Need a reason to wander out to Black Mountain for a brew, or two? Here are three:
One: Burnette’s Fresh Hop Ale, a pale ale made with fresh Nugget, Chinook and Cascade hops, grown by Van Burnette at Hops ‘N Berry Farm in Black Mountain. Pisgah used about 20 pounds of freshly harvested hops to produce 10 barrels of the ale.
Two: Vortex I and Valdez return for a short time. These two beloved beers, the first a highly hopped ale and the second a rich coffee stout, were specially brewed in small batches for the Pisgah crew to take to Denver’s Great American Beer Festival in September. Until then, they’ll be on draught in Pisgah’s taproom.
Three: Pisgah’s House Beer, Reserve, a Belgian ale with the crisp profile of a lager, brewed especially for their employees to drink. Now it’s also available in the taproom. Jason Caughman, co-owner of Pisgah, says it’s his favorite beer they brew.
Or so it seems. Why else are India Pale Ales the most consistently brewed craft beer? Lexington Avenue Brewery brewer Ben Pierson once told me that people like ordering beers by their initials. That may or may not be the case, but the good news is there’s another IPA in town for y’all to try. Craggie Brewing Co. has introduced the Herkulean, the brewery’s first IPA. It’s named for the German Hallertau Herkules hops used to brew it. This one will be dark for an IPA, according to Craggie, because they’re using chocolate rye malt, in addition to other malts. ABV is six percent. Quaff it at Craggie’s Public House and around town.
Construction on Highland Brewing Company’s new tasting room is chugging along, says Grant DaSantos, tasting room and talent manager. Highland hopes to open the room to the public by mid-September. They’re currently hanging acoustic sound baffles, getting the stage ready and installing taps. Highland will continue to be open to the public on Fridays from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m., but the new room will offer lots more space for mingling and a bigger bar and stage area. DaSantos notes that the field area will continue to stay open, weather permitting, and that Highland will continue to be a family-friendly brewery. “Some Fridays, about half the people here are kids,” he says. “We get them hopped up on soda before we send them home.”
The days when Asheville’s annual Brewgrass Festival offered the only opportunity for an afternoon of unlimited craft beer tasting in the region are no more. Not that Brewgrass isn’t still one of the best fests around, but thank Ninkasi (the Sumerian goddess of beer) we have even more options.
The next beer fest that’s (kind of) nearby is the Summertime Brews Festival on Sunday, August 14, at The Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro. Both Craggie Brewing and Highland Brewing will represent Asheville at the festival. Tickets are available for $30 in advance by visiting rock92.com. Just do me a favor and step away from the Bud Light Lime. It’s not a craft beer.
Then on Saturday, August 28, the Great North Carolina Beer Festival takes place in Tanglewood Park in Clemmons. You might even have heard of the featured band, Kansas. Yup, that Kansas — as in the ‘70s rock supergroup. Asheville breweries Craggie Brewing, French Broad Brewing, Asheville Brewing and Highland Brewing will all be on hand. It looks like about 30 breweries are participating, including a few not-craft breweries such as Heineken and Blue Moon. Tickets are $25. Given the variety of brews, plus aging rockstars, I’d say this is a deal. Tickets are available at greatncbeerfestival.com.
On Saturday, September 4, I might just hightail it to Boone for the High Country Beer Fest at the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center. This festival should attract around 40 breweries, including Catawba Valley Brewing, Highland Brewing and Craggie Brewing.
I like this event because proceeds will benefit the Watauga Children’s Council, as well as Appalachian State University’s Ivory Tower Brewery — the first nonprofit, educational brewery in the country. That brewery, once fully completed, will be run and managed by ASU faculty and students. The program includes courses on beer, brewing and the use of alternative energy to power a brewery.
I’ve tasted some amazing student beers from ASU’s spring beer course, and I’m looking forward to keeping an eye on this trend of educational breweries. Tickets for the High Country Beer Fest are $25 in advance and available at hcbeerfest.com.
Finally, the granddaddy of beer festivals cometh on Saturday, September 18. But more about Brewgrass later. Because, if you don’t already have your tickets in hand, you’re probably out of luck. Though, it seems that there are always a few for sale outside the gate. Just saying.