Beer Scout: The year in beer

BREW GURUS: Certified cicerones (beer sommeliers) Cliff Mori, left, and Matt McComish, right, teach new hands-on Continuing Education classes on beer at A-B Tech.

Common New Year’s resolutions aren’t something to look forward to. Who gets excited about eating less or exercising more? But it doesn’t have to be that way. This is Asheville — let’s make our resolutions with a beer in hand.

Learn more about beer

A-B Tech’s new degree in Brewing, Distillation and Fermentation is great for those interested in career change, but there haven’t been many options for those just looking to learn more about beer (or those with only a couple hours a week to spare). That’s changing this spring when A-B Tech rolls out a handful of new Continuing Education classes taught by certified cicerones Matt McComish and Cliff Mori (a cicerone is also known as a beer sommelier).

In one set of classes, students will learn all about beer styles by country — spending three weeks immersing themselves in the beers of Belgium, Germany, England and the United States. Whether you love Belgian beers or want to learn what makes American brewing so distinctive, this is a great set of classes to expand your knowledge. The other set covers three big brewing ingredients: malt, hops and yeast.

The classes are not your average note-taking sessions. “These classes go beyond the classroom,” says McComish. “We do have lectures and some sensory analysis, but we also take field trips to hop farms, breweries, distributors and Riverbend Malt House. The hands-on experience is really helpful.” A couple of one-day classes go a step further. Hands-on brew days will be held at Hi-Wire on Jan. 21 and at Wicked Weed on Feb. 7.

While you might think these courses are for the beer-obsessed, both McComish and Mori say that’s not the case. So far, students have included both award-winning home-brewers and complete beer novices. One class even had a self-proclaimed “beer hater” who wanted to know what it was he didn’t like. According to Mori, “With so many people coming together and tasting beer in a classroom setting, it’s a great place to learn and appreciate something that is so relevant in our city.”

Registration for spring classes is open now. Sign-ups for each class end the Friday before it begins. Complete course descriptions are available on the A-B Tech website under Continuing Education.

Visit a new brewery

Sierra Nevada is brewing test batches down in Mills River, but mum’s still the word on the taproom’s opening date. Whenever the stars align, the brewer will let us know — and we’ll surely be there.

However Sierra isn’t the only new Asheville brewery opening in 2014. Twin Leaf is slated to open in February or March. If the name sounds familiar, that might be because owners Tim and Steph Weber moved to Asheville in the summer of 2012 and have had a lease secured at 144 Coxe Avenue since October of this year. The process took longer than expected, but they are now both pouring all they can into the renovations — from cutting concrete to building taproom tables. More details will be released soon, but for now the owners say you can look forward to beers like Luminosity, a dangerously easy-drinking Belgian-style tripel, and 144 (code name: Juicy Fruit), a bright, juicy, citrus-packed IPA.

"This has been our dream for nearly eight years now … to see what we've worked so hard for, for so long, finally coming to life is beyond exciting. Seriously, we're jumping up and down on a nightly basis."

Stay organized (with an Asheville beer calendar)

If your resolution is to keep your life more organized, you can now do so with the help of beer. Rose Hecht and Christopher “Critter” Thomas recently put together the first Asheville Beer Calendar, which covers all of 2014. Talented local photographers hit the taprooms to capture beers in their natural habitat everywhere from Highland and Green Man to Hi-Wire and Burial. They also made sure to include some of the other businesses that make the beer scene so great — like Bruisin’ Ales and OBJoyful Hop Farm. Pick up your copy at or in person at Bruisin’ Ales, Downtown Books and News, Thirsty Monk, Asheville Growler and Barley’s Taproom.

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One thought on “Beer Scout: The year in beer

  1. Cliff Mori

    To clarify, as this semester starts on the first day that the campus is open after the holiday break, students will be able to register for classes up until 30 minutes before the first session. So, if anyone wants to register for classes starting Monday 1/6, they will be able to on Monday.

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