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.

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The Color of Beer, etc.

Below is a posting by The Smithsonian in Washington DC for an event called "The Color of Beer." It sounds great! Can't go? Talk the color of beer and all things BEER with Lou Collichio of The Beer Department @MetroWines!

You can also chat Lou up about cider and sake.

The Smithsonian Program:

What links science, history, art, and culture? Color. An exhibit organized by Smithsonian Libraries now on view at the Natural History Museum journeys through collections—from chemistry to catalogs, colorblindness tests to couture—to look at color in a new light.

You may not realize it, but color is an important part of evaluating beer. We use all five senses when tasting the beverage, and the visual cues are most often our first impression. Appearance—from the beer’s color to the amount of foam to the glass it’s served in—leads us to make certain assumptions, either consciously or unconsciously, about what we can expect before we even take a sip. These assumptions have an impact on how we perceive the taste and smell of the beer, ultimately affecting our overall enjoyment.

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Audra Gaiziunas: Brewed for Her Ledger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday Beer Tasting - In "Session"

Friday Beer Tasting - In "Session"

Join us TONIGHT, Friday, at Metro Wines, 5-7pm, for some thirst-quenching beers. 

According to old English standards, a "session" beer contains between 3-4% alcohol by volume. Despite this definition, this is an often debated subject. In this article (https://www.beeradvocate.com/articles/653/) Beer Advocate tries to clarify.

Two of the three beers we are tasting tonight meet the requirements of a session beer. The final beer featured is new in the store and there is no way I could keep it off the taste tonight. So come on down for a FREE taste and start your weekend off right. Sieze summer and don't let go...the PUMPKINS are coming!

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Friday Beer Tasting - Painting the Town Red

Friday Beer Tasting - Painting the Town Red

Painting the town red...with RASPBERRIES!

Join us tonight, July 22, at Metro Wines, 5-7pm for our Friday Beer Tasting. FREE!!!

 

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."

 

EPIC BREWING LIL' BRAINLESS RASPBERRY

"Lil' Brainless® Raspberries is an easy drinking canned version of our big, bold 22oz. bottle of Brainless® Raspberries crafted especially for those who seek bright, fresh, and real raspberry flavors in a convenient size. We brew exclusively with natural raspberry puree, which gives this beer its unique pink color as well as hints of raspberry bubble-gum, sweet fruit jam, and pleasant dryness that makes this beer perfect for easy going affairs, indoors or out."

 

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Friday Beer Tasting - Mystery Brewing

Friday Beer Tasting - Mystery Brewing

This Friday, July 15, 5-7pm at Metro Wines, Jessica Arvidson of Mystery Brewing, joins us as we taste some of our favorite Mystery brews. 

Lockwood’s Retreat-West Coast IPA- 5.6% A big, hoppy, American style IPA. Millennium, Columbus, Zythos, and Chinook hops blend with a sweet, malty palate with strong honey notes for a classic American IPA. Everything you want in a hoppy beer.

Papa Bois-Citrus Foreign Extra Stout- 7.3% The Caribbean has a long tradition of sweet, fruity stouts that are delicious and refreshing in hot weather. While continuing that tradition, we’ve upped the ante on refreshing by adding lemongrass and fresh lemon zest.

Queen Anne’s Revenge- 5.0% Carolinian Dark Ale. This beer is a darker version of an English-style IPA, showing off the soft bitterness of traditional English hops balanced with the richness of roasted malt.

Jack Thorne-London-style Porter- 5.0% A smooth, classic London-style porter with currents of dark caramel, chocolate, espresso, and even a light wisp of smoke.

 

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Friday Beer Tasting - It's Raining Oranges and Lemons

Friday Beer Tasting - It's Raining Oranges and Lemons

MANDARINA IPA

An adventure-loving and aromatic citrus IPA. Brewed with nuanced German Mandarina Bavaria and Hull Melon hops and bold, juicy American oranges, expect intense orange and tropical notes and a crisp, bright finish. This one is a palate-pleaser.

 

ASHEVILLE BREWING LEMON SPACE DOG 

Change of plans! When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right?

Since last week our supply of ABC Lemon Space Dog flew out the store and we are unable to feature Highland Lost Cove, we're going to bring Asheville Brewing's Lemon Space Dog back for ROUND 2! 

Oranges and lemons are the perfect pair for this hot, muggy weather. 

Seasonal Lemon Space Dog comes on just in time to provide thirst-quenching relief to get you through the summer. Newish strain of hops, Lemondrop, adds a zesty, citrusy aroma ad flavor to this refreshing brew, while the malted wheat offers balance and smoothness.

 

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Kelsie Cole of Wilmington's Front Street Brewery

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday Beer Tasting - American. Local. Beer.

Join us this Friday, July 1st, 5-7pm at Metro Wines to pick out some beers for the most patriotic celebration of the year, 4th of July

Available to taste for FREE we've selected some great local beers of varying styles that will pair perfectly with your Independence Day activities and food. And they're all in CANS.

 

GREEN MAN WAYFARER

 

This easy-drinking IPA from Green Man has undergone a can makeover this year. Sporting a bright blue "do", Green Man Wayfarer is the perfect companion for this upcoming 4th of July. Pack it in, pack it out.

The Wayfarer IPA has notes of citrus on the nose and a bright, crisp, refreshing finish. A perfect thirst-quencher for a hot summer day. 
 

AMB BABA BUDAN - FONTA FLORA COLLABORATION

 

This Coffee IPA is a collaboration with Fonta Flora brewery in Morganton, NC. We took a West-coast style IPA and infused it with 80 lbs of locally roasted coffee from Espresso News in Boone. It's a delicious mix of roasted and citrus aromas in a beer that will delight drinkers of both.

ASHEVILLE BREWING LEMON SPACE DOG

Seasonal Lemon Space Dog comes on just in time to provide thirst-quenching relief to get you through the summer. Newish strain of hops, Lemondrop, adds a zesty, citrusy aroma ad flavor to this refreshing brew, while the malted wheat offers balance and smoothness.

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Friday Beer Tasting - Sour Hour with GRIMM Rainbow Dome and New Belgium's Tart Lychee

Join us this upcoming Friday, June 24, 5-7pm, to taste some exceptional Sour Ales "ON THE HOUSE!"

GRIMM Artisan Ales - Rainbow Dome

For the first time at Metro Wines, GRIMM Artisan Ales is making an appearance with Rainbow Dome, a dry-hopped sour ale brewed with apricots and conditioned on oak. 

GRIMM Artisan Ales is an award-winning Brooklyn-based gypsy brewery started in the apartment kitchen of Lauren and Joe Grimm when they were students in Providence, RI. "What is a gyspy brewer you ask?" Gyspy brewers are artists and creators without the overhead costs and risk of owning a brick and mortar brewery. They "lease" unused space and time in existing breweries, to brew their concoctions.

GRIMM describes this ale as, "A glowing opaque yellow pour with long-lasting white foam. Tart aromas of stone fruit and fruity hops (El Dorado, Columbus, Cascade). Intense apricot on the palate with soft inviting acidity. Full, creamy mouthfeel with pleasantly spicy tannins from both fruit skins and new oak. Crush, crush, crush."

https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2015/09/a-qa-with-grimm-artisanal-ales-paste-dipa-champion.html

 

New Belgium Tart Lychee

 

For those of you who arent' familiar with story behind New Belgium's Lips of Faith Series, it started as an employee competition, called the Loose Lips Competition. Employees would gather for a beer tasting to the 10th degree. Each employee in Loose Lips tastes a secret blend of three New Belgium Beers on tap concocted by the previous year's winner. In order to win the competition they not only have to guess which beers are blended, but the percentages that make up the final blend. The employee who guesses closest to the top secret recipe wins the opportunity to brew any beer their dreams desire to be poured in the New Belgium Liquid Center. 

It has happened on more than one occasion that the employee-imagined beer is so dang good that it is added to the Lips of Faith Series or seasonal rotation. I'm guessing this is the case with New Belgium's new Lips of Faith release Tart Lychee, a wood-aged sour ale blended with ale brewed with lychee and cinammon. 

"According to Lauren, the imaginator of this pucker-pleasing ale, Lychee fruit is so insanely sweet and flavorful you almost can’t stand it alone. Sour to the rescue! Tart Lychee is brewed with exotic lychee fruit and cinnamon, and then blended with sour Felix from our wood cellar for a citrusy, tropical sip that attacks with an invigorating tart bite.  Explore the tropics, but brace for the wild."

 

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Friday Beer Tasting - "Gateway" Beers

This past week, my parents have been visiting me in Asheville. As we traipsed around town, stopping here and there for a bite to eat or a refreshment, my Dad continued to ask me for a beer he could drink. I won't mention what he has been drinking, but it's from a brewery that rhymes with "dud" and has an abv of 2.4%. My mom? Well, she likes a glass of wine, but has gladly joined the quest for the perfect beer.

This got me thinking...we have a wide variety of beer on our shelves of varying styles and I truly believe there is something for everyone. That leads to the big question what beers make a good "gateway" to world of craft beers?

Join us at Metro Wines this upcoming Friday, June 17 to taste my recommendations! 5-7pm at 169 Charlotte Street in North Asheville. Don't like craft beer? Perfect!

Wicked Weed Lunatic Blonde 

Brewed with Belgian hops and yeast, this Blonde Ale imparts the fruity, bread flavors of a classic Belgian Blonde. It is simplicity at its finest and pleasant introduction into the subtle, pleasant flavors attained through care, detail, and quality ingredients invested by craft breweries.  The packaging tells the story best..."Some believe it moonstruck madness to craft Old World ales for modern palettes constantly clamoring for the extremes of 'Hoppy' or 'Sour.' While our love for those extremities is strong, we believe that subtley, balance, and simplicity in beer are sacred necessities."

 

Hi Wire Uprisin Hefeweizen

Hi Wire describes Uprisin as, "...a traditional hefeweizen with just the right balance of banana, clove, and peppercorn spice. Brewed with North Carolina grown wheat from Asheville's Riverbend Malt House, this hazy straw colored beer is perfect for any lazy summer day. 

Hefeweizens are German style of beer literally meaning yeast (hefe) and wheat (weisse). Hi Wire stays fairly true to the German tradition. Uprisin Hefeweizen is a low-bitterness beer, with a clean, refreshing finish. Who doesn't like a good thirst-quencher?

 

Highland Gaelic

Often referred to as the water of Asheville (purely complimentary). Highland Gaelic is a "A deep amber-colored American ale, featuring a rich malty body. Cascade and Willamette hops add a complex hop flavor and aroma. This ale is exceptionally balanced between malty sweetness and delicate hop bitterness."

We're venturing a little further down the flavor spectrum with the malts and even a little further with the hops. The key is that the two of these ingredients provide "balance." Neither is too intimidating for the craft beer drinker in-training, but both contribute a great deal of flavor. Notes of caramel blend with a soft bitterness at the back of your palate. Highland Gaelic gives all a warm Scottish welcome to the world of craft beer!

 

New Belgium Hof Ten Dormaal Golden Ale

Beyond recognition...Beer drinkers take their first sip of a beer with some level of expectation. An expectation that the beverage they are about to taste will have some similarities to what they identify as beer, whether it be the broad category or a specific style. What if (brace yourselves) the beer they tasted was unlike anything they had ever tasted before? What happens to those preconceived notions? My theory is that if they take a swig of the New Belgian-Hof Ten Dormal collaboration all preconceived notions will fly face first out the door. Drinking this golden ale is a new experience and introducing such a complex beverage to a novice craft beer drinker is adventurous. In the case of my mother, the key to her heart was a Belgian. 

"Like New Belgium, Hof Ten Dormaal blurs the line between tradition and innovation: The charming family-owned farm and brewery produces everything from classic Belgian blonds to sours fermented by ambient flora to forward-thinking hoppy saisons. In that spirit, we’ve joined forces to craft a deliciously uncommon springtime golden ale, which blends Old World ingredients with modern flavors. Spelt, malted sunflower seeds, and wild carrot herbs swell for a nutty, bready, grassy wash, while Saaz and Mosaic hops lend spicy, tropical accents to the sip. Kick off your winter boots and welcome in the fresh flavors of spring."

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Friday Night Beer Tasting - "GOH-zuh"

Gose (pronounced GOH-zuh) is a German style of beer that imparts a thirst-quenching lemon, often herbaceous, salinity through it's addition of coriander, salt, and lactic bacteria for fermentation.

As the temperatures rise this weekend, Gose would make a great sidekick to any outdoor activity. Join us tonight, June 10, at Metro Wines from 5-7pm to taste two of our favorites: Asheville's newest Hi-Wire Gose and Westbrook Gose out of Mount Pleasant, SC.

 

HI-WIRE GOSE 

Hi-Wire describes their Gose (4.2%), brewed with Pink Himalayan Salt, as tart, supremely drinkable, and incredibly balanced with complex fruit character. Crisp citrus and lemon-lime from coriander marries with their house Lactobacillus strain, creating subtle notes of stone fruit and apricot in this hazy, sessionable sour wheat beer.

 

WESTBROOK GOSE

According to Westbrook, this is their interpretation of Gose, a traditional German-style sour wheat beer brewed with coriander and salt. Sour, salty, delicious. Once nearly extinct, this very refreshing style is making a comeback.

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Beer Blind Tasting League is BACK! June 15th!

Join us for the return of the "Beer" Blind Tasting League taking place next Wednesday, June 15, and every third Wednesday of the month following from 6:00-7:00pm. 
 
Similar in format to the Wine Blind Tasting League, beer lovers will have the opportunity to delve into the world of sensory analysis with Asheville's favorite beverage. Analyzing the visual, aromatic, and flavor characteristics of four preselected and unknown beers, participants will be led through a discussion of different malt and hop profiles. Laughter and wild guesses are guaranteed as we attempt to identify the various styles of beer tasted in a fun exercise of the senses. 
 
Beer Blind Tastings are held at Metro Wines on Charlotte Street and begin at 6:00pm. Tickets for the Beer Blind Tasting League are $10 per person and can be purchased in advance at https://www.metrowinesasheville.com/store/product/blind-tasting-league-tickets-beer/. Reservations are requested. Parking is plentiful and free!
 
 
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Kim Thompson: The Story of Becoming Something Else

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FRIDAY BEER TASTING - Jolly Pumpkin-Anchorage Brewing Calabaza Boreal Collaboration

This Friday between 5-7pm we'll be pouring this intriguing collaboration brew between Anchorage Brewing and Jolly Pumpkin in Dexter, MI. Calabaza Boreal is an ale brewed with grapefruit peel, juice and peppercorns and holds true to the wild, funky style that Jolly Pumpkin is known for. ENJOY!

From the brewer:

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you. -Nietzche

When introspection fails, it’s time to look outward for inspiration, perhaps Northward! One of the people who inspired me this past year is my friend Gabe Fletcher, of Anchorage Brewing Co. We brewed this beer together. I hope it inspires you. Northward!

Warm regards,
RON”

 

 

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FRIDAY BEER TASTING - Highland Mosaic Rye IPL

IPA? No, an IPL. 

It's not a typo... It's an India Pale Lager and Highland Brewing Company's latest release in their Warrior Series. According to Highland, the beers in The Warrior Series feature bold aromas and flavors, often high gravity, and styles that vary widely. The Mosaic Rye IPL features all of the aforementioned and then some. It is, stylistically, a rebel! 

Lagers are traditionally clean, crisp, refreshing... a palate cleanser. In the case of this ambitious IPL, it is the perfect blank canvas to highlight the beautiful hop complexity of the Mosaic hops, the spicyness of the rye, and the long finish courtesy of the healthy 8% abv. I sampled this delicious brew last night and experienced the candied citrus, pine, peppery spices in the aroma and flavor firsthand.

Starting tomorrow, Highland's Mosaic Rye IPL will be available at Metro Wines for you to try and buy at our Friday Beer Tasting, 5-7pm! 



 

 

 

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Friday Beer Tasting - Beer Floats!

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Chocolate, orange, and ice cream. Mmmmmm...the perfect guilty pleasure. 

If you haven't already ventured to the dark side of ice cream floats, let us help you. This Friday, May 20th, between 5-7pm we will be serving up the heavenly Choklat Oranj stout brewed by Southern Tier out of Lakewood, NY paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

According to the brewery, Choklat Oranj is the fifth beer currently in their highly regarded Blackwater series. Choklat Oranj is a stout brewed with chocolate and orange peels, opaque black in color, 10% abv, and makes a delicious dessert beer. It's perfect alone or enjoyed as a float. 

Who are we to decline a suggestion to add ice cream to beer?

 

 

 

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Friday Beer Tasting - Pilsner vs Lager

Tonight at Metro Wines, 5-7pm, our Friday Beer Tasting is back! 

 

Pilsners are Lagers, but Lagers are not always Pilsners. 

Confused yet?

Beer is typically separated into two categories, ales and lagers. Lagers are made with a bottom-fermenting lager yeast reaching maturation in cold temperatures and ales are made with a top-fermenting ale yeast in slightly warmer temperatures. There are many different styles of both ales and lagers. 

Tonight we are going to explore two new arrivals to the store that fall under the lager category: Nantahala Little Tennessee Logger and the brand spanking new Highland Pilsner in a CAN

 

NANTAHALA LITTLE TENNESSEE LOGGER

 

Nantahla Brewing Company describes their Little Tennesse Logger as a hoppy lager (or Happy Lumberjack) brewed to quench the thirst of hardworking , hop-forward outdoor types. It was a hoppy mistake one brew day that turned out to be a very popular off-season favorite. Hopped with French Aramis, a very floral, rosey flavored variety that transformed this beer from light lager to hopped up goodness. Yet, it maintains its crisp, refreshing soul. Which makes this one the perfect brew to wrap up an action-packed day of outdoor pursuits.

 

 

HIGHLAND PILSNER

 

Highland describes this brew as a finely nuanced pilsner featuring German Hallertau Blanc hops and three other Hallertau region varietals (Saphir, Perle, and Hersbrucker hops) adding notes of stone fruit, pepper, and lush grass to the German pilsner malt body. Cold fermented with lager yeast for a crisp finish.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Magical Mystery Tour of the Triangle

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




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


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


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


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

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Friday Beer Tasting - Feeling Funky!

Tonight at Metro Wines, 5-7pm, beer and wine tango side-by-side with Wicked Weed Marina Peach and Apricot Blonde Sour and Ca' di Rajo Le Moss Frizzante.

Although seemingly very different, these two share some very interesting commonalities. In fact, sour ales are often referred to as the bridge between beer and wine. Pairing these two side by side, it's easy to understand why.

 

WICKED WEED MARINA

American Wild Ale, Peach and Apricot Blonde Sour

"Marina is a blonde sour ale aged in wine barrels with over one pound per gallon of peaches and apricots. The result is a lovely, hazy-gold ale with deep stone fruit character."

American wild ales utilize unique yeast strains or bacteria, sometimes in addition to or in lieu of the traditional brewers' yeast saccharomyces cerevisiae. People usually develop a love-hate relationship with these sour ales. The funky flavors produced in fermentation give them a unique of character that some liken to ...well, I'll let you use your own descriptors. Personally, I'm a big fan. 

Marina's mild flavors of apricot and peach tame the wild in this sour ale. The barrel aging process gives it a depth that lingers on your palate and allows you to savor the funk. 

If only Metro Wines had a disco ball.

 

CA' DI RAJO LE MOSS FRIZZANTE

Wild Fermented, Col Fondo Prosecco

 

Le Moss is not your typical prosecco. This wine is unfiltered and made in the traditional methods of Col Fondo. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in bloom directly in the bottle, it has a slight sour taste similar to a tart apple balanced with a full mouthfeel the winery describes as "pleasant and harmonious on the palate."
When one Metro Wine's customer tasted Le Moss and shared that it reminded her of a gose. That got our wheels turning. Why not lead adventurers across the bridge to the world of sour beers via Le Moss! 

 

If you like a little funk in your flavor, both of these are worth a taste. 

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The Legend of the Boojum

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