Loving cups: Asheville area breweries and beer services celebrate Valentine’s Day

SWEETHEART OF A DEAL: Thirsty Monk quality manager Jeremiah Tracy, far right, leads a past installment of the bar's monthly Monk Beer Academy series. The Feb. 13 edition centers on beer and chocolate pairings featuring French Broad Chocolates. Photo courtesy of Thirsty Monk

Asheville-area restaurants are sure to be popular destinations on Wednesday, Feb. 14, as people celebrate Valentine’s Day. Combining the allure of a night out with their own distinct products, multiple local breweries and beer-related services will also offer special one-night events, matching their beverages with a variety of food options.

Sweets and drinks

Thirsty Monk gets a head start on the holiday with its monthly Monk Beer Academy class on Tuesday, Feb. 13, at 7 p.m. at its Biltmore Park bar. Led by quality manager Jeremiah Tracy, the event centers on beer and chocolate pairings from French Broad Chocolates, a union he feels combines the idealized romantic notion of receiving confections on Valentine’s Day with the community’s passion for the robust local brewing industry.

“There’s so many different types of beer and so many creative chocolates out there, and beer sort of has the intensity to stand up to a lot of chocolates because of the carbonation, which wine doesn’t necessarily have a lot of times or spirits certainly don’t have,” Tracy says. “The other big thing is you get sort of crossover, interesting flavors from a lot of dark malts. … We’ll probably only include one or two dark [beers] in the pairings, but you do get those crossover chocolatey, roasty flavors.”

Thirsty Monk uses French Broad Chocolates’ cacao nibs in its Brother Noah Belgian-style Chocolate Stout, which will be on the menu. Otherwise, Tracy’s goal is to include styles that people might not expect would go well with chocolate, potentially a sour or hoppy selection.

“I’m really going to be relying on the expertise of the French Broad chocolatiers to help me sort through the catalog and narrow down the choices and find things that will work well with the beers,” he says. avl.mx/4lc

On Valentine’s Day itself, Highland Brewing Co. will offer a paired flight of its beers and French Broad Chocolates. A special holiday beer made with the local chocolate and bergamot will be on tap, and there will be additional French Broad Chocolates offerings, flowers from Flora Asheville and heart-shaped pizzas by Tin Can Pizzeria for sale. The tasting room’s walls will be also covered in paper hearts available for writing valentine love notes.  avl.mx/4lh

Elsewhere, Catawba Brewing Co. turns to a different corner of the dessert world by collaborating with the Asheville-based Baked Pie Co. On Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. in the brewery’s Rickhouse bar at its Banks Avenue location, four pairings of pies and Catawba beer will be available for $30. avl.mx/4ld

Big meal deal

For the second installment in its three-month Winter Beer Dinner series, held Feb. 14 at 6 p.m., Twin Leaf Brewery and Smash Events draw inspiration from Valentine’s Day, French cuisine and The Beatles’ Love album.

“We’re putting the finishing touches to the menu, but a few examples are ‘Glass Onion’ (French onion soup served in individual glass dishes), ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ (steak au poivre with a brandy sauce, new potatoes and watercress), and ‘Savoy Truffle’ (house-made chocolate truffles),” says Nestor Teran, executive chef and owner of Smash Box Mobile Kitchen.

Dishes will be offered a la carte or as a full five-course menu, and each item will be paired with a different Twin Leaf beer. The brewery will be decorated for the occasion with flowers and other holiday-appropriate items. avl.mx/4le

The same night, Oskar Blues Brewery in Brevard meshes the talents of its brewers and CHUBwagon food truck chefs for a five-course meal. The evening begins at 6 p.m. with passed hors d’oeuvres and smoked cured salmon crostini paired with Pinner Throwback IPA, followed by a warm kale salad with wheat berries and Mama’s Little Yella Pils. Next up is braised short rib with mushroom risotto and Dale’s Pale Ale.

The fourth course matches Bourbon Barrel-aged Ten FIDY Imperial Stout with either grilled pork chop with Ten FIDY onions, blue cheese herb butter and bacon, smashed fingerling potato and asparagus, or a vegetarian option of grilled vegetable Napoleon with Ten FIDY onions, smashed fingerling potato and asparagus. The finale is a Death By Rum Cake and Rum Barrel-aged Death By Coconut Irish Porter.

“Our lead brewer, John McGreggor, will be leading everyone through the meal and the beer pairings,” says Aaron Baker, marketing manager of Oskar Blues Brewery North Carolina. Tickets are $130 for couples and include music from the Charlotte-based folk band Sinners and Saints. “There just might be some slow dancing by the end of the night,” Baker adds. “Fingers crossed.” avl.mx/4lf

Yet another spin on Valentine’s Day dinner comes from the Brews n’ Butts tour service, which offers a mobile experience Feb. 14. Pickup will be at 7 p.m. in the rear of the Sears parking lot behind the Asheville Mall, at which point the tour guide will give attendees a few local breweries from which to choose.

After a 45-minute visit at the first brewery, participants will return to the bus for a catered family-style barbecue supper from chef Hewitt Emerson, served atop the vehicle’s long center table. The first round of the two-course meal — composed of a total of three meats, three sides and dessert — will be served on the way to the second brewery, with the final dishes made available on the ride back.

Tickets are $69 per person. A second ticket is available at half price as well as four tickets for the price of three, plus an additional drink voucher for each person. Roses will be provided, and vegetarian options are available by request. avl.mx/4lg


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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for ashevillemovies.com and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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