Carolina Beer Guy: Breweries catch the Mardi Gras spirit

THREE DAYS OF BLISS: Burial Beer Co. is one of several local breweries that will celebrate Mardi Gras with beer releases and special events. Photo courtesy of Burial Beer Co.

Down in New Orleans, Mardi Gras means lots of eating, drinking and merrymaking. The same is true at a handful of Asheville-area breweries that are hosting their own Mardi Gras celebrations, complete with beer releases, gumbo, music, masks and more.

Leading the way with a three-day celebration is Burial Beer Co., which starts its party on Sunday, March 3, just before the annual Asheville Mardi Gras parade comes marching down nearby Coxe Avenue. The brewery began hosting a Mardi Gras bash in 2014, and the yearly celebration has continued ever since.

Burial’s fun offerings include lively music, art activities courtesy of LEAF International and such food specials as a full brunch menu, a crawfish boil and gumbo. King cakes from New Orleans’ Haydel’s Bakery will also be available.

The brewery will also have New Orleans-inspired beer releases each day. Burial co-owners Jessica and Doug Reiser lived in the city for three years before moving to Asheville, and Jessica says that if Mardi Gras revelers are drinking beers, they usually favor light lagers. Many attendees indulge in cocktails like bloody marys and Irish coffee, hand grenades or hurricanes, but since Burial does not have a liquor license, it’s sticking with beer — albeit and cocktail-inspired ones.

The brewery is keeping the date of each beer’s debut under wraps, but there will be a bloody mary, made with the brewery’s Shadowclock Pilsner and all-natural tomato juice, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, peppercorns, sea salt and horseradish; frozen Irish coffee, made by adding 2 gallons per barrel of vanilla-bourbon cold press concentrate to Burial’s newest imperial stout; hand grenade, which uses Gang of Blades DIPA as the backbone for additions of watermelon, passionfruit, a grenadine-esque simple syrup and fresh-squeezed lime zest; and absinthe frappe, made from the brewery’s wormwood saison. All but bloody mary will also be available in slushee form to further the Bourbon Street homage.

“Mardi Gras is the ultimate celebration down there,” Jessica says. “The productivity of the city declines a bit.”

At Burial, however, brewing will continue on schedule, though she hopes that the staff “can find some time to hang out.” She also notes that on March 3, road closures will be in effect noon-5 p.m., but Burial may still be reached via Millard Avenue and Southside Avenue at the corner of Coxe and Short Coxe avenues.

The party continues

  • Catawba Brewing Co. has already had its own Mardi Gras bash at its South Slope location, but according to brewery spokesman Brian Ivey, a celebratory King Cake Pastry Stout (6.7 percent ABV) is still in good supply at its four tasting rooms. The brew has flavors of vanilla, cinnamon and lactose sugar. “This is the first time we’ve made a beer specifically for the holiday,” Ivey says.
  • Oskar Blues Brewery in Brevard hosts a Mardi Gras Jam on Saturday, March 2, 6-8 p.m., with music by Jeff Sipe, John Trufant, Derrick Gardner, Shannon Hoover and friends playing funky New Orleans music. Oskar Blues spokesman Aaron Baker says the brewery’s CHUBWagon food truck will have some specials on the menu, including a gumbo burger made with shrimp, andouille sausage, peppers, onions and a creole mustard sauce. A po’boy sandwich will also be available. To wash it down, Baker suggests the new Can-O-Bliss Tropical IPA.
  • Ecusta Brewing in Pisgah Forest has a Mardi Gras celebration on Tuesday, March 5, 6-8 p.m., that includes the release of Double Barrel Hop Gun DIPA (9.5 percent ABV) and a gumbo cook-off. Brewery owner Josh Chambers reports that 10 people signed up for the cook-off. For $5, customers can try the selections and vote for the winner, who will receive a $50 prize. “The proceeds are going to the Transylvania Animal Shelter,” Chambers says.
  • Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. has a Mardi Gras celebration on Tuesday, March 5, 5-8 p.m., in its High Gravity Room. The party is the brewery’s first Mardi Gras event, according to Rhonda Fayssoux, Sierra Nevada’s on-site events manager. The party includes live music by the Zydeco Ya Yas, a Cajun and Creole menu, king cake and the brewery’s Serrano Pale Ale. There is also a make-your-own Mardi Gras mask station.
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About Tony Kiss
Tony Kiss covers brewing news for the Xpress. He has been reporting on the Carolina beer scene since 1994. He's also covered distilling and cider making and spent 30 years reporting on area entertainment. Follow me @BeerguyTK

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