Admit it, you guys missed me! I was away on vacation last week. I was on an epic baseball and beer road trip. If you follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Swarm, and/or Untappd I hope you enjoyed the ride with me.
The first stop was Yards in Philadelphia. As we pulled into the parking lot you could smell the malt, and let me tell you it was glorious! We split a flight of their Signature Ales and Ales of the Revolution. English Mild is one of my favorite styles and I really enjoyed Brawler. In a theme that would continue throughout the trip, the IPA was a traditional East Coast IPA with plenty of nuttly and bready English malt flavor to go with the American hop flavor. We enjoyed several more of these as we closed the hotel bar.
We were at Citizens Bank Park last Wednesday for the Red Sox/Phillies game. If you saw the game on TV the experience at the ballpark was more cold and miserable than it looked. Troegenator Double Bock, with it’s big malt flavor and full body was an ideal choice given the conditions. After the game at McFadden’s Pub inside the ballpark I enjoyed a Yuengling Lager; I was in Pennsylvania after all; while my beer girl had a Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Some people will never consider Yuengling “craft beer”, but have it and a Sammy back-to-back and they taste more similar than you would think. Another example of always checking your preconceived notions.
Our next stop was Asheville, NC which in the past has been voted “Beer City USA”. We hit has many spots as we could in just one night. Green Man ESB might be the best American-made ESB I have had. The IPA had a similar English influence and reminded me a lot of Yards IPA. We then had some fine beers at Burial Beer Co and Hi-Wire Brewing. The stand out brewery in Asheville was Wicked Weed, particularly their sour beers at the Funkatorium. It reminded me of some of the stuff Night Shift does, but much better. I wish we had more time to spend at the Funkatorium, but in trying to get to as many places as we could we only made it about a half an hour before closing. It was a beautiful night to enjoy an immensely walkable downtown. It is a lovely place to visit. Being in the Blue Ridge mountains, it is especially nice for folks who enjoy the outdoors.
The next morning we stopped at Appalachian Vintner to pick up some local brews and beer we can’t get at home. We were able to grab Bells Oberon, Appalachian Mountain Brewery Black Gold Porter, NoDa Hop Drop and Roll, Westbrook IPA, One Claw rye ale, and the highly sought after Gose, The selection was overwhelming. There were displays for prominent breweries like Bell’s, Allagash, and New Belgium. There was an entire wall to imported beer featuring almost every prominent beer from Belgium, Britain, and Germany; an entire wall of local beer from the Carolinas; and another wall with craft beer from across the US broken up by region.
We then had lunch at one of Asheville’s original craft beer bars, Barley’s Pizza and Taproom. The owner sat next to us at the bar and we chatted about how when he opened in 1994 there we no craft beer bars and the only widely available craft beers were Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams. They started with only nine beers on tap and have expanded to 40. Barley’s offered flights and we were able to try several beers from breweries we didn’t have time to visit. As much fun as it is to visit breweries, going to a beer bar like Barley’s where you can try various local beers all in one spot.
The overwhelming choices at Appalachian Vinter and the amazing food and beer at Barley’s made us miss our scheduled tour of Sierra Nevada’s new brewery in Mills River. We were ambivalent at first because brewery tours tend to be kind of similar. As a homebrewer it can be tedious to hear a tour guide explain to novices how beer is made. When we made it to the brewery I immediately regretted missing the tour.
The place is massive. I could barely fit it in a panoramic photo. Everything about the facility is immaculate and earth-friendly down to the recycled cardboard pens. I am sure it would have been a fascinating tour. I didn’t see anything super rare at the brewery except a Bigfoot vertical featuring six vintages of the beer. I passed on paying $25 for a six-pack. Andy and my beer loving team leader have since ridiculed me for that decision. There is an excellent gift shop and gastropub at the brewery. We had time to sample a couple of flights before we had to leave for our next stop.