Asheville Beer Week gives local breweries a chance to collaborate and experiment with new and exciting brews, but specialty beer stores and growler fillers also step up with a wealth of unique offerings for festivalgoers.
Beer and wine store Appalachian Vintner hosts Sneak Peak Asheville on Monday, May 25, from 5:30-7:30 p.m., featuring free tours of Hi-Wire Brewing’s new 26,000-square-foot production facility in Biltmore Village. Affectionately dubbed the Big Top to match the brewery’s circus theme, the space is located just behind the store — so close that the two businesses have joked on Twitter about setting up a zip-line for easy access. The interior is still under construction, though, and a walk-through will last roughly 15 minutes.
At the store, special new beers will be for sale on draft including a barrel-aged imperial stout from Hi-Wire, New Belgium Brewing Co.’s Hop Kitchen Hop Tart — a dry-hopped sour ale that officially debuts in mid-June — and one of the latest creations from Highland Brewing Co.’s head brewer Hollie Stephenson. She’ll be at the Women of WNC Beer event at The Thirsty Monk, but other Highland representatives will be on hand at Appalachian Vintner to discuss their upcoming 2015 series, along with employees from the other two breweries.
On Wednesday, May 27, from 4:30-7 p.m, Appalachian Vintner keeps the good times rolling with rare and vintage offerings from Goose Island Beer Co., including bottles of 2013 Pepe Nero, Pere Jaques and Lolita, and kegs of 2013 Lolita, 2013 Bourbon County Barleywine and the new Illinois Imperial Double IPA.
Charles Alexander, who owns Appalachian Vintner with his brother Geoff, says he’s been saving the keg of Lolita since early 2013 and was inspired to feature it and other coveted Goose Island libations after last November’s outpouring of interest for the brewery’s Bourbon County Stout. For its Black Friday debut that year, more than 40 people lined up outside before the store opened, waiting to enjoy a vintage keg and both new and vintage bottles.
Two dry-hopped casks from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. will also go on draft periodically throughout the week, including beers produced by this year’s Asheville Brewers Alliance collaboration, which the Mills River brewery hosted. Hops and Vines likewise loops in Sierra Nevada when it holds a tasting on Friday, May 29, from 5-7 p.m. with area sales rep T.J. Gardner and brand ambassador Bill Manley, who helped develop the brewery’s new Hop Hunter IPA.
The latter brew will be passed through a deconstruction tasting kit, says Hops and Vines owner Alex Buerckholtz. “There are different hops in the beer and hop oils. [Gardner] has a kit where you smell different hops and pick out different hop aromas in the beer,” he explains.
Bruisin’ Ales will have one of the more coveted tickets of Beer Week when it hosts a 7 p.m. beer dinner Wednesday, May 27, at The Market Place. The event will be led by noted beer writer Stephen Beaumont, whose hand-selected beer pairings from the Bruisin’ Ales stock match chef William Dissen‘s menu. With each course, Beaumont will share tidbits of history, lessons on beer styles and tales of his travels — all while a different country’s beer is poured with every new dish.
“We have worked with chef Dissen before, but Stephen and William have not worked together before, so we’re very excited about this opportunity to put an award-winning chef with one of the world’s most prolific and well-known beer writers,” says Bruisin’ Ales owner Julie Atallah, who calls Beaumont “a rock star, but a very laid-back personality.”
On Thursday, May 28, from 5-7 p.m., Bruisin’ Ales will have a free tasting of Boulevard Brewing Co. beers, with insight from Michael Emrie, the Carolinas market manager for Duvel Moortgat, Boulevard’s parent company. The five beers to be poured showcase the range of Boulevard’s seasonal lineup, including the brand-new year-round IPA called Heavy Lifting that will arrive just in time for Beer Week.
New kids on the block
Down in South Asheville, Alan Lowe at Craft Room Growlers plans to have as many Asheville beers on tap as he can and will “offer deals on each and every one of them.” Half of CRG’s 24 taps regularly feature North Carolina establishments, with Twin Leaf Brewery, Wicked Weed Brewing, Hi-Wire and Highland frequently represented. In addition, the taproom’s weekly pint night spotlights Blind Squirrel Brewery out of Plumtree on Tuesday, May 26.
Lowe had barely been open three months for Asheville Beer Week 2014, but he saw a noticeable jump in business at the end of May and beginning of June, he says. Tasty Beverage Co. owner Johnny Belflower hopes for similar success when his South Slope store and taproom celebrates one month of operation amid this year’s festivities.
“I’ve been to several Asheville Beer Week events in the past but never for the whole week. I’m looking forward to actually being an active participant this year,” says Belflower, whose flagship store is in Raleigh.
For such a brand-new player on the local beer scene, Tasty is jumping right in with a Silent Disco with Oskar Blues Brewery (May 22), a reunion event with Stone Brewing Co. and Wicked Weed (May 25), a Meet the Brewer event with Nantahala Brewing (May 26), a session with Founders Brewing Co. and its brewmaster (May 27) and an event with Allagash Brewing Co. and Anderson Valley Brewing Co. that will provide limited kegs (May 28). Times and other details were still being ironed out at press time, but Belflower also expects to put any “special” kegs he’s been able to secure thus far on tap during week and mark down all Asheville beers in package by 10 percent.