CONFESSION TIME – HOPPY TALES

img_0829All right. I have a confession to make. I love beer.

Now that it’s out in the open, I can confess that not only do my husband Robert and I share a love of the suds, but we’re also homebrewers and seekers of other homebrewers turned into craft brew entreprenuers.

Let me clarify our love of beer. For us to love, truly love, a beer it must be robust and ‘hopping’ with flavor. India Pale Ale (IPA) that is strong in hops and in bitterness tops our list. But there’s nothing like a true Belgian with its high sugary notes in its finish. And then, finally, for my choice for dessert? A chocolatey, coffee-infused imperial stout. Yummy.

Craft breweries have become popular in recent years. One of the first, Sierra Nevada, began in Chico, California. I visited their restaurant and brewery in 1998–my first venture into the world of craft brewing. It was a nice site with the copper brew pots within view of our table. A tour followed lunch. I fell in love with their beers–always a good choice. Until the past ten years or so when other craft breweries began popping up all over the country.

Our home state of Michigan is becoming famous for their breweries in Marshall, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, and Holland. A few began popping up around the Pittsburgh area while I lived there. We even have a few recent start-ups in our small area in North Carolina.

 

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Andrews Brewing Company and Calaboose Wine Cellars

Hoppy Trout and Andrews Brewing Company are our favorites. Hoppy Trout was opened by a homebrewer, and everything we’ve sampled there is outstanding. Andrews Brewing Company – same thing. Plus they also make their own wine at Calaboose Wine Cellars. The setting is spectacular for listening to music and watching the sun set over the mountains and small vineyard on site.

 

It was only natural for us to seek out some other craft brewers on a recent trip to Blacksburg, Virginia. When we learned Sierra Nevada had opened a brewery two hours from us, we had to visit. We stopped at three breweries on our journey. First, near Hendersonville, North Carolina, in Mills River, we went to the recently opened Sierra Nevada brewery.

We drove up a long windy road, loving the scenery and the rural setting. At the top of the hill we looked down at the largest brewery–I’m not counting Anheuser Busch here–I’ve ever seen. Rows of buildings with smoke stacks spewed forth white clouds of steam and gleaming copper pots dominated the glass fronts.

At the end of the ‘mall,’ sat a restaurant and gift shop. A separate entrace swarmed with visitors lining up for the tours which required reservations. We searched for a parking space and finally found one in the furtherest parking lot from the restaurant entrance. I desperately tried to put this Disney-esque place in the same category as the restaurant/brewery I visited eighteen years earlier. The bustling restaurant with two bars, outside terraces, and a cavernous room with tables provided good food and outstanding beer, but it sure didn’t feel like a craft brewery any longer.

Then we visited the other craft brewer in town–Mills River Brewery. This place sat in a strip mall and was a simple tap room serving a few of their own brews, but also the brews of other craft brewers in North Carolina. They are small and new–opened ten months ago–and made a decent IPA, but they have a ways to go to compete with the more established places. We wish them good fortune.

The next day we landed in Boone, North Carolina, at Appalachain Mountain Brewery. There are several breweries in this college town, but we chose this one because their porter, served to us at Parsons Pub in Murphy, North Carolina, really impressed us. When I read about them on their website, my admiration grew.

Here’s their motto:

Appalachian Mountain Brewery’s mission is to sustainably brew high quality beer, support local non-profits and help our community prosper. Our mission is simple: sustainability, community and philanthropy.

The tap room is unpretentious and simple, but that’s not how I would describe the beer brewed there. I did a sampler and can attest to the high quality of product. The pub doesn’t serve food, but a food truck sits outside waiting to serve up a delicious snack. We ordered black bean tacos and cheese bread–perfect accompaniments to all that we tasted.

And best of all, we met the folks who work there and discovered they work there because of the values set forth by the owners. We chatted with Danny Wilcox, the director of retail operations, and he told us that the publicly traded company stands by their mission statement of sustainability, community, and philanthropy. In our troubled times, it is refreshing, and hopeful, to find a small business doing their part to help their community.

Appalachain Mountain Brewery sets a tone and a mood that inspires others to do more and reach higher. We raise our mugs and say, “Salud.” And also, filler up.

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We’ve taken a break from our homebrewing adventure while we moved and settled into our new routine. All of our brewing equipment is now in one place and very soon we’ll start up the boiling pots and fermenting pails. I’ll be sure to report on our first batch from Florida very soon. We need to get our holiday brews a’ bubblin’.

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