canning and distributing down the road.  

I asked Jessica what obstacles she’s faced that are specific to being a woman in the brewing industry.  The hardest part, she said, was juggling being a mom to two young children, ages one and three.  She was quick to point out that this was more specific to owning a business of any sort, not just a brewery.  While her husband faces the same work/life balance struggle, this age in her children’s lives is mommy-focused.  With the two expansion projects in full swing, things tend to stay hectic for her these days.  She said she is looking forward to the near future when the dust settles and Burial can get back to business as usual.  She is also hopeful that she’ll have more employees to delegate to in the not-so-distant future. 

Good luck to Jessica and Burial! We are excited for your success! If you want to learn more about Burial, hop on over to their website

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Beer for Wine Lovers

Beer for Wine Lovers

I hear it all the time: "Oh, I'm just not a beer drinker. I much prefer wine."
I get it. In fact, until a few years ago, I would have said the same thing. I still love wine. It is elegant. It is timeless. I could pair wine with anything. Any. Thing.
But sometimes I'm out at a concert or Thirsty Thursday at the Asheville Tourist Stadium, and all they have is beer. What's a girl to do?
Well, first you have to weigh your options:
A) Cross your arms and pout while all your friends have a good time with or without you.
B) Make an educated leap of faith into the wonderful, and just as delicious, world of beer.
All you need is a little insight and an open mind, and I promise you can find a beer out there that is just as good as the wines you already love.
What kind of wine do you usually drink?


Sauvignon Blanc – Try an IPA
I love SB for its tart, citrusy burst of goodness. Light and refreshing, it's perfect on a hot day with some fruit or anytime with lighter fare like a delicate fish. IPA's (India Pale Ales) are heavily hopped, and do you know what hops taste like? Oranges. Pineapple. Grapefruit.

Chardonnay – Try a Hefeweisen
These German wheat beers are light and creamy with a hint of citrus and floral. If you appreciate a well-crafted Chardonnay with all its nuances, you will certainly enjoy a hefe for all the same reasons. They are very similar in flavor and character, and hefes are usually naturally carbonated, which makes for smaller bubbles and fewer burps.

Viogner – Try a Saison
What comes to mind when you think of Viogner? Fruit and flowers, right? The same is true for Saisons! The secret is in the yeasts! Weird, eh? But each strain of yeast will produce a different aroma, and when it comes to saisons, it's all floral all the way! This style is also known for its fruitiness. Plums, oranges, raspberries...the options are pretty endless.


Pinot Noir – Try a Lambic
These tart and often fruity Belgian beers can come in a variety of styles, so I hesitate to put such a narrow label on them. Find a raspberry or blackberry lambic, close your eyes, and enjoy! In fact, we have a cava rose made from Pinot Noir that makes me think of a raspberry lambic right away. They are that similar.

Malbec – Try a Belgian Dark Stout
I love malbec for its dark fruits, rich texture, hints of cocoa, and sometimes a little smoke or tobacco. A Belgian dark stout can have some or all of these characteristics! Look for subtle hints of plum, banana, and chocolate.

Cabernet or Merlot -Try a Stout
Sometimes you just want something rich. Stouts evoke descriptors like chocolate and coffee because of their rich tannins. Forget the fruit. We're going bold! Want something that goes with a steak? Stout! Want something that can hold its own against a rack of ribs? Stout! Want something that tastes good even after it warms up? Stout! How about to go with that chocolate cake? Guess what? Stout!

But don't take my word for it, come try some of these styles for yourself! That's right, all the fun without the commitment! Metro Wines will be hosting a Beer for Wine Lovers happy hour tasting event on Friday, January 23rd from 5-6:30pm! I can't wait to see some of you there and share some delicious brews with you!

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Women in Brewing: A Few Fun Facts

Women in Brewing:  A Few Fun Facts

What images come to mind when you hear the word "Brewster"? If you're like most of the population, the immediate response has something to do with a beard and overalls. This couldn't be further from the truth! "Brewster" is the technical term for a woman brewer! In fact, making beer, until recent history was always done my women, never by men. Need to know more? Me too! So, I did a little research, and here are five fun facts that I can't keep to myself:

5. The history of women making beer goes back as far as the first written records! Yes, really! Cuniform tablets discovered in Sumeria that contain the story of Gilgamesh also contain stories of women brewers, recipes for various styles of beers, and prayers of thanks for the miracle of fermentation.

4. Women have more taste buds than men, giving us an unfair advantage when it comes to detecting the subtle characters of a finely crafted beverage or picking up on off flavors. Any brewery would be lucky to have (and many do have) at least one woman in their quality control department.

3. Beer is probably the reason civilization began, and women did the brewing! The cultivation of grains for baking and brewing was the catalyst for ancient people to settle down in one spot. Women took sole responsibility for making sure there was enough sweet elixir for everyone.

2. Even in today in remote areas of Africa and some parts of the Amazon, a brow would be raised if men even attempted to brew. Making beer is still very much a woman's job in these regions. So if you're a guy, the best advice is to sit back, relax, and enjoy a homebrew.

1. During the historical witch hunts, many Brewsters were accused of being a witch. Picture it, a boiling kettle, a broom, a cat, a pointed hat – all were used in the making of beer, and all are used in our cartoon representations of witches! The cat protected the grains from would-be attackers like mice and beetles. The ale stake, which doubled as a broom, was a marker of a brewery before reading and writing were common place. When beer was ready to be sold, the Brewster would hang foliage on the ale stake. It was the predecessor of Krispy Kreme's Hot Now neon light. But what about the pointy hats? Those were used in the market to stand out in the crowd! Amazing, right?! Who knew?!

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