Sierra Nevada: Craft Beer Walt Disney World

The meaning of the word ‘craft’ in ‘craft beer’ is a never-ending discussion among beer folk. That’s partly due to the fact it’s most often discussed when people are drinking. No one knows when to shut up. It’s also because it’s something people are willing to believe is real without the parallel need to know exactly why one beer is “craft” and another isn’t. “I know it when I see it” is as much as anyone can really argue. Yes, there’s the Brewers Association (BA) definition, but that’s the outcome of a political process, not a statement of objective reality. And that’s not a criticism of BA. I don’t think they claim otherwise. If you’re going to form a club where you don’t want some folks joining, you’re going to have to have criteria. Otherwise, why have a group?

I had occasion to think about this during the 2015 Beer Bloggers & Writer’s Conference in Asheville, NC last month1. One of our activities was to go to the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s brewery just south of town in Mills River. It’s gorgeous; there’s no other word to describe it. It’s difficult to avoid a comparison to an attraction at Walt Disney World in Florida as you drive in. Don’t believe me? Check this out:

It’s not a theme park attraction, of course, it’s a working factory. And yes, breweries are factories. It’s not the way we like to think of them, but it’s what they are. It’s a place where raw materials are processed using semi- or fully-mechanized means that result in a packaged product suitable for mass distribution. Any beer that’s sold is the outcome of an industrial process that’s been refined and perfected over generations. There’s not much romance in that, but there it is.

It’s pretty clear that Sierra Nevada made the decision to build a brewery that could also be a showcase. Everything is labeled. All the production areas are visible behind glass or accessible by large groups of people (or both). It’s a working brewery, but it’s also meant to be seen. I had the opportunity to have an informal conversation with an employee who was involved in the process of bringing the facility to life. The conversation was interesting, but it really was informal and I don’t feel right quoting her directly because we weren’t explicitly on the record. Two things stand out in my mind, though. First, the company was very excited to be able to build a new facility from scratch. The original brewery in Chico, CA grew in bits and pieces as demand required. You can always plan for the future, but it’s always harder to expand an existing facility than build one from the ground up. The second thing is that a tremendous amount of work went into the planning. I don’t know this for a fact, but I have a feeling that somewhere there are storyboards that mapped out how the building and grounds were to tell the story Sierra Nevada wants to tell. That story includes beer, the company itself and its commitment to minimizing the environmental impact of a large industrial operation. It tells that story well.

Carla and I spend a lot of time giving money to the Walt Disney Corporation, so when I say there’s a Disney quality to the Mills River brewery, I mean that as a compliment. When a Disney property is really clicking for me, you experience the outcome of an excessive obsession to detail in both facilities and customer service. That’s what I saw at Sierra Nevada. I know, however, that calling something “Disney-like” can be considered a pejorative for some people. “It’s fake,” goes the thinking, “it’s the imitation of a thing and not the thing itself. Shock Top or Blue Moon or any of the other ‘crafty’ beers are the real beer Disneys.” That’s a discussion that goes beyond what I’m trying to write about here, but sufficed to say I know the mansion isn’t really haunted and it’s all fake, but I love the Haunted Mansion anyway. That’s how I can use Disney-like as a compliment.

So we’re on the busses heading down to Mills River from Oskar Blues in Brevard and I happen to be in the front seat of the lead bus. We arrive in front of the brewery and I get off the bus. There are a dozen or so folks on either side of the door inside and they’re clearly a welcoming line. A guy in blue jeans walks up to me and sticks out his hand and says, ‘Hi, I’m Ken Grossman. Welcome to Sierra Nevada”

I never really understood what it meant to “nearly plotz” until that moment. The founder of Sierra Nevada. Brewing legend. KEN frickin’ GROSSMAN is introducing himself to me! So of course my only response was to gurgle incoherently. I have a way with words. A really, really bad way. After everyone else on our bus had a similar opportunity to be star-struck, he proceeded to take us on a tour of the brewery. Then we went down to the river for a pig roast and a little oompah music. Sierra Nevada collaborated with Germany’s Brauhaus Riegele to produce a memorable Oktoberfest beer and the brewing team from Germany was there. A camera crew was also there. Here’s one of the things they put together from the footage. A disturbing number of the people in this spot are beer bloggers. 15-seconds of fame, baby:

I recommend the Oktoberfest, by the way. Marzens aren’t my absolute favorite style, but I enjoy them when the season rolls around. Brauhaus Rieglele’s recipe relies heavily on Steffi Malt which gives the beer a slightly lighter, sweeter character while still having good body and mouth feel. Steffi has been used in German brewing for decades, but it’s not as popular as it once was. Grossman said that they bought as much as they could get their hands on in order to make the beer for the US market, and that meant buying some of the malt from Riegele’s stock.

I like the video in that it shows Grossman’s easy-going demeanor. The quip about taking off the coat is a good example. They don’t explain it in the piece, but the day we were there was warm for Asheville, reaching the the mid to upper 80’s. The jacket is a German jacket that he’d admired when visiting the brewers in Germany when the collaboration was in the planning stages. It turns out that the Riegele brewmaster’s wife makes them, so Grossman and his son both ordered one. They were wearing them when we showed up to the brewery, but these are definitely cold-weather jackets. I’m surprised they lasted in them as long as they did. For the record, the Riegele brewmaster didn’t stay in his the whole time either.

Ken Grossman fixes door

So the Friday trip was great, but that’s not where my meditation on what puts the craft in craft brewing started. That had to wait until Sunday. We decided to go back to the brewery before coming back to Cincinnati. We wanted to try out the taproom and it’s less than five hours from Asheville to home, so it was a no-brainer. We get there, park and get in line to get a table. Our name is put in, and I’m sitting on a bench in the waiting area. I’m messing with my phone and suddenly I realize there’s someone standing in front of me. “Hey,” says Ken Grossman, “Did you have a good conference?” I think I was a little more coherent this time, but I still think of it as “Meeting Ken Grossman II: The Re-Plotzing.” Luckily, Carla came over and saved me socially, as she tends to do pretty much all the time. We make small-talk for a minute, then he heads to the front door to do what I’m pretty sure he walked that way to do in the first place. The front door was sticking and he noticed that people were having trouble getting in and out. So he went over to work on it. That’s him leaning over and holding the door as they try to figure out what’s binding things up.

And that’s when the light bulb went on. I have no idea how much money Ken Grossman is worth.  Lots. Probably more than lots. But he owns a brewery and when he saw something wrong, his first thought was to go over and fix it. Because the brewery is something that matters to him. I’m not saying that it’s the complete and total definition of what makes a beer a craft beer, but a good part of it is that at the top there’s someone there for whom the brewery is the thing. Throw a rock at any of the breweries in Cincinnati — and I’m definitely including Sam Adams in this — and you’ll find a focus on making great beer that starts at the very top. I vaguely know who the AB-Inbev CEO is.  I’m sure he knows something about beer and I’m sure he’s nice to his family and pets. I have no idea how long it’s been since he’s been in a brew house on two consecutive days from more than an hour each. In my mind, cluttered as it is, that’s what makes craft beer to me.  Do I know something about who is responsible for it being here? Is there an actual person behind it all? That’s important to me. That’s the craft.

And when we left the brewery that Sunday, the door worked perfectly.

1DISCLAIMER: To receive a discounted rate to the 2015 Beer Blogger and Writer’s Conference in Asheville, NC, we agreed to write two posts about the conference. This is one of them.

Traveling THURSDAY: Alltech Craft Brews and Food Fest

With all the craziness I’ve been dealing with earlier this week, I forgot to get this information out for a Traveling Tuesday so instead here’s our first ever Traveling Thursday. We went to last year’s inaugural Alltech Craft Brews and Food Fest and really enjoyed it. A previous commitment is preventing us from attending this year, but if you are looking for a weekend getaway, we highly recommend Lexington.

Grab your sampling glass and get ready – 180 beers brewed by 51 breweries from across the nation will be on tap at the Alltech Craft Brews and Food Fest this Saturday, May 16, from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Lexington Center’s Heritage Hall. The beerfest is one of the largest in the region and is even doubling its floor space this year, boasting local food, craft distillers, live entertainment and sensory sessions. The Alltech Craft Brews & Food Fest will serve as one of the culminating events for the third Annual Lexington Craft Beer Week May 9-17, a celebration of Lexington’s craft beer culture.

The day will kick off early for go-getters with the inaugural Horse Capital Marathon and Half-Marathon, the only marathon in the state of Kentucky. Alltech just signed on as the title sponsor of the race, which starts at Fasig-Tipton thoroughbred auction firm in Lexington and winds its way through horse country. It is the first full sanctioned marathon in Lexington since 1980 and a Boston Marathon qualifying event. Kentucky Ale® brews will be served at the finish line.

The fun continues at the Alltech Craft Brews & Food Fest downtown, with a total of 52 special tappings occurring every 15 minutes from each brewery for specialty and collaboration brews, including brews such as Country Boy Brewing’s Warehouse Experiment 3, Sweetwater Brewing Company’s 18th Anniversary Cork and Cage Belgian Tripel, and a barrel-aged collaboration between Dogfish Head Brewing Co. and Alltech Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co. A full list of special tappings is available at

Rare brews, including some not yet distributed in Kentucky, like Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing and Cigar City Cider & Mead, will also be on tap – including the company’s highly regarded Jai Alai IPA and Cowboy Dan’s Holiday Extravaganza, a cider that tastes like caramel apples.

Alltech Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co. will feature multiple rare brews from the brewers’ warehouse including a limited edition Kentucky Kölsch aged in apple brandy barrels; Kentucky Blue Ale, a Belgian ale accented with blueberries; and Kentucky Honey Barrel Brown Ale, a popular past winter seasonal. The brewery’s new summer seasonal, Kentucky Old Fashioned Barrel Ale, modeled after an Old Fashioned bourbon cocktail, will also be on tap.

For the first time, the festival will also include craft distillers from across Kentucky, including Limestone Branch Distillery, Lebanon; Barrel House Distillery, Lexington; Copper and Kings, Louisville; Willett Distillery, Bardstown; The Gentleman Distillery, Paris; and Town Branch Distillery, Lexington. Distillers will offer spirits samples for tasting.

Onsite food vendors offering samples and meals for purchase include Claw Daddy’s, The Village Idiot, Enoteca, JDI, Noodles & Co., The Cheezy Mac, Dupree Catering, Popcorn Paradise, COVAP Ham and The Sweet Spot.

Keeping the environment lively throughout the day will be a range of live music from The Bohannons, Willie Eames, Patrick McNeese Band, Josh Nolan, and The Marble Creek Rangers.

The recipient of the Alltech Commonwealth Cup, will be announced at the festival, and staff from the Alltech Brewing & Distilling Academy will be onsite offering sensory sessions. The Alltech Commonwealth Cup, now in its second year, is the only professional craft beer competition in Kentucky and is open to both local and global entrants.

The Alltech Craft Brews & Food Fest serves as a kickoff for the Alltech REBELation, an international event exploring innovation, inspiration and world-changing ideas in Lexington, Ky., USA, from May 17-20. The conference features a Brewing and Distilling symposium, which begins on May 18 and will feature Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery, Greg Koch of Stone Brewing Co. and Bill Samuels, Jr. of Maker’s Mark. Registration is open to the public and available at

Brewfest tickets can be purchased online for $30 until Friday, May 15 at midnight, EDT or can be purchased at the door for $35. All tickets include 20 beer samples, three food samples, a commemorative glass and free entertainment. Designated driver tickets without beer sampling privileges will be available online and at the door for $10. Attendees must be 21 to enter.

Join the conversation on Twitter about the Alltech Craft Brews & Food Fest using @alltechbrews and the hashtag #AlltechBrews, or on Facebook at

Alltech Lexington Brewing

Field Report: Fireside Pizza & Old Firehouse Brewery

There’s something about firehouses and beer.  Maybe because there’s such a love affair between firefighters and beer. Whatever it is, the Tri-State is gaining two new better beer locations that are based in old firehouses. Carla and I had a chance last Saturday to check them out.  Here’s what we saw.

We started out in Walnut Hills at Fireside Pizza. It’s the old Fire Co. 16 firehouse that fell into disrepair after it was retired from service. The folks behind Eli’s BBQ are also behind this venture.


Fireside Pizza Exterior
Fireside Pizza’s firehouse exterior
Detail of the painting on the interior wall of the resurrected firehouse
The custom draft tower
The custom draft tower
Interior of FIreside Pizza.
Interior of FIreside Pizza.

One of the neatest touches is the custom draft tower built out of an old fire extinguisher. This shot shows the branded tap handles in place, but they’ve already been replaced with matching metal handles. The regular handles will be displayed high behind the bar so it’s easy to see what’s on tap. There are only four taps, but bar manager Stephen Hunter plans to rotate them quarterly as well as keep an extensive bottle collection in stock. The taps will always be craft beer and the prices are very, very competitive. The pizza was great. The vibe is light and airy. I have a feeling we’ll be there a lot. They’re currently in a soft-opening stage and the formal grand opening is September 27, 2014

We really enjoyed the part of the afternoon we spent there, but we had another mission:  Old Firehouse Brewery in Williamsburg, OH. First on our list?  Figuring out where the heck Williamsburg, OH is. That part was simple (not that any part of this got all that complicated). Get on OH 32 going east and go about 13 miles past I-275. Exit off the main road and follow the signs to Williamsburg. When you start thinking you need to start looking for Sheriff Andy and Deputy Fife, you’ll know you made it. Except Mayberry never had anything quite like Old Firehouse Brewery. Barney’s aim would have been even worse.

Old Firehouse Brewery exerior
The outside of Old Firehouse Brewery

If you’ve never been out to Williamsburg, go. Go now. For those of us who live south and west of downtown it’s a long haul, but it was worth it. To say Old Firehouse Brewery celebrates firefighters is sort of like saying people in New Orleans are a bit fond of Mardis Gras. Just about every inch of the place is decked out in firefighter memorabilia.

Old Firehouse Brewery interior
The Old Firehouse Brewery has an open, comfortable, come-sit-a-spell vibe. And we did.
Old Firehouse Brewery lights
I’d like to start the rumor that these lights will go off if you’ve had too much.

Owners Adam Cowan and Lori Ward along with their kids and Lori’s mom Mary were all working the afternoon we were there. It’s definitely a family affair. It was real easy sitting at the bar sampling the beer and talking about beer, breweries we’ve come to love, small towns and community. Chief Brewer Ben Ramsey was finishing up for the day and was kind enough to give us a sample of the Porter he was in the process of carbonating. It was outstanding.

Old Firehouse Brewery brewhouse.
Where the magic happens.
Old Firehouse Brewery stein
I’m not quite sure I’ve ever seen steins quite this nice that I didn’t immediately buy. I’ll make up for that oversight the next time we’re out there.
Old Firehouse Brewery logo
Rescue me. Please.

The people of the east side have much to rejoice about with the addition of Old Firehouse Brewery. And so do the rest of us. It’ll just take us a bit longer to get there.


Fireside Pizza
773 E. McMillan St.
Cincinnati, OH

Old Firehouse Brewery
237 W. Main Street
Williamsburg, OH 45176

Past Due Beer Review: Sebago Bonfire Rye

Well… I’m writing again, which I suppose is a start. It took months of prodding, some beer and an unreasonable amount of patience on Tom and Carla’s behalf, but I picked up the computer.

So onto the beer!

Bonfire Rye by Sebago Brewing Co.

Sebago Bonfire Rye

Sebago Brewing is based out of Gorham, Maine so this is really more of a beer tease unless you summer in New England.

First impressions are a deep copper color that was pouring clear until I hit a bit of sediment in the bottom of the bottle. It has a nice tan head with small bubbles that linger. There was also a big whiff of hops that I wasn’t expecting from a beer named “Bonfire” although in hindsight the words, “Rye Ale Stoked With Hops” on the front of the bottle probably should have had some bearing on my expectations.

It has a crisp rye aroma that is packed with citrusy hops and a hint of caramel. Hmmm…  smells light and refreshing but still not quite getting “Bonfire” branding.


Big rye flavor, nice and dry, with a big citrus hop profile and a punch of roasted malt (Oh there you are Bonfire!). Usually when I’m sitting around a bonfire I’m holding a glass of a nice stout, maybe a porter, a winter warmer, or an old ale but usually the malt is the main player and the hops are often left out in the cold. The touch roasted malt plays well with the hops and give this hoppy rye beer a nice Autumnal twist.

HOMEBREWING SIDEBAR: This beer actually reminds me a lot of a beer I brewed. It was an aggressively hopped ale which was supposed to be pale but the couple ounces of chocolate malt I tossed in at the last minute turned it into a roasty American brown ale.

Over all, it’s a great beer and a good excuse (not that you really need one) to bring the hops fireside.

If it sounds good and you aren’t planning a trip to Maine anytime soon, hit up your local beer store and grab some American style brown ales to try and see if you can find some fire friendly hops.



Passages into the Past: Photographing Cincinnati’s First Brewing Era

The buildings that remain from Cincinnati’s brewing heritage have faced hard times along the way.  Luckily investors and concerned citizens of Cincinnati have realized the importance and potential of these former brewing facilities

The former Christian Moerlein bottling facility is one example, having been struck by a four alarm fire in 2010. There were fears that the historic building may have met its fate.   With the damages repaired, there have been talks over the past several years of converting the building into anything from condominiums to the maintenance garage of the future street car.  As reported in the last few weeks, however, this former brewery building is returning to its beer roots and will soon be home to the Rhinegeist brewery.

Door leading to the former Christian Moerlein Bottling Company which will be home to Rhinegeist, returning the building to its brewing heritage.
Door leading to the former Christian Moerlein Bottling Company which will be home to Rhinegiest, returning the building to its brewing heritage.
The bottling facility was once home to K-D Lamp Company.
The bottling facility was once home to K-D Lamp Company.


A shot of the Moerlein building from the alley leaves you feeling as if the building has been left nearly untouched from its heyday though the building was struck by a four alarm fire in 2010.
A shot of the Moerlein building from the alley leaves you feeling as if the building has been left nearly untouched from its heyday though the building was struck by a four alarm fire in 2010.

The resurgence in brewing in Cincinnati and interest in revitalizing the city’s city center, especially the Over the Rhine section, has given the homes of our city’s brewing heritage a new lease on life.  This will hopefully allow for us to proudly showcase our past while growing into an exciting future.

Passages into the Past: Photographing Cincinnati’s First Brewing Era

Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine neighborhood is one of the most interesting and beautiful neighborhoods to photograph.  The turn of the century architecture as a whole is amazing and the buildings definitely have a story to tell;  from the materials the buildings are made of to the ornamental touches carved into the stone or wood. 

The Sohn-Clyffside brewery on McMicken is a great example of story telling via architectural design.  The symbolic representation is boldly visible by reliefs built within the structures façade. 

The Sohn-Clyffside Brewery on McMicken Avenue
The Sohn-Clyffside Brewery on McMicken Avenue

The brewers star sits high atop the building.  There are many variations behind the meaning of the star, but it is popularly believed to symbolize the purity of the beer brewed.  Another thought is that the six points represent six critical items required in beer making (water, grains, malt, hops, yeast, and the brewer). 

The Brewers Star situated at the top of the Sohn-Clyffside Brewery
The Brewers Star situated at the top of the Sohn-Clyffside Brewery

Though the brewers star may not be clearly understood by most, the second relief showing two cherubs holding what appear to be glasses of beer, a grain shovel, a mash paddle and aging barrels should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that this was a brewing facility.

(Photo courtesy of Joe Blank)
Sure signs of this building’s former life. (Photo courtesy of Joe Blank)

Sometimes, though, things may not be exactly as they seem.  With breweries changing hands multiple times or additions to facilities as operations grew, markers showing a year may not be when the facility as a whole was originally opened.  The 1887 marker on the Sohn-Clyffside building shows the date that portion of the building , the brew house (also known as the Sohn Building) was constructed, the original facility was opened in 1845. 

Date marker towards the center of the Sohn-Clyffside building.  But what does the date represent?  Years marked on buildings may not be from the original inception of the company, but an addition to.
Date marker towards the center of the Sohn-Clyffside building. But what does the date represent? Years marked on buildings may not be from the original inception of the company, but an addition to.

When exploring the city, take a look around and you may just be surprised at the stories some of the city’s oldest “residents” may have to tell.

Passages into the Past: Photographing Cincinnati’s First Brewing Era

[Carla and I are thrilled to welcome Jessica Huff Blank as our newest contributor. Some of us take pictures, but Jessica is a photographer who has a deep interest in beer (yes, she’s a homebrewer) and history. It’s a good combination. Along with her husband Joe Blank, she’ll be exploring the area and … well .. I’ll let her explain… — Tom]

Today Cincinnatians are fully embracing the recent boom in locally-brewed beer of places such as Rivertown Brewing, Listermann’s/Triple Digit, Mt. Carmel, 50 West and Blank Slate. The Moerlein Lager House just celebrated a successful first year in business. Several more microbreweries are yet to open in the coming year or so. The idea of Cincinnati being a beer town may be a new concept to some, but this is actually a rebirth of our city’s great brewing heritage.

Prior to Prohibition, Cincinnati was a major player in the brewing world boasting over 30 breweries being operational at one time. Breweries, bottling facilities and ice houses dotted our city’s landscape with the majority being located in the Over the Rhine section of Cincinnati. Because of Prohibition, the brewing industry here took a big hit and the breweries slowly ceased operations. As the facilities closed, many of the buildings fell victim to demolition. Some, however, did survive and are once again being used for various stages of the brewing process. Others that survived are barely hanging on and may also soon be lost. You may pass some of these buildings on a regular basis and not realize what was contained within their walls.

Combining our interest in Cincinnati’s brewing history and our hobby of photography, we hoping to document the sites of former breweries and treat it like a photo journal of what our heritage represented and where the resurgence is rooted.

In coming posts we will be showcasing the remains of these one time breweries individually. For now, though, we will leave you with a sampling of what Cincininati’s heritage has left for us to remember.

Jackson Brewery Door
Door at the Sohn-Clyffside Brewery


Hauck House
The steps leading up to the Hauck House on Dayton Street’s ‘Millionaire’s Row.’
Red Top Brewing Co.
The words originally where “Red Top” is now? Probably “John Hauck.” That’s how the brewing industry has always been. It’s always changing
Moerlein Alley
The alley by the old Moerlein bottling building. Soon to be the home to Rhinegeist Brewing. See what we mean about change being constant?


Bellvue Brewing Dock Door
A dock door at the Bellevue Brewing Co.




Traveling Tuesday: Asheville, NC Part 1

I had the pleasure of spending a couple of nights on a business trip in Asheville, NC. It just so happened to be located exactly in the middle of the two locations that I needed to visit so it seemed in the best interest of the company that I minimize my gas consumption and maximize my time by staying in Asheville. It’s a new concept that I’m looking to trademark called “Brewsness Tripping”. The definition of which is, “Utilizing work necessitated travel to hunt down every local brewery and beer not available in your permanent place of residence.” I’m pretty sure it will catch on.

I’m going to attempt to break the trip down into three parts and cover the 6 local establishments that I visited.

Part 1

Greenman Brewery

Tucked away on an unassuming street in a business district you can find Green Man Brewing. Despite it’s location it’s only about 1/2 mile from  downtown Asheville. This is a cool little brewery with a pretty decent tap list. They have about 5 house taps and 10 guest taps available.

This place has a slight British pub feel and seems to cater to local soccer and sports fans who love a good pint of beer. There is a nice patio area and it’s open to pets as well. The bar is directly attached to the brewery and the beers are quite good. The ESB in particular is very tasty with a malty body rounded out by a nice hoppy bitterness. If you are looking for nice laid back place to have a great pint of ESB then Greenman is a can’t miss in Asheville.


Thirsty Monk (Downtown Location)

Thirsty Monk is best described as the kind of place that if I lived in proximity to it would account for a large portion of my monthly beer expenditure. This bar / brewery / restaurant has two floors. Upstairs is the American Craft Beer Bar and downstairs hidden away like a well kept secret is the Belgian Beer Bar. Between the two floors there are more than 62 continually rotating draft lines and according to their website they tapped 1075 beers in 2011!





When I visited in June it just so happened to be sour beer week and my sampler was quickly filled with relatively exotic Belgian sour beers that I had never tried. The beer list is dizzying and it’s a bad place to be indecisive, but if you are having a hard time choosing the bartending staff was very helpful. It’s no wonder that this place was rated as Ratebeer’s #45 best beer bar in the world and listed as one of Draft Magazine’s Top 100 Beer Bars in America.

Needless to say the beer experience is one that should not be missed but what about the food? I had the Highland Mocha Stout Beef Sliders topped with poblano relish and white cheddar cheese. Everything is a take on the classic “Bar Food” but it’s bar food on flavor steroids with nice presentation as well. Yum!






Thirty Monk is now a can’t miss for me when I visit Asheville again and my current favorite beer and food location in the Asheville.

Stay tuned as I attempt to put together parts 2 and 3 of my Asheville visit.




Follow me on Twitter @jrodwhalen

Beer Bloggers Conference Random Thoughts

The Beer Bloggers conference is in the process of wrapping up. I’m writing this as a session is underway. It’s a good session, but it’s covering a lot of stuff I’ve heard before.  So I’ll blog.  I don’t think I’m the only one in the room doing that. So here are some of my off-the-cuff impression of how we spent our weekend.

  • I think you’re going to see things on Hoperatives that will track back to this weekend. If there was a theme to the weekend that kept coming up over and over, it’s storytelling.  Since that’s a passion of mine, it was great to hear.
  • The big thing with a conference like this is a chance to sit down and talk with folks from around the company who have the same obsessions you do. Most blogs are local or regional like Hoperatives, so we get to talk shop and compare notes about our respective areas.
  • Playing off that last point, we’re really lucky in Cincinnati.  I’ve been shocked to hear about the sniping and junior-high level crap that happens among brewers and blogs and bars in other cities.  It’s not like that never happens in Cincinnati, but by-and-large we have a great beer community.
  • On the same topic, it’s been great to hang with Tom Aguero from Queen City Drinks.  We’ve known Josh for years, but had never really had the chance to get to know Tom.  I wish Joe from Empty Growler could have made it, but he had something like 30 music festivals to be at this weekend.
  • There was really very little about the mechanics of running a blog.  That’s how it ought to be because the vast majority of the attendees are already running a blog. Sessions were mostly centered on beer education or ways to extend into new types of contents.
  • Compared to two years ago, the conference has really raised its game. The sessions were really quite good and we stuck to the schedule pretty well.  Transportation worked well. The keynotes?  Awesome.  I’m now a confirmed Garrett Oliver fan, and Randy Mosher is a pleasure to listen to.  Not a wasted sentence and those sentences could go just about anywhere. He just pointed out that the Sumerians invented light beer.  And look what happened to them.
  • This was the first one of these held east of the Mississippi and Indianapolis did a great job. It’ll be interesting to see where the next one is going to be.
All-in-all we had a great weekend.  God willing and the creek don’t rise, we’ll be at the 2013 version.


Live Beer Blogging

[So about this post.  One of the annual features of the Beer Blogger’s conference is the Live Beer Blogging session. 11 Breweries. 5 minutes per brewery. There’s usually a brewer there to talk about the beer, and just when the conversation is getting good, they have to move on the next table.  It’s a speed beer tasting. Kind of dumb if you think about it, but if you don’t think about it much it’s a lof of fun. The problem was that I’m sitting there trying to take notes and I accidentally post the unfinished draft. What can I say? I was drinking at the time.  Carla got pictures of each of the bottles and I’ll add those in later. You’ll notice that there’s only 10 listed here.  I think we ended one brewery early, or someone got lost before they got to our table. What can I say, everyone was drinking.

This session came right after Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn Brewery gave a most wonderful keynote. I’m still processing what he had to say because there was a lot of wisdom in his talk. Silly fun like Live Beer Blogging is just that — silly fun.  But I’m glad I came to be able to hear folks like Garrett Oliver and hang out with fellow bloggers. It reminds me why this is all worth it.]

Flat12 Bierwerks — Pogue’s Run Porter

Lots of coffee/roast on the nose and on the back end.  Lots of depth.  Some of the first stuff off their bottling line. Reminds you of a coffee porter.

Triton Magnificent Amber

A hoppy, malty Amber.  Uses Cascade and Amarillo, two of my favorite hops. Lots and lots of flavor.  Glad to know they plan to come to Cincinnati.

Three Floyd’s ArticPanzer Wolf.

Simcoe and Bravo bittering and then dry-hopping in their 9% hop bomb.  A nice sweetness on the backend.  A bit of pine and a bit of of citrus.

New Belgium Shift

A great session beer.  A nice lager with a nice hoppy finish.

RAM Endgame Russian Imperial Stout

This is a thick, dense beer.  Lots of roast, chocolate and coffee.

Boulder Hazed and Infused

A classic. Hoppy goodness

Karl Strauss Wreck Alley Imperial Stout

Lots of coffee on the nose and cocoa nibs on the tongue.  Smooth and light-bodied

Schlafly American IPA

Another of the beers with dry-hopped Cascade, Amarillo and Simcoe. Yummy.

Barley Island Damien Belgian Golden Strong Ale

Very sweet. Almost a candy sugar finish. Have a feeling this one can sneak up on you.

Fountain Square Workingman’s Pilsner

Clean and drinkable with a rounder finish rather than that nice little bite you often get from a pils. Really works.