Beer Scout asked representatives from Western North Carolina breweries to reflect on 2016 and look ahead to the new year. Here’s what they said:
Pete Langheinrich, Asheville Brewing Co., head brewer/owner
Favorite new Asheville-area beer from 2016: I’m really digging the wood-aged beers coming out of Hi-Wire [Brewing] lately. Wild Rye IPA was great. I also can’t wait to check out Upcountry [Brewing Co.]’s new stuff and am excited to see new stuff coming from Burial [Beer Co.]’s expansion. I kind of answered that question, right?
Favorite new beer from 2016 not made in Asheville: Damn, that’s tough. I have to say the 30 or 50 fresh hop beers I had out in Portland [Ore.] this year were my favorite. Does that count? If I had to say just one beer, The Commons [Brewery’s] Myrtle [tart farmhouse ale] was unreal.
Local beer industry happenings you’re looking forward to in 2017: Asheville Beer Expo is a really cool event. Beer City Fest is always a favorite of everyone at Asheville Brewing.
Jessica Reiser, Burial Beer Co., co-owner
Favorite new Asheville-area beer from 2016: This is tough, of course, but I loved the Twin Leaf [Brewery]/Zebulon [Artisan Ales] collab, Drifter’s Escape Lager — clean, easy-drinking, crisp, yet interesting.
Favorite new beer from 2016 not made in Asheville: Also tough, but I’ll go with Allagash [Brewing Co.] Goulship, their Coolship pumpkin beer — so balanced and refreshing. You can tell the amount of time and dedication they give to their beers.
Local beer industry happenings you’re looking forward to in 2017: I always look forward to the Asheville Brewers Alliance Beer Expo on Feb. 18 at The Venue, which really showcases all this craft beer community has to offer, from brewers to vendors who are a huge part of contributing to the success of our local industry.
Billy Pyatt, Catawba Brewing Co., owner
Favorite new Asheville-area beer from 2016: We have new offerings every day — it’s hard to keep track. I’m on the South Slope and visit our neighbors often. Bhramari [Brewhouse] is doing some very creative things, as is Burial. You can find a new “best” every day, but a beer that stuck with me this year was from one of our giants, Sierra Nevada [Brewing Co.]. Their Kettle Hop and Sour small-batch was nearly perfect.
Favorite new beer from 2016 not made in Asheville: When looking at the Birmingham, Ala., market this past summer, we stumbled upon Trim Tab Brewing and their Raspberry Berliner Weisse. It was a great, refreshing, crisp beer for a hot evening. Sure, it may not be the biggest, sourest, weirdest new beer out there, but I find myself searching it out when I am in their area.
Local beer industry happenings you’re looking forward to in 2017: I’m really looking forward to the Asheville Beer Expo this year. The Asheville Brewers Alliance did a great job with the inaugural incarnation last year, and they will really step up their game for year two. It’ll be a great mix of beer showmanship, education and fun on a cold winter’s day. I’m also excited about this spring’s Brewers Association Craft Brewers Conference in Washington, D.C. East Coast locations seem to draw a totally different energy for this industrywide event. Plus, we will take a crew there since we can drive up.
Hollie Stephenson, Highland Brewing, brewmaster
Favorite new Asheville-area beer from 2016: Asheville is putting out so many great beers right now that I can’t pick just one.
Favorite new beer from 2016 not made in Asheville: Firestone Walker [Brewing Co.] Barrelworks Bretta Rosé.
Local beer industry happenings you’re looking forward to in 2017: The second year of the Asheville Beer Expo and the Beer City Festival, as usual. And, shamelessly, the release parties for the five new production beers Highland will release this year.
Chris Frosaker, Hi-Wire Brewing, co-owner
Favorite new Asheville-area beer from 2016: Zebulon Fire Roasted Citrus Saison. This was the best use of citrus in a beer I have ever seen.
Favorite new beer from 2016 not made in Asheville: De Proefbrouwerij/Trillium Brewmaster’s Collaboration Bouket Farmhouse Ale. This is a beer I can drink every day. There is a perfect amount of funk from the Belgian yeast and an incredible aroma from the intense dry-hopping.
Local beer industry happenings you’re looking forward to in 2017: I am excited that all of the Asheville breweries are continuing to mature, and this will continue in 2017. We are all investing in better equipment, sales infrastructure and people, and with this comes better beer. Everyone wins — especially drinkers of Asheville beer — when there is strong competition.
Benton Wharton, Pisgah Brewing Co., talent buyer/events director
Favorite new Asheville-area beer from 2016: Burial’s Shadowclock Pilsner — just a solid beer for the style, not something you always see from the big beer breweries. We would consider Burial one of these heavy innovators.
Favorite new beer from 2016 not made in Asheville: Imperial Mexican Biscotti Cake Break imperial stout collaboration between Evil Twin [Brewing] and Westbrook [Brewing]. The big stouts are a popular item in the world of beer trading, and this beer is top-notch for the category. Also, we are partial to Charleston, S.C., connections of Pisgah’s past and love what Westbrook is doing down there.
Local beer industry happenings you’re looking forward to in 2017: Asheville Beer Expo. We feel this is a fantastic representation of the brewing community of Asheville as it runs a much deeper underbelly of educational opportunities for all beer lovers as opposed to an all-day drink/tasting fest.
Mike Karnowski and Gabe Pickard Karnowski, Zebulon Artisan Ales, co-owners
Favorite new Asheville area beer from 2016: Hi-Wire Brett Rye IPA — well-brewed, drinkable with a nice layer of funk. (Karnowski)
Favorite new beer from 2016 not made in Asheville: Korrigane Brasserie Artisinale in Quebec City. I typically do not like brown ales, however, this brown ale was drinkable with a hint of chocolate malt and a clean crisp finish. Nice balance of malt and well-attenuation. Perfect for the day walking through Quebec City in September 2016. (Pickard, Karnowski)
Local beer industry happenings you’re looking forward to in 2017: Zebulon plans to bring [beer historian] Ron Pattinson into town for Asheville Beer Week as a collaborative event including a lecture by Ron accompanied by a tasting of lost and forgotten beer styles made by Mike [Karnowski]. This lecture and tasting will be held at Zebulon Artisan Ales, and we plan to release bottles of each forgotten beer style at this time. Exciting! (Pickard, Karnowski)