Beer Scout: Beer at the library

BEER AMONG THE BOOKS: Cliff Mori of BREW-ed and Sarah Arnaudin are bringing beer education to the local library. Photo by Thom O'Hearn

As a kid, the public library was a magical place. It had endless shelves of colorful adventures, and it was a place to go for story time.

As an adult, some of us still use the library for more than voting. They have those old-fashioned paper books and audiobooks, after all. However, not many of us think of the library the way we did when we were kids: as a fun place to hang out and to learn.

One Buncombe County library branch is looking to change that by bringing in beer — or at least a beer expert. “We do a really good job with [our programming] for kids and for senior citizens,” says Sarah Arnaudin, branch manager for the Skyland/South Buncombe Library. “But we often don’t reach the [young adult] demographic … people in their 20s and 30s.”

Since each library branch has autonomy to develop its own public programming, Arnaudin and her team decided it was time to try something different, something that just might bring in those 20- and 30-year-olds.

According to Arnaudin, the idea of an informational series on beer was a natural fit not only for young adults, but for all adult patrons. “The whole point of a public library is to reflect the population and community it serves,” says Arnaudin. “That applies to fiction and books, but and we’re also a place for free education [on many topics], and beer is huge in Asheville.”

So Arnaudin contacted Cliff Mori, owner of the local business Brew-Ed. Mori worked with the library to develop a three-part series, where each session has a different theme. That way anyone interested could attend a single session or all three.

The first one took place on Oct. 2 and sped through the history of beer. “I tried to cover a range of things in 45 minutes, from beer’s origins to its history in Asheville to its economic impact for things like tourism,” says Mori.

The event was a success despite an obvious obstacle: The series is funded by the Friends of the South Buncombe Library, but that funding doesn’t include snacks or for beer. “Normally I teach these sorts of classes at breweries, so everyone can have a pint,” says Mori. “But at the library we had to get creative … I brought in some malt to munch and hops to sniff.”

Look for the next part of the series at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6, where the focus will be on brewing ingredients. The series will wrap up on Thursday, Dec. 11. Arnaudin and Mori say the focus for December is still being finalized and may depend somewhat on the feedback from the first two classes.

The Skyland/South Buncombe Library is at 260 Overlook Road. No reservations are required, but for further information you can contact the library branch at 250-6488.

Going for Gold

The Great American Beer Festival, hosted by the Brewers Association in Denver, is one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious festivals. This year more than 5,500 beers from all over the country competed for just 268 medals. It’s a chance for large brewers to prove they’ve still got what it takes, and it gives small brewers a rare shot at the nationwide spotlight.

Though the festival is more than 30 years old, for decades not many Asheville breweries traveled to the event. Even fewer brought home medals. That’s started to change in recent years, with Highland and the LAB medaling, and Wicked Weed winning Asheville’s first gold medal in 2013. This year was the biggest haul yet for Western North Carolina, with three native breweries and two newcomers bringing home medals, including three golds:

Fonta Flora (Morganton) won a gold for Irish Table in the Irish-Style Dry Stout category; Pisgah (Black Mountain) won a gold for Chocolatized Vortex II in the Chocolate Beer category; Wicked Weed won a gold for Mampara in the Specialty Honey Beer category; Oskar Blues (Longmont, Colo./Brevard) won a silver for Death by Coconut in the Chocolate Beer category; and Sierra Nevada (Chico, Calif./Mills River) won a bronze for Narwhal Imperial Stout in the Imperial Stout category.

Two other North Carolina breweries also won awards. Mystery of Raleigh took home a silver for La Querelle in Belgian Style Ale while Duck Rabbit of Farmville took home a silver for Duck-Rabbit Marzen and a bronze for its Schwarzbier in those respective categories.

Breweries that win awards at GABF will often showcase the winning beer at their tasting rooms or rebrew the beer for a special release. Look for the winners around town soon or for some of the seasonal beers the next season they’re available.



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About Thom O'Hearn
Thom O’Hearn is a writer, book editor and homebrewer. Twitter: @thomohearn

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