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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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Meet the Women behind the Hi-Wire Labels!

Meet the Women behind the Hi-Wire Labels!

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Leah Wong Ashburn Leading with Grace

Leah Wong Ashburn Leading with Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Drink Like a Girl Pint Night with Devil's Backbone

Drink Like a Girl Pint Night with Devil's Backbone

Start your weekend off with Devil's Backbone Brewing Company from Lexington, VA!  Janee Farrar will be here to tell you all about the beers and the brewery, plus everyone that purchases a six pack takes home a free glass!  You don't want to miss out on this opportunity to try award winning beers from Virginia's favorite craft brewery!  Here's what we'll be tasting:

Gold Leaf Lager harkens back to the days when refreshing beers were made 100% from malted barley. Gold Leaf Lager is pale gold, light to medium bodied with subtle fresh bready notes, and a clean crisp finish.

 

With its amber chestnut colored good looks and smooth malty finish, Vienna Lager was an obvious choice to put into bottles. It blends color and flavor without heaviness or bitterness. Just as Vienna Lagers historically inspired Munich’s Oktoberfest beers to evolve, this amber lager has evolved since we opened in 2008 into the award winning beer it is today. Experience the taste and tradition.

 

This is the first batch of beer we brewed after the conception of Devils Backbone Brewing Company in 2008. Our brewmaster Jason Oliver was thinking about how to design the IPA when he heard a rustle near his fence line (just touching the woods) where he saw two young proud eight point bucks walking along it. He decided to name the beer after those young bucks as it seemed to fit the spirit of the beer,which is proud, brash, youthful, yet approachable.

 

On top of all that, we'll have a bonus beer: 

 

 

Dirty Little Freak Coconut Caramel Chocolate Brown Ale, first brewed in 2014, takes the traditional American Brown Ale and gives it a sensual new twist - Coconut! This medium bodied, 5.8% ABV brown ale is a feast for the senses from its dominant blend of warm, roasted malt, coconut, caramel, and chocolate flavors barely restrained by a gentle hop bite, to its tantalizingly satisfying finish. But if you submit to our Dirty Little Freak, be warned: There is no safe word. 

 

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