Beer Scout asked representatives of Western North Carolina breweries to reflect on 2018. Here’s what they said:
Chris Heagney, Daidala Ciders, owner
Favorite new Asheville-area beer or cider from 2018: A collaboration between Barn Door Cidery and Turgua Brewing [Co.]. It was made with foraged apples, aged in bourbon barrels and very dry. It was very bourbon-forward, so it drank almost like a cocktail.
Favorite new beer or cider from 2018 not made in Western North Carolina: While in Austin this year, I stopped at a fairly new brewery called Lazarus [Brewing Co.]. Everything I tried there was delicious, but my favorite was Exodus, a barrel-aged wild ale with peaches, aged in Missouri oak foeders and six Suerte tequila barrels. It had the perfect amount of funk, and the peach and tequila paired very well together.
Favorite beer- or cider-related moment or local industry accomplishment from 2018: Burial [Beer Co.]’s Burnpile Festival. They took a lot of time to curate the list of breweries to be involved. There were many creative beer offerings, and many of the brewers accepted Burial’s invitation to come to Asheville for the weekend of the event. We were very honored to be the cider option.
Preston Hart, New Belgium Brewing Co., Liquid Center representative and employee-owner
Favorite new Asheville-area beer from 2018: One that immediately comes to mind is the Biere de Mars (for H.G. Wells) by Zebulon Artisan Ales. This beer really harkens back to days of yore when breweries would brew a beer and “guard”/store it over the winter to celebrate the end of winter in the month of March. This beautiful malty lager was fermented warm with [Zebulon’s] house cultures, then aged for a year in an oak wine barrel with [the brewery’s] very own house brett. I truly respect what [Zebulon owners] Mike [Karnowski] and Gabe [Pickard] are doing, and I think everyone in the community would mirror my sentiment.
Favorite new beer from 2018 not made in Western North Carolina: Oxbow [Brewing Co.] Moon Rocks from Maine. I drank this beer for the first time this past summer at The Whale. It was a hot and humid evening, and this low-alcohol, mixed-culture farmhouse grisette was light and crisp but had an incredible amount of complexity. I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to get my taste buds on this one if it weren’t for Jesse [Van Note] and [Andrew] Ross up at The Whale. What a great spot to grab a beer! Those guys are true gangsters of craft.
Favorite beer-related moment or local industry accomplishment from 2018: The collaboration we did with our friends up the hill, Archetype [Brewing Co.]: The Neighborly Lager, an amazing rustic lagered kellerbier that was designed for brewers by brewers. This beer contains a lot of malty complexity, balanced by classic noble hops fermented with a lager strain from the Andechs Abbey in Bavaria, scored by our very own microanalyst, Guy Stewart. I really wanted to drink a thousand pints of this one, not only because it was an outstanding version of the style, but a dollar of every pint sold at both breweries went to the local nonprofit Asheville on Bikes.
Zack Mason, Eurisko Beer Co., head brewer
Favorite new Asheville-area beer from 2018: Definitely Zillicoah [Beer Co.]’s Coffee Blonde Lager. This beer is infinitely drinkable and has one of the best expressions of coffee (not just roast) that I have ever had.
Favorite new beer from 2018 not made in Western North Carolina: For [that], we have to travel to Estonia. Pime Öö PX by Põhjala [Brewery] is a sherry barrel-aged imperial stout that blew me away. We are fortunate to have seen an ever-increasing amount of stuff from these guys over the past year, and this version of their imperial stout is by far my favorite. I love European imperial stouts ([Brouwerij] De Molen, To Øl, early Mikkeller). Põhjala might be my favorite brewery at the moment.
Favorite beer-related moment or local industry accomplishment from 2018: Definitely our grand opening and the amount of support we have received from the rest of the community. We look forward to what the next year brings.
Thirsty Monk team
Favorite new Asheville-area beer from 2018: Zebulon Russian Imperial Stout circa 1856. Mike’s attention to historical detail in re-creating recipes courtesy of Ron Pattinson truly shines in that tantalizingly roasty, assertive and dry imperial stout. — Jeremiah Tracy, draft quality manager
Favorite new beer from 2018 not made in Western North Carolina: Arizona Wilderness [Brewing Co.] for its Levanta Muertos, a tart michelada-inspired lager with Arizona tomatoes and peppers. The perfect hair of the dog, balancing slight acidity, capsaicin heat and savory components. — Chris Whaley, brewer
Favorite beer-related moment or local industry accomplishment from 2018: Sierra Nevada [Brewing Co.]’s Resilience IPA. It’s an amazing feat of breweries joining together for a greater good across the country, and it is incredibly admirable what they have done, not only for their local California communities, in the direct aftermath of the Camp Fire, but also in inspiring small and large breweries to contribute to provide ongoing support. — Joanna Postlethwaite, marketing manager