A favorite event for many in the local beer scene, Just Economics‘ Just Brew It homebrew festival and competition got Asheville Beer Week 2015 off to a strong start on Saturday, May 23.
With temperatures in the upper 70s in the courtyard of Wedge Brewing Co., it was a tough day for dark, heavy beers to make much of a positive impact, opening the door for lagers, pilsners, kolsches and other refreshing offerings.
Standing out among the 52 tables were Alex Buerckholtz’s smooth Buerckholtz kolsch; the superb Loki lager from Shane and Gary Belcher (my vote for the best of the fest); Mark Locklear’s delicious white muscadine pale ale, fermented with Eastern North Carolina white muscadine grapes (for good reason, variations on “Where’s that muscadine tent?” were overheard more than once); the one-two punch of David Keller’s (Batdave’s Homebrew) Das Bat German pilsner and Bohemian Bat bohemian pilsner; and the tea-riffic Arnold Palmer from Xpress’ own Beer Scout Thom O’Hearn, part of a table full of hit-the-spot shandies.
But even with the warm weather, several creations outside those lighter styles made their mark, including the nicely balanced black walnut brown ale from Faith Faw and Rich Keen (the Faw-Keen Brewery); Adam and Missy Reinke’s earthy, peppery Just Beet It saison; and the subtly boozy Whiskey Halo, an accessible yet finely crafted barrel-aged rye pale ale from Wes Jones (Midnight Oil Brewing).
As a first-time Just Brew It attendee, the expansiveness was all a bit much to take in at first, but the atmosphere became more comfortable by the minute. Fortified by Mela’s lunch buffet and attempting to sample as many beers as possible – two sips were the ideal amount – generous pours from many brewers meant an unfortunate amount of product dumped in the liquid waste buckets placed at every tent, though no one seemed irked that their goods weren’t all reaching their intended destination.
Other than internal guilt over the waste, however, the afternoon was a practically ideal way to celebrate the creativity and camaraderie of Asheville-area homebrewers. It’s easy to see why so many people extol the festival’s virtues each year and keep coming back – both of which I plan to do from now on.