All Go West Fest Beer Tasting tickets: Tickets are on sale for the beer tasting event at the new All Go West Festival (West Asheville street fest on Sat., April 24). Buy them at The Rocket Club for $20. They’ll cost $25 the day of the fest, if there are any left then. The beer tasting will run from noon to 3 p.m. in 98.1 The River’s Tasting Tent. Asheville-area breweries will represent, including (so far) Asheville Brewing, Craggie, French Broad, and Pisgah. This is the only ticketed part of The All Go West Festival. I’ll be praying for decent craft beer that day while attending a wedding in Atlanta. Y’all have fun.
New brewer, new brew: New head brewer at French Broad Brewery, Chris Richards, has crafted an IPA, which will be released this week. This is the first IPA in nearly 10 years of French Broad brewing (Do I smell an anniversary party in our future?).
“We’re calling it the Easy IPA,” Richards says. “Not that it was easy to brew, but it’s definitely easy to enjoy. It’s very citrusy and floral and attempts to mimic some of the beautiful smells and flavors we’ve grown accustomed to here in spring.” Clearly, the man’s excited about this beer. Richards has been the assistant brewer at French Broad for three years. He moved into the head position when brewer Drew Barton moved back to Memphis. The Easy IPA is 5.5 percent ABV, making it a perfect sessions brew.
New Biltmore Brewing Company: Biltmore’s gone into the brewing business, with help from Highland Brewing Co. Biltmore’s new Antler Hill Village attraction includes Cedric’s Tavern, a gastro-pub featuring, at present, two Biltmore Brewing beers. The two are an English-style Pale Ale and a traditional English Brown. At present, the beers can only be purchased on the estate — either on draught in the restaurants or as six-packs from the gift shops. Biltmore is teaming with Highland on what’s termed an alternating proprietorship. So the beer taste profiles are designed by Biltmore staff and their brewing is overseen by them as well. Cedric’s Tavern’s General Manager Bryan McIntosh is instrumental in selecting the beer styles. “I want something that appeals to a lot of people, but that’s somewhat unique,” he says. And very English, to reflect the heritage and tone of the estate. If the beers are successful, they may make their way into local specialty stores (as the Biltmore wines have done). Oh, and Cedric was the Vanderbilt family’s beloved Saint Bernard.
Pack’s Tavern offers awesome beer selection: Yes, Pack’s Tavern opens this week, and the rustic, but large, bar offers some great beers. There will be 32 rotating taps, including at least one beer from the following local breweries: Appalachian Craft, Craggie, French Broad, Green Man, Highland, and Pisgah. Four of the taps are reserved for limited release, seasonal, and small batch beers. The bar also will stock at least 39 different bottled beers, mostly craft. They’ll offer a separate beer menu and include beer/food pairings on their menu, according to co-owner Tom Israel. In a couple months, the patio seating will open, offering great views of City Hall, the new Pack Square Park, and Asheville’s most famous magnolia tree.
Buy local, spend more: I hear lots of complaints about the cost of a locally brewed pint. Yes, craft beer often costs more than the nationally distributed swill, though, to my mind, it’s worth it — both for the quality and for keeping my cash in my community. However, I do wish more of our WNC breweries would do as Pisgah Brewing does and produce a $2 pint on a regular basis (Pisgah’s Brown Ale). French Broad Brewery’s Recession Ale, which then morphed into Recovery Ale, was also $2 a pint at most locations, but it disappeared quickly. The average cost of a local pint seems to be $3.50, though again, it depends on the brew and the locale (higher gravity beers tend to cost more as do pours at ritzy locales, such as the Grove Park Inn and Biltmore). Look for pint nights and local specials — for example, Rankin Vault offers $2 local pints on Thursdays. And remember to savor craft beer. If you’re drinking to get tipsy, there’s not much sense in quaffing high-quality brews to do so. Your taste buds will be numb anyway.