Beer Scout: Sierra Nevada opens taproom, Pints for Patriots and Red Angel’s release

BEYOND THE PALE: Sierra Nevada's new Taproom features 23 taps, including some exclusive to the restaurant. Photo by Thom O'Hearn

If you’ve been out to Sierra Nevada, you already know the brewery has set a high bar. It’s been called the Disney World, the Willy Wonka factory and the Biltmore Estate of beer. Still, based on the opening week, its new Taproom (also located at 100 Sierra Nevada Way) appears set to jump over that bar.

Sierra Nevada calls it a “showpiece for the brewery,” and it’s clear the space — which seats about 400 — will be a place to celebrate Sierra Nevada beer. Yet the Taproom also presents a menu that’s more than your average pub fare.

It all starts with a small 20-barrel pilot brewhouse that greets you when you walk in. (OK, it’s small by Sierra standards, as 20 barrels per batch is still twice the size of in-town breweries like Burial.) Adjacent to the bar, the brewers working on this copper-clad system will craft a variety of experimental beers — many of which will be exclusive to the restaurant.

These beers will account for some of the offerings flowing through the 23 taps. However, there will be brewery flagships — some served fresh from the tank — and seasonal releases pouring as well.

On the food side, the menu departs from what the brewery serves at the original taproom in Chico, Calif.

In both locations, the dishes are beer-friendly, and many feature beer as well. However, the brewery says it didn’t want to drag and drop the California menu in North Carolina.

So Sierra Nevada hired Chef Brian Hough, formerly of The Stable restaurant on Biltmore Estate. Hough embraced both the strong points of the kitchen and the area’s resources to create the Taproom’s menu.

For example, Hough relies heavily on the wood-fired oven. In addition to the expected wood-fired pizzas, his team also roasts everything from clams and pork to cauliflower and carrots.

The full menu shares some similarities to the Chico restaurant to be sure — after all, what pub could survive without a signature burger — but the Southern influence is definitely present in Mills River. It’s safe to say the pig cheeks, the duck Reuben and the fried chicken and doughnut sandwich are not served in the California Taproom.

The restaurant and pilot brewery are open now, and seating is first-come-first-served (no reservations). Hours are are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday and noon-9 p.m. Sunday.

There’s also more to come around the corner. Outdoor dining, an organic produce garden and a live music venue are all scheduled to follow this summer.

Pints for Patriots

In April, Veterans Helping Veterans Western North Carolina is partnering with local breweries and bars on a citywide fundraiser they’re calling Pints for Patriots.

There will be pint nights with a portion of proceeds going to the organization at Westville Pub on April 1, Oskar Blues on April 20, and Hi-Wire on April 23. Highland Brewing Co. will host a pint night on April 19 and host VHVWNC as the nonprofit for April — which means tips from tours go to the organization as well.

Additionally, several breweries will release special beers for the organization in April — again with a portion of proceeds going to VHVWNC, of course.  Wicked Weed will release Pints for Patriots Pale on April 9, Asheville Brewing will release an American Farmhouse Wheat on April 16 and Hi-Wire and Twin Leaf will announce their beers and release dates soon.

While the organization focuses on helping veterans successfully reintegrate into society in a variety of ways, including providing affordable housing, the money raised in April will help support the final stages of construction and staffing at the new community center, slated to open in May. For more information, visit http://vhvwnc.org.

Wicked Weed’s Red Angel flies

Wicked Weed’s Red Angel, the first beer up in a new four-beer series inspired by the brewery’s popular Black Angel, is already flying out the door. Described by the brewery as a “vibrant, blood-red sour ale,” it features 2.5 pounds of fresh raspberries per gallon and is aged in red wine barrels for nine months.

The beer went on presale on Feb. 28: 150 cases sold out in under one minute. However, the official release event at the Funkatorium (147 Coxe Avenue) will take place on Sunday, March 29, beginning at noon.

Again, the first 150 people are guaranteed Red Angel, but this time you can buy by the bottle or by case of six. So if more people buy bottles than cases, the brewery will have additional bottles to go around. The beer will also be on draft Saturday, March 28, and Sunday, March 29, at the Funkatorium.

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

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3 thoughts on “Beer Scout: Sierra Nevada opens taproom, Pints for Patriots and Red Angel’s release

  1. Star Tre

    It would be helpful to have a City and State along with the road name and building number.. Theres no direct mention that this is located in North Carolina other than “the brewery says it didn’t want to drag and drop the California menu in North Carolina.” And no mention whatsoever of the town of Fletcher. Many people would probaly, wrongly assume this is located in.. Nevada…

    • Dusty

      I was confused as well(about the location), but just to note….Seirra Nevada is in Chico, Ca(not Nevada). It’s named after the Sierra Nevada mountain range which extends into CA.

  2. My wife and I visited and had dinner at the Sierra Nevada Asheville Taproom (it’s actually in Fletcher/Mills River near the Asheville Regional Airport) on the first day it was officially open to the public. They apparently had had a soft opening for a few days, with invitations to special folks. I wasn’t invited — whine, whine, whine — although I’ve authored or co-authored several guidebooks to Asheville including Fodor’s The Carolinas & Georgia, Amazing Asheville and Moving to the Mountains, and have a high-traffic website on Asheville (which I won’t plug here).

    First of all I should say that Sierra Nevada has done a wonderful job on the brewery building, on the access road to the site and on the taproom and restaurant itself. It’s a gorgeous facility, with a lot of wood (some from the Mills River site itself) and a fortune in copper. The entrance road reminds me of the North Carolina Arboretum or even the Biltmore Estate.

    Being that this was the first public opening day, you’d expect a few glitches, but the staff seemed well trained. Our wait-person was pleasant (though I don’t know if everything she told us about the beers and the decor were totally accurate), and service was spot on. The taproom was busy but not completely jammed. Sierra Nevada lost some business by closing their gift shop at 7 pm rather than keeping it open during the main evening meal.

    We started with a flight of beers — our choice of four 2-oz glasses, one high gravity, for $4. All together, the taproom currently is serving 22 beers, priced from $4 for a draft pale ale to $7 for a couple of barrel-aged high gravity beers. Almost all are brewed in Asheville though a few are from the West Coast brewery in Chico, Calif.

    Yep, we enjoyed the food, which is a fairly big step up from the regular bar food that many of Asheville’s beer pubs serve. We had the duck fat fries with duck confit, duck cracklins and cheese. Delicious, though a tad overpriced at $11. The chicken wings — frenched — were fantastic, the best I’ve had in Asheville, and fairly priced considering the large serving at $9.

    Entrees, though billed as small or medium plates, were certainly filling, and we took some leftovers home. I had the Imperial Burger, with gouda cheese and bacon plus a side of fresh-fried potato chips ($10), and my wife had the house pizza, rather unusually served sliced on a wood plank ($13). I don’t care for bacon on my burgers, but the burger itself was good, cooked to my exact order with a soft bun, melted cheese and what I assume was local grass-fed beef.

    We didn’t try the rather cutesy desserts such as the Grilled PB&J at $8. Nor did we try the fried chicken sandwich on a doughnut. Yechh!

    With two “beer test flights,” two regular beers, two appetizers and two entrees our total came to a little over $75 with tax and OUGT (Our Usual Generous Tip).

    All in all we enjoyed the evening, although I’m not sure we’d make the trek out to Fletcher regularly. Still, I expect that with the brewery tours and the taproom/restaurant and the gift shop Sierra Nevada will become a serious visitor destination as well as a place local residents can support. I know I have a Sierra Nevada Stout six-pack in my fridge.

    One small thing: The server uniforms (really just a top, worn with slacks or jeans) are just plain ugly. The look more like something you’d see at Waffle House or Huddle House than at a hip brewery taproom. Surely servers don’t wear those in the taproom in California?!

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