Asheville is home to some of the best brewers in the country, but they all had to get their start somewhere. For the vast majority, that origin was homebrewing. On Saturday, Aug. 13, the second Asheville Homebrewers Conference will provide local brewers of all levels of experience with an invaluable educational resource.
The brainchild of accomplished homebrewer (and Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack general manager) Pablo Gomez along with Asheville Brewers Supply owner Tedd Clevenger, the conference was conceived out of a desire to give area homebrewers an opportunity to learn from industry heavyweights as well as each other. And while beer will be served, the imbibing will be for an elevated purpose.
“The people who attend are really there for information and education,” says Gomez. “Last year we had beer left over, and that says a lot about the conference.”
“It’s nice having something that’s not just another beer fest,” adds Clevenger. “People really appreciate having a good educational opportunity right here in Asheville.”
Speakers for last year’s inaugural conference included notable local brewers such as Walt Dickinson of Wicked Weed Brewing and Mike Karnowski, former specialty brewer at Green Man Brewery and current owner and head brewer of Zebulon Artisan Ales. National industry experts such as Randy Mosher of the Siebel Institute and Chris White, founder, president and CEO of White Labs, also made appearances.
This year’s lineup is just as illustrious. Michael Tonsmeire, author of popular homebrewing blog The Mad Fermentationist and definitive mixed-fermentation text American Sour Beers, will be presenting, as will Stan Hieronymus, the beer journalist and author of homebrewing guides Brew Like a Monk and For the Love of Hops. Speakers from Western North Carolina will include Karnowski talking about the birth of the New England IPA, award-winning Asheville homebrewer Adam Reinke lecturing on brewing fundamentals and Fonta Flora Brewing Co. head brewer and co-owner Todd Boera discussing terroir and locally sourced ingredients.
Homebrewing has been essential to the professional development of both Boera and Karnowski. Boera, who brewed his first beer with secondhand equipment and baker’s yeast, credits the hobby as his central influence. “Homebrewing started the obsession and created everything I am right now in terms of how I brew,” he says. “My first all-grain batch was a pumpkin ale brewed with pumpkins I grew at Warren Wilson College while I was buying my supplies at ABS when it was still on Wall Street. All I do now is glorified homebrewing, I just have big pots and happen to get paid for it.”
Karnowski, who started making beer as a hobby in 1986 and once owned a homebrew shop, continues to rely on homebrewing as a creative outlet. “I’m really a homebrewer at heart,” explains Karnowski. “I love talking with homebrewers and helping them move ahead with their craft. Pretty much everybody in commercial brewing started as a homebrewer. I kind of don’t trust the ones who didn’t. It’s like going into the cooking industry having never made dinner: How do you know this is what you want to do with your life?”
The Asheville Homebrewers Conference takes place noon-6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, at the U.S. Cellular Center, 87 Haywood St. Tickets are $50 each and are available at the USCC box office or online at avl.mx/2t5. A portion of the event’s proceeds will benefit FEAST Asheville.
Zebulon and Twin Leaf brew for greenways
Speaking of Mike Karnowski, Zebulon Artisan Ales and Twin Leaf Brewery have brewed a collaboration beer to benefit Friends of Connect Buncombe as a part of its Brewing for Greenways program. Brewing for Greenways was initiated in June by Highland Brewing Co. and New Belgium Brewing Co. as a multibrewery effort to raise funds and awareness in support of a planned greenways expansion in the Asheville area.
Karnowski and Twin Leaf owner and head brewer Tim Weber have wanted to collaborate since the former was still working down the street at Green Man, and Brewing for Greenways provided the ideal opportunity. “I try to do whatever I can for environmental causes with my limited budget,” says Weber. “Part of Twin Leaf’s mission statement is that a portion of the profits are supposed to go back to conservation and raising awareness.”
The beer, a hoppy take on the classic American lager, is intended to bridge the gap between Twin Leaf’s more traditional styles and Zebulon’s experimental brews. “It’s an 1850s pre-Prohibition lager with crazy amounts of whirlpool hops and dry hops, which will blow people’s minds, because it looks like a pale American light lager but drinks like Heady Topper,” explains Weber.
“Since this is being released in the middle of August,” adds Karnowski, “we tried to give the people what they want. Something superrefreshing, supercrisp, but also satisfying that modern craft beer need for hops. I’ve always been interested in taking back the American pilsner, because it’s such a classic style. If there is something that’s an American beer, it’s that. We revamped it for the modern palate.”
The drinkability of this new American lager stems from its very traditional malt bill (consisting of corn and Riverbend Malthouse six-row barley), but its hop bill achieves the aroma and flavor of a West Coast IPA through the extensive use of Citra, Amarillo and Centennial hops.
The release party for the collaborative concoction will take place starting at 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19, at Twin Leaf Brewery, 144 Coxe Ave. A portion of draft sales will be donated to Friends of Connect Buncombe.