Belgian invasion: Beer Week kicks off with North Carolina Belgian Beer Festival

Photo by Sarah Arnaudin
Photo by Sarah Arnaudin

Beer Week got off to a mostly successful start on May 23 with the North Carolina Belgian Beer Festival, part one of the Thirsty Monk’s Thirsty Fest. Hosted at the new Woodfin location in Reynolds Village (which I’m dubbing RV-Monk, like Harvey Monk as if spoken by a pirate) and featuring many beers previously featured at the other three Monks, the event featured three flights of four beers for $15 — a steal considering one flight at any of the Monks can run upwards of $11-12.

The samples ranged from excellent (the PB&J-like Nanaline Belgian Pale Ale from Mystery Brewing Co.) to foul (Wedge Brewing Co.’s syrupy XII Quad) with a lot of redeeming qualities in between. The big discovery for me was BearWaters Brewing Co. out of Waynesville, whose Three Bears Tripel and Sun Burst Saison were both hits, and my favorite of the bunch was Burial Beer Co.’s Shepherd’s Crook Wallonian Ale. Though only the fourth best out of an admittedly strong flight of six the night before at Burial, the straightforward-yet-flavorful brew with a nice malty finish towered above its Belgian peers, furthering my already great fondness for what I consider Asheville’s top brewery.

On the personnel side, Thirsty Monk owner Barry Bialik and vice president Chall Gray were visible throughout and did a fine job of making the rounds and informing customers about the event. That didn’t keep one gentleman behind me from requesting a stout or “anything dark,” which raised the question of just who was in attendance. For everyone who came specifically to try a dozen in-state Belgians, there was a random pop-in unaware of the special occasion. In retrospect, perhaps a banner or basic signage would have helped educate and somewhat streamline the evening, but the bartenders maintained a positive attitude, doled out advice when asked and kept the drinks coming.

Overall, it was a fun start to what looks like a wonderful week for craft beer enthusiasts and a good test of RV-Monk’s potential. I’m curious to go back on a regular business night when it’s less crowded and am stoked for part two of Thirsty Fest, May 28′s Not So BIG Beer Fest, which has been moved from the Monk’s future brewery site on Thompson St. to the Millroom on 66 Asheland Ave.

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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin is a freelance writer and a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA), North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) and the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). He also contributes to the Asheville Citizen-Times.

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