Beer Scout: South Slope gets tasty

MR. TASTY: Johnny Belflower stands inside the future home of Tasty Beverage Co., the Chrysler Building at 162 Coxe. Belflower hopes to open his beer shop later this year. Photo by Thom O'Hearn

Some people have taken to calling the South Slope area of downtown the Brewery District. With the newest business set to join its neighbors on Banks and Buxton, it may have to be dubbed the Beer District instead.

Tasty Beverage Co., a Raleigh-based beer store, announced that it will open an Asheville location later this year at 162 Coxe Ave. If you step out the front door, you’ll see Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium (opening soon) across the street and Twin Leaf to the right on Banks. 

But unlike its brewery neighbors, Tasty doesn’t make beer. It’s a hybrid bottle shop and tasting room, according to owner Johnny Belflower. “[One of my friends] put it this way: You’re not going to a beer store and you’re not going to bar … you’re going to Tasty. I’ve always enjoyed that statement.”

Tasty was unarguably ahead of its time in Raleigh. When it opened, the closest dedicated bottle shop was in Durham, according to Belflower. The store has flourished since it opened in 2011. “Raleigh now has almost 10 beer stores,” says Belflower. “But for us, every year has continued to be better than the year before.”

Rather than target nearby cities, Belflower decided he wanted to open in Asheville. “I love the beer culture we have in the Triangle … but Asheville’s [beer] scene is second to none,” says Belflower. “We already have such a great relationship with all the breweries here. We sell a lot of Green Man and Highland, and we just collaborated with Wicked Weed for our own third anniversary beer. … We think we’ll only strengthen those relationships when we open here.” 

Inside Tasty

According to Belflower, the Tasty in Raleigh is a local hangout as much as anything else. “From the time we open, all sorts of people come in,” says Belflower. “We have young Web developers next to retirees.”

On the beer side, the store boasts something in the neighborhood of 1,200 bottles and six taps — four of which are set up to counter-pressure fill growlers as well. When it comes to selection, Belflower says the store tries to keep a range of beer available for all sorts of beer drinkers. “A typical tap list might have a local IPA next to an obscure Italian sour beer next to a standby like Allagash White,” says Belflower.

At about 4,500 square feet, the Asheville store will be larger than the one in Raleigh. The number of bottles will remain about the same, but there will be additional beer and food options. Nothing is finalized, but there will likely be about 10 taps. The store also plans to have a kitchen so it can serve meat and cheese — an option it doesn’t currently have in Raleigh due to an unequipped space. 

As far as fitting in with the local bottle shops, Belflower is optimistic. “A rising tide lifts all boats, especially in the brewing world,” says Belflower. “In Raleigh, we like to see existing bottle shops as partners. We just took a bike ride up to Bottle Revolution last weekend. … As far as local stores, Bruisin’ Ales is an inspiration to us, and they’ve done such a great job here.”

No firm opening date is set, but Tasty hopes to open later this year. 

Beers for Brewgrass

While the Brewgrass Festival traditionally sells out well in advance, tickets were still available at press time for this year’s event (both online at brewgrassfestival.com and in person at Barley’s Taproom). If you can’t make it to the end-of-summer festival on Saturday, Sept. 20, a few local breweries will share beers created especially for Brewgrass at their tasting rooms:

  • Hi-Wire has brewed a big beer for the occasion. The second offering in its new Ringmaster’s Reserve Series will be a Russian Imperial Stout aged on a mix of Kentucky bourbon, Tennessee whiskey, North Carolina dark rum and Napa Valley zinfandel barrels to add a complex mix of oak and spirit flavors. Look for its release on tap and in 22-ounce bottles starting at 2 p.m. the day before Brewgrass, Friday, Sept. 19, and at the festival.
  • Wicked Weed will serve an apple harvest Belgian blonde at Brewgrass and at its tasting room that weekend. The beer is an oddity even by Wicked Weed standards as it’s brewed with local apple cider.
  • Twin Leaf often has Belgian beers flowing from its taps, including popular house beers like Luminosity Tripel and White Noise Wit. However, it usually isn’t pouring a saison. That changes for Brewgrass, as owner and brewer Tim Weber plans to brew a rustic farmhouse saison with coriander, sweet orange peel, grains of paradise and fresh ginger. The beer will be available at Brewgrass and at the tasting room on Sept. 20

 

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

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2 thoughts on “Beer Scout: South Slope gets tasty

  1. Thomas Whigham

    I stop by Tasty in Raleigh every time I visit. I’ll be stopping through Asheville for those winter mountain trips to stock up!

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