Beer Scout: Hi-Wire hosts Stout Bout

BEER BATTLE: Hi-Wire's Pulcinella Russian Imperial Stout is ready to take on 15 opponents in the brewery's Stout Bout. Photo by Jesse Farthing

It’s hard to find a weekend in Asheville that doesn’t include some sort of beer-related event. From bottle releases to full-blown beer festivals, our Beer City’s numerous brewers make sure there’s always something happening.

But, despite being in business  for more than two years and recently opening a second, much larger facility near Biltmore Village, Hi-Wire Brewing Co. has remained largely quiet on the festival front.

That is, until Saturday, Nov. 7, when Hi-Wire kicks off Stout Bout — a celebration and release party for the Pulcinella Russian Imperial Stout, an annual November brew aged in oak barrels.

“It’s a pretty simple recipe,” says head brewer Luke Holgate. “We really want the oak to come through, but not dominate, so we typically do a 50-50 blend of stainless and oak [barrel aging] in the final product. We’ve got 25 barrels that have been on oak since December of last year and another 25 that have been in stainless for a couple of weeks now. That’ll be the finished product.”

“Whatever we don’t use this year we’ll throw on oak for next year,” he adds.

“We’re stoked about it. It ages really well — I cracked a bottle of last year’s about a month ago, and it’s still delicious.”

Stout Bout will bring together 15 stouts from 15 breweries, as well as some small-batch varieties that Hi-Wire has brewed for attendees to taste during the event.

What breweries are participating? Well, that’s a secret — and it’s also where the name Stout Bout comes into play. The first two hours of the event will be a blind tasting, where brewery logos and branding will not be displayed.

“We’re not releasing the brewery list until halfway through the event so people can’t guess which beers are with which brewery,” says Abby Dickinson, director of marketing and public relations for Hi-Wire.

However, that doesn’t mean attendees will be stuck trying beers they’re sure they won’t like.

“Nobody is going to get to taste all 15 beers,” says Dickinson. “Well, maybe they will — but they probably shouldn’t. They’ll be designated as a smoked stout or a cherry stout [and other varieties], so if someone really doesn’t like smoked stouts, they don’t have to try it.”

Stout Bout is $5 for a commemorative glass and admission, and tasting tokens are $2 each. Hi-Wire is also running a coat drive alongside the event, and those who bring a coat to donate will get in free.

“But it’s outdoors in November,” you cry. “I’ll be cold!” Don’t fret. With a fire permit in place, Hi-Wire plans to have several large fire barrels posted around the grounds for attendees to warm their frozen fingers.

“The big beers will warm you up too,” Dickinson jokes.

Stout Bout runs 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, at Hi-Wire’s Big Top, 2A Huntsman Place. 

Catawba Brewing grows up

By the end of this year, Catawba Brewing Co. will have shipped over 7,000 gallons of beer from its Morganton facility — a 10-barrel brew house. The company has been running on a 24-hour brewing schedule to keep up with demand and keep its beer on store shelves.

“We’ve certainly missed opportunities in our currently served markets, and we have had no ability to add new markets and territories,” says owner Billy Pyatt.

It’s time for this little brewery to grow up if it wants to keep up.

Catawba is spending over $1 million on equipment — including a Sprinkman 30-barrel brewhouse and 120-barrel fermenters — and other upgrades to triple the Morganton facility’s capacity by the end of fall.

On top of that, Catawba is implementing “big-brewery style” quality-assurance and quality-control equipment, personnel and processes to “ensure our beers continue to be on-point and have the best shelf lives possible,” says Pyatt in an email.

“All this investment will allow us to better serve our current distribution partners and to look at new ones,” Pyatt says.

Cold Mountain Release Party

Get your stocking caps ready — Highland’s Cold Mountain Winter Ale storms back to Asheville with a special release party on Thursday, Nov. 12, at the brand-new event center in the brewery.

A limited amount of packaged Cold Mountain will be available for purchase beginning at 4 p.m. Customers are limited to buying one liter bottle, one 12-pack and two 22-ounce bottles at the release. Prices are $15 per liter, $21 per 12-pack and $7 per 22-ounce bottle, or the whole lot will be available for $50.

The release party will feature live music from Corbitt Clampit Experience, CHALWA and Empire Strike Brass beginning at 4:45 p.m., and food trucks will be on hand to feed the hungry masses waiting in line to purchase their bottles.

The Cold Mountain extravaganza will continue through Friday and Saturday, Nov. 13-14, with more bands, more food and more brews — ending with a three-course Cold Mountain Brunch noon-2 p.m. Sunday Nov. 15.


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About Jesse Farthing
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