Brews News: Oskar Blues moves and ABC gets funky

The Highland Brewing team. Left to right: Erica Nelson, Jamie Rowe, Paul Rollow, Kevin Sondey, Joey Justice, Tres Howell. Photo by Max Cooper.

Oskar Blues Brewery announced earlier this year that it would open a new brewery and taproom in little ol’ Brevard. Originally it was set for a warehouse on Railroad Avenue, but that’s changed. The new location will be 342 Mountain Industrial Drive, says Chad Melis, Oskar Blues’ marketing director. There will still be an Oskar Blues restaurant/music venue and taproom in downtown Brevard, but that location hasn’t been set yet.

“This was a building we had our eye on originally but wasn’t available,” Melis says. “Since that has changed, we’re getting after it. It’s also along the bike trail in town, and we’re looking for an Oskar Blues Taproom trailhead to connect into. There is also a BNSF railway there that they say is active. Maybe we can get a beer train rolling?”

Oskar Blues still plans to be brewing in Brevard by December, although the taproom may not be open by then.

A bike-happy brewery named for two hound dogs, serving fresh hoppy beers in Brevard? I still must be dreaming.

Highland’s small batches shine

It seems like a number of our local breweries have been stepping up their small-batch game this summer, and as a beer lover, I thank them all.

Highland Brewing added a three-barrel pilot brewing system when the business opened the new tasting room in 2010. The “test” beers are typically sold at the brewery during tasting room hours from 4 until 8 p.m., Thursday-Saturday. Head brewer John Lyda has been pulling in groups of Highland employees from different departments to help brew some of these special beers. Currently, the ESCape California Common, a derivative of steam beer, is on tap. This style of beer is one of the few that actually originated in America — “steam” beer is actually trademarked by Anchor Brewing in San Francisco.

Released last week was the OB Joyful IPA, made with hops from the OB Joyful hops farm in Arden. Trevor Reis, the first Asheville Beer Master and a Highland employee, helped brew the beer. He says it’s rich with a wide variety of hops, including Cascade, Simcoe, Warrior and others.

Also coming on tap soon (if not already) are two Kolschs: Riverbend Kolsch, brewed with malted grains from Asheville’s own Riverbend Malt House and Kolsch Enough. One of the primary differences between the two comes from the yeast. The Riverbend contains Belgian-style yeast, which gives it more of a fruity flavor, while the Kolsch Enough uses the Highland house yeast, which makes it a crisp, clean summer ale. A couple other experimental brews are on the way as well. Visit Highland’s taproom at 12 Old Charlotte Highway.

Asheville Brewing Company gets funky

After years of producing basically the same lineup of eight brews week in and week out, Asheville Brewing Company has started branching out and getting a little funky. “I want to be the Pizza Port of Asheville,” says ABC President Mike Rangel, referring to the famous award-winning pizza pub and brewery that has three locations in California. He and ABC head brewer Doug Riley visited all three Pizza Ports when they were at the Craft Brewers Conference last spring.

To that end, Riley and the four ABC assistant brewers have been producing some special-release beers and the beer-drinking public is chugging them down. The most recent release was a rye pale ale, called Samurye, which sold out at the 77 Coxe Ave. location in less than a week. There may still be a bit at 675 Merrimon Ave., if you’re lucky.

Next, Asheville Brewing will brew one of its hoppiest beers yet, IPA the Fool. The first 14-keg batch of that cleverly named IPA sold out in less than three days — an ABC record, Rangel says. Also on the brew agenda is more District 12 wheat ale, named for the Appalachian district and home of main character Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games’ trilogy (and the movie of the same name, which was filmed near Asheville). Both should be on tap in a week or so.

ABC plans to allow each assistant brewer create up to four different beers a year, plus there will be new creations from Riley, who recently attended Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp in Chico, Calif.

“Experimentation makes these guys more creative,” Rangel says. “And we want to improve our beers constantly, even the ones we’ve been brewing here since 1997.”

Asheville Brewing also has started offering free brewery tours from 3 to 7 p.m. on both Fridays and Saturdays at the Coxe Avenue location. It’s not a four-hour tour, but a casual drop-in that includes tastes of many of ABC’s beers.

Last but not least, following the success of its canned versions of Shiva IPA and Rocket Girl Lager, ABC will start canning the Ninja Porter. Those cans will be released the week of the Brewgrass Festival (set for Sept. 15 this year).

I love how many new local one-offs and special releases we’re seeing practically weekly here in Beer City, USA. Sláinte, local brewers!



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One thought on “Brews News: Oskar Blues moves and ABC gets funky

  1. JamesB

    All of this is sounding awesome & makings me thirsty for some of these new beers! Wish I was back in Asheville. I’ll have to wait until I visit again. I love Mountain Xpress. Thanks for keeping me in the loop & making me feel like I’m in Asheville by keeping me posted with what’s going on there! Great job always!

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