Carolina Beer Guy: Hi-Wire’s Stout Bout heralds season of dark, robust brews

FIGHT CLUB: Hi-Wire Brewing's Stout Bout Festival returns Nov. 17 at its Big Top location, featuring dark beers by 21 breweries from across North Carolina. Photo courtesy Hi-Wire Brewing

The season for light lawnmower beers has passed for another year, and the time is right for dark, robust brews. This changing of the guard is in full swing as the holidays approach, starting with Hi-Wire Brewing’s fourth annual Stout Bout Festival on Saturday, Nov. 17, noon-5 p.m., at its Big Top location.

The 2018 edition will feature 21 breweries from across North Carolina. Hi-Wire spokeswoman Courtney King says some companies will be bringing one-off stouts made specially for the event. A full list of participating breweries and one with the beer styles and their ABVs are available online.

Throughout the event’s first three hours, attendees will be able to blind taste as many stouts as they’d like and cast a vote for their top two favorite entries. The winners will be announced at 3:30 p.m., at which point the identities of all the beers will be revealed. If supplies remain, full pours will be made available to purchase.

“For people who like stouts, they can try a wide variety,” King says.

The $10 admission includes a 4-ounce sampling glass and two beer tokens. Additional beer tokens can be purchased for $3 each, and Hi-Wire will also release the 2018 version of its 10W-40 Imperial Stout with Coffee, Chocolate & Vanilla, in four-packs of 16-ounce cans for $15 and on draft. The event is kid-friendly and dog-friendly, and overflow parking is available nearby at 71 Thompson St.

“We’re hoping to get 400-500 people,” King says. “Stout Bout has grown a lot over the years.”

In the weeks following the competition, local breweries will roll out their big, chewy seasonal releases, some of which have earned a passionate following. Among them is Wedge Brewing Co.’s Vadim Bora Russian Imperial Stout, slated for release on Wednesday, Nov. 21. The nitrogen-dispensed beer is brewed with raspberries and will be available exclusively on draft at both Wedge locations.

The beer is named for the late Russian-born Asheville artist Vadim Bora, who was a regular at the original Wedge taproom. The recipe is basically the same as it has been from the inaugural batch, though the hops have changed to German Northern Brewer for improved bittering.

“To brew, ferment and condition the beer is a two-month process,” says Wedge brewer Carl Melissas.

Elsewhere, Highland Brewing Co. releases Black Watch Double Chocolate Milk Stout on Friday, Nov. 23. Brewed with more than 100 pounds of cocoa nibs per batch, it will be available in six-packs of 12-ounce bottles at the brewery, then see limited distribution starting Monday, Nov. 26.

Also on Friday, Nov. 23, Asheville Brewing Co. releases an extremely limited batch of Ninjabread Man Porter that was aged in a Jack Daniel’s whiskey barrel. It will be available exclusively at the brewery’s Coxe Avenue location and marks the first time Ninjabread Man has been available in a barrel-aged format.

“It’s been aging since September,” says brewery President Mike Rangel. “Less than 200 pints will be sold, and it’s draft only — no growlers.”

In addition to the special Ninjabread Man, Asheville Brewing will release its potent Carolina Mountain Monster Imperial Stout on Saturday, Dec. 1, followed two weeks later by a barrel-aged version of the same beer.

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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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