Out-of-towners like Goose Island and Dogfish Head are set to descend upon Asheville as Beer Week rolls along, but the opening weekend belonged to a handful of local breweries and their special releases.
Getting the festivities started was the Asheville Brewers’ Alliance White IPA. Made especially for Beer Week with input from 20 WNC brewers and made at Catawba Brewing Co., the highly drinkable concoction is sure to satisfy those looking for refreshment throughout the week and into the summer. The White IPA is on tap at many ABA breweries around town and I also saw six-packs on sale at Green Life.
Saturday additionally marked the arrival of Catawba’s King Coconut porter. Touted as one of their most coveted brews, not far off in customer interest from Highland Brewing Co.’s Cold Mountain Winter Ale, the dark beverage likewise goes down easy with its subtle roasted flavors.
By far the standout newcomer so far, however, is Hi-Wire Brewing Co.’s wine barrel-aged Belgian IPA, the first in their Ringmaster’s Reserve series. Delicious, exceptionally balanced and not too boozy, the beer marks Hi-Wire’s third successful barrel-aged release in a row after Fire Breather, their rye whiskey barrel-aged Belgian Strong Ale collaboration with Burial Beer Co., and a gin barrel-aged Juniper Saison that was quickly lapped up at Burial’s Sharpen the Blades Saison Festival in mid April.
A notch lower but still respectable is Twin Leaf Brewery’s Wildfire Chili Ale, a solid take on what I find a somewhat gimmicky style. Featuring ancho, arbol and poblano chilies, it’s not too spicy and I prefer it to Twin Leaf’s Mexican Chocolate Stout, which also incorporated chilies, but I favor the bulk of their house beers even more.
Where are Wicked Weed’s Menage-A-Freak Triple IPA and gin barrel-aged Imperial Coolcumber, arguably the weekend’s two most highly anticipated new releases? Well, part of a successful Beer Week is choosing your battles and each time I went by Wicked Weed during the weekend, it was a madhouse and/or a loud band was playing. The plan is to sample these new creations on a quieter, less crowded day, but for those of you who braved the crowds, what did you think?