Beer Scout: Journey to the heart of dark(beer)ness

TICKET TO RIDE: It was a long night for tour guide Amadeus Hill, right, who led a rowdy group of  beer-focused revelers, including, from left, Xpress writers Thomas Calder and Edwin Arnaudin, and local alcoholic beverages attorney Derek Allen,  on a tour of downtown.
TICKET TO RIDE: It was a long night for tour guide Amadeus Hill, right, who led a rowdy group of beer-focused revelers, including, from left, Xpress writers Thomas Calder and Edwin Arnaudin, and local alcoholic beverages attorney Derek Allen, on a tour of downtown. Photo by Scott Douglas

Editor’s note: This article appeared in the Jan. 3 print edition of the Mountain Xpress Humor Issue. It is intended to be humorous, and statements contained within do not reflect the views of the people and organizations represented.

In the words of Martin Sheen’s Capt. Willard from Apocalypse Now, “I wanted a mission, and for my sins, they gave me one.” It was a cold December night when I was tasked with covering a coterie of local beer industry professionals as they took a trip into Asheville’s heart of darkness aboard the Amazing Pubcycle. Nobody “went native” — they were already there.

Along for the ride were Asheville Brewers Alliance Executive Director Kendra Penland, alcoholic beverage attorney Derek Allen of Ward and Smith P.A., local stand-up comedian Alex Joyce, Xpress staff writers Edwin Arnaudin and Thomas Calder, and Carolina Beer Guy and Xpress contributor Tony Kiss. Armed only with my camera and a case of beers from around the world procured from Bruisin’ Ales, I joined this ragtag group of avid beer enthusiasts as we embarked on a perilous journey into the underbelly of the South Slope on a Wednesday night. As we set out toward an uncertain fate, the only promise assured: There would be beer.

And beer there was. Canned stouts from local breweries such as Burial, Boojum, Hi-Wire and Pisgah were among the first to go, although Noa Pecan Mud Cake Stout from Swedish brewery Omnipollo was an instant favorite for Kendra. And while Tony chose to abstain in preparation for his drive home, a bottle of Belgian classic St. Bernardus Christmas Ale was nearly enough to dissuade him from his teetotaling strategy. Our intrepid tour guide, Amadeus Hill, assumed that our respective positions in the industry would discourage any debaucherous behavior. He was mistaken.

At our first pub stop, Asheville Brewing Co., every conceivable joke about the brewery’s location on Coxe Avenue was made — an innuendo that I must conclude nobody has ever stumbled upon before us, if our peals of juvenile laughter can be taken as any indication. Most of my compatriots favored ABC’s new Milk of the Sandworm Peach DIPA, while I quickly quaffed a Ninja Latte Coffee Porter, a selection I found more in keeping with the cold winds that awaited outside.

Alex regaled us with stories of his seasonal day job pushing confections on holiday shoppers at Waynesville’s Steeplechase Toffee, while Thomas applauded his recent stand-up set at the Lazoom Room. Not to throw Alex under the bus (or Pubcycle), but I’ve seen his act many times and can assure you that he’s funnier behind a mic than on a bike.

With Amadeus’ patience running thin, we jumped back on the Pubcycle minus Kendra, who was late for practice with her band Melodic As F***. She left us with some seasonal platitudes about the joys of working with our local beer community:

“One of the things I love most about the craft beer industry here in Asheville is that I really enjoy everyone I get to work with. I enjoy the variety of personalities and the shared passion that gets manifested in really unique ways. It’s always interesting and fun for me.”

Assuming that her comment about “shared passion” was a thinly veiled reference to sexual harassment in the industry, I awkwardly said my goodbyes and parted with the thought that she should have heeded Capt. Willard’s admonition: “Never get off the boat.”

What Kendra missed was a 40-minute discussion of the state of Asheville beer held in the parking lot, with Tony pontificating on the likelihood of future buyouts and Derek detailing his rhetorical position on the Pubcycle itself, taken from a recent debate with a friend who bemoaned its impact on downtown thoroughfares. (If you’ve ever been stuck in traffic behind a bachelorette party pedaling a mobile bar with a top speed of 15 mph, you might be inclined to argue against the very existence of such a contraption — just don’t try to take that position in opposition to a lawyer, especially one who is vehemently pro-Pubcycle.)

Convinced by Derek’s sound reasoning and bolstered by the copious amounts of beer I had already consumed, I came to accept my growing affinity for my present mode of conveyance and hopped back aboard the ‘cycle (lovingly nicknamed “Rhino,” for some reason). As we approached our second stop at Bhramari Brewing Co., Amadeus explained that, while he loves all of the breweries in town equally, Bhramari holds a special place in his heart due to its inventive brews.

I found this to be true of Written in Blood, a Belgian-style quad brewed with sangria fruits and aged in port barrels that would make Michael Jackson (the Beer Hunter one) roll in his grave were it not so eminently drinkable. From there, the conversation turned to Bhramari brewer Ryan Freeman’s multiple brown recluse bites (not incurred at the brewery, mind you) before the ever-watchful eye of Amadeus noticed that we were more than an hour behind schedule.

Though Amadeus was a thoroughly gracious and entertaining host, I couldn’t escape the notion that if he hadn’t been sick of us before, he certainly was now. So as Rhino pulled up to our debarkation point, I beat a hasty retreat with some of my compatriots in tow. Alex had abandoned us — presumably to work on The Blackout Diaries, a multicity comedy series that features tales of drunken shenanigans as told by the audience. Tony went home to continue his tireless efforts to finish three articles before I can finish one. And so Derek, Edwin, Thomas and I continued our evening’s revelries, comfortable in the knowledge that if our mission was to have a great time talking about beer while drinking it, that mission had been accomplished.

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