Looking ahead to Beer Week

Last week CNN named Asheville one of the eight “Best Beer Towns.” It wasn’t for our beer history (which scored just 5 out of 10). Turns out, it was largely because of our events, which scored a 9 out of 10 — the highest of any city.

So even though this is only the second annual Asheville Beer Week, don’t expect the schedule to show any signs. From the starting festival to the ending festival (yes, you can go to two beer festivals in eight days), it’s action packed. The ABW website is already live and loaded (http://ashevillebeerweek.com/), and Xpress will have a handy, pocket-sized guide in next week's paper. But why wait until then to get started? Here are a few highlights between May 25 and June 1, only one of which is already sold out:

On May 25, the lot at Wedge will be taped off and filled with 50 homebrewers serving more than 100 beers for Just Brew It. Past years’ standouts have included everything from super fresh Pale Ale to Chocolate Coconut Coffee Stout. Oh and the whole thing is put on by Just Economics, Asheville’s Living Wage Advocacy organization. That means when you pay to attend, you’re joining an organization that makes sure people are paid fairly. Get tickets at http://www.justeconomicswnc.org or call 828-505-7466.

Thirsty Thursdays may be the original beer event at McCormick Field, but when’s the last time they had pomme frites and beer from The Bruery and Ommegang? Belgian Beer and Baseball, hosted by Bruisin’ Ales on May 28, will have notable breweries pouring three Belgian-style beers per inning (yes, that’s 27 beers total). Tickets are not yet on-sale, but will be soon. Call Bruisin’ Ales at 828-252-8999.

May 28 will be a day of tough decisions. In addition to the aforementioned night at the ball field, there will be a half dozen beer dinners from which to choose. No matter where you go, make sure to stop at Thirsty Monk for a nightcap. New Belgium and Allagash will take over the taps on the downstairs bar with all sorts of rarities, including everything from Paardebloem and 2012 La Folie to Odyssey, Curieux and more. There is no entry fee, just pay per pint.

Not long ago, it could be a struggle to find a Saison on tap anywhere in Asheville. Not anymore. For the truly Saison obsessed, Wicked Weed is doing a Saison Tap Takeover on May 30. That’s right, you’ll be able to sample nearly every Saison they have made since opening day. There is no entry fee, just pay per pint.

If you want the most exclusive beer all in one place, consider the first ever Rare and Wild Beer Tasting, put on by All About Beer Magazine and The Thirsty Monk on May 31. The price is not cheap ($75), but the profits go to Pints for Prostates and the organizers promise the lineup will be worth it. And you could say they know a thing or two about beer. Find tickets at: http://www.etix.com/ticket/online/venueSearch.jsp?venue_id=9521

Keep your eyes open for a couple new Asheville breweries joining the scene. Burial Beer’s Tim Gormley and Doug Reiser have already been brewing solid pilot batches, as evidenced by the overwhelmingly positive response at The Best Firkin Beer Festival. Folks loved their Saison, Munich Dunkel, and style mash-ups like an old-school Helles spiked with tropical Moteuka hops. While the tap room may or may not be opening its doors for ABW, they will have beer at Altamont's Trail Mix event on May 25 and they'll be pouring at the Beer City Festival as well. Hi-Wire Brewing won't be open (in the former Craggie space) until June, but Thirsty Monk is hosting their premier on May 31. If you miss that, the Hi-Wire guys will also be pouring at the Beer City Festival.

Catawba Valley co-owner Billy Pyatt said there are still a few small details to finalize (you know, like signing a lease), but he and his brother Scott are very much hoping to share their plans for the Asheville satellite brewery — including the exact location — during ABW. If you want to be among the first in the know, snag tickets to their beer dinner at Fig on May 26. You can also catch up with them at Barley's for a tap takeover on May 29.

End the week where all this madness began with the Beer City Festival on June 1. While we didn’t win first in the “Beer City” poll this year, you can be sure we’re going to have a big party anyway. Beer City is a state of mind, right? Tickets are sold out, but that last-minute Craigslist scramble is part every great festival.

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

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