Traveling Tuesday: Sun King CANvitational — Indianapolis, IN

We were fortunate to attend the first Sun King Brewing CANvitational in Indy this past weekend.  Jason from Hoosier Beer Geek graciously invited us to come over and, better yet, gave us a couple of tickets to give away. Jenny Hilgefort was the lucky winner chosen at random from those who commented on the post announcing the giveaway. We ran into her and her honey at the festival. We were all having such a good time we forgot that a picture of our winners would have been nice. 

It was a beautiful day and a great location. Georgia St. in downtown Indy has been renovated so it’s easy to turn into a pedestrian plaza. Here you can see the tents set up on the left side. There were some tents in the center, but there was a lot of space off to the right if you wanted to bypass the crowds to get from one end to the other.

Location Overview

Here’s another view a little later with setup well underway. We go to a lot of these things and it’s hard to imagine one that’s easier to access during setup and tear down.

Setup

As is the case for most events, there was a VIP tasting hour that was much less crowded than later in the day. It did get crowded later, but it was never overbearing by any means.

Early Crowd

One thing that was nice is that the portions being poured were definitely tasting portions. Even if you asked for your “mug” to be filled, it was just a small pour.  You could try a lot of different beers and still be OK. The event was also a good length.  It ran from noon to 5PM. The phrase that kept going through Tom’s head all day was “human-sized.” There was a lot of variety, but it wasn’t overwhelming.

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The point of the event was to celebrate craft beer in cans. Sun King was one of the pioneers of the practice that’s becoming more and more common among craft brewers all the time. Here are offerings from Tin Man Brewing Company in Evansville, IN.  They’ve been open since last November and are starting to be distributed around the state. There were several breweries (Tallgrass from Kansas, Marble from New Mexico, Baxter from Maine, Cigar City from Florida, SanTan from Arizona) that aren’t distributed in Indiana, much less Ohio or Kentucky, so it was a real treat being able to sample stuff we normally can’t get.

Tin Man beers

You never know what the last weekend of September is going to be like.  The weather was nice, but it got warm if you were out in the direct sun. Not to worry, there were plenty of cans — of course — of water on ice free for the taking.

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Another nice touch the organizers came up with was leaving a large area for mingling and socializing at the west end of the festival area. It was shady for much of the day and there was a stiff breeze.

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All in all this was a well-organized festival that we hope will become an annual fixture. You never know how things are going to go the first year and Sun King seems to have done everything they could to make sure the first year was a success. Next year we hope things work out for  MadTree, Rhinegesist and other Cincinnati breweries to be represented.

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[Obligatory disclosure: we attended the festival using free media passes. They were given to us with no conditions attached.]

Giveaway: Sun King to host CANvitational – Sept. 28th

What’s better than a Hoperatives Traveling Tuesday post? A Hoperatives Traveling Tuesday post that’s also a giveaway! Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that canning beer is big in craft beer right now and one of the first breweries to can in the Midwest was Indianapolis’ Sun King Brewing Company. The fine folks at Sun King are taking their love of canned craft beer one step further by hosting the inaugural CANvitational, the Midwest’s first-ever canned craft beer festival, on Saturday, September 28th.

CANvitational

The Sun King CANvitational will be held in downtown Indianapolis on Georgia Street and Pan Am Plaza from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. More than 30 craft breweries representing 16 states are participating including Great Crescent Brewery of Aurora, IN and West 6th Brewing Company of Lexington, KY. (As of now, MadTree Brewing is not listed as participating. We will check on that.) Tickets are $50 for general admission and $75 for early entry. You can purchase them at www.canvitational.com and check out the complete brewery list. You can also reserve a room at CANvitational’s partner hotel the Omni Severin Hotel. We’ve stayed there many times and it truly is a wonderful hotel.

In addition to great, canned craft beer, attendees will have plenty of food options for purchase from food trucks that will line Georgia Street, as well as a tent with options from the Omni on Pan Am Plaza. Music will be provided throughout the event by DJ Helicon and DJ Action Jackson.

“We’re incredibly excited to share the beers from these breweries with attendees, especially considering that most of the breweries’ beers aren’t available in Indiana or in many cases outside of their home markets,” said Sun King owner Clay Robinson. “We’ve assembled an all-star lineup of canning breweries from all over the country and our goal is to showcase the great craft beer that is driving the canned craft beer revolution!”

Thanks to our friends at Hoosier Beer Geek, we have two tickets for CANvitational to giveaway to a lucky Hoperatives reader. To enter, answer this question in a comment to this post: What is your favorite craft beer available in a can? Be sure to enter your name and email address when you post so we know how to contact you. Also, comments on Twitter or Facebook will not count. You have to comment here on the web site. This giveaway will end Sunday, September 15th at 11:59 pm. and we will use Random.org to choose the winning comment. If we do not hear back from the winner within 24 hours of notification, we will pick another winner.

Traveling Tuesday: Blue Stallion Brewing – Lexington KY

This past weekend, we decided to use some hotel points we had saved up and get the hell out of Dodge for a while. We didn’t want to spend the whole weekend driving so we ended up just south of Cincinnati in Lexington, KY. We only had vague ideas for possible things to do since we tend to get to Lexington frequently, but we knew there was a new brewery in town – Blue Stallion Brewing Company.

Blue Stallion Sign

Blue Stallion is located at 610 W. 3rd St in Lexington (not far from West Sixth). The banner sign on the side of the building reminds you that they have only been open since July of this year.

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As you enter, the front room is divided into several areas including a seating area with art work from the featured artist of the month, a billiards room, an area for darts farther back and another area with couches grouped together in front of a wall covered with old horse shoes. Up the stairs is another seating area with high top tables and another couch.

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The bar area has more seating, a garage door that goes out to the patio seating area and a view into the actual brewery.

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And what a beautiful brewery it is. The copper tanks are about 20 years old. Blue Stallion was able to purchase them from a brewery in the Detroit area. They are truly gorgeous.

Blue Stallion - Tom at Bar

Word of warning – The bar at Blue Stallion is incredibly tall. How tall? Tom’s 6′ 4″ and look how far his feet are from the floor in that photo. The bar stools are extra tall too and it can be an adventure getting seated. Pro tip: Because of the sloping floor, the seats on the side aren’t as tall so you don’t feel like you’re sitting at the kids table at Thanksgiving as much.

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The beers are really nice. You can make your own sampler with each 5 oz. glass being just $1.75. They were just getting in their beer flight holders last weekend. When we were there, they had their own German Pilsner, Smoked Lager, Schwarzbier, Scottish 70 Schilling, Wee Heavy and Hefeweizen. Previously, they had a Dunkel and a Maibock that were apparently huge hits. Just about everyone who walked in asked if they had one or the other on tap. As you might guess, they plan to stick to traditional German and British beer styles. Jim, one of the owners, told us that they want to stick to “very drinkable” beers. They also carry guest taps like Country Boy Cliff Jumper & Cougar Bait, Sweetwater 420, Founders Red’s Rye and Bell’s Two Hearted.

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Now, one thing has already changed in the short life of Blue Stallion Brewing. The pilsner glass above actually has their old logo on it. They had to change it because someone complained. Not another brewery. Believe it or not, the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau claimed that Blue Stallion’s standing blue horse facing left looked too much like theirs, even though Blue Stallion’s horse had a jockey on it.

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So the new Blue Stallion logo has a running blue horse facing right with a jockey on it. Personally, we like the new logo better, but the change means that Blue Stallion is currently out of logo wear. So be patient!

It appears there’s space in the building for expansion with a bottling or canning line, but that’s just an observation on our part. They’ve only been open for a couple of months so right now the emphasis is clearly on keeping up with local production and keeping the quality high.

We had so much fun at Blue Stallion tasting room on Saturday that we went back on Sunday. They have food trucks there almost every night that they’re open and they post the schedule on their Facebook page. As always, we recommend stopping by in the afternoon when it’s less busy and you can talk to the folks pouring the beer and your fellow patrons. If Lillian is working, tell her that Tom and Carla sent you!

Traveling Tuesday: The Old Dublin Pub – Wallingford, CT

If you even find yourself spending an evening or two in Wallingford, Connecticut, the first thing you’ll want to know is where you might find a decent pint. Well, actually, I guess you’re probably first going to want to know exactly where Wallingford, CT is and why in the name of Charlie Papazian’s Benevolent Beard anyone would go there.

As to its location, if you were to look it up in some sort of magically map image made up of pixels made up of electrons (like this) you’d see that Wallingford is one of those little cities between two other places that you always wonder about while expressway road tripping from Point A to Point B. More specifically, Wallingford is somewhere in Connecticut, south of Hartford and just north of New Haven.  As to why you might go there, I can’t really venture a guess. It’s not exactly a Travel Destination. I had to go there a couple of times this spring on business. But for someone who’s not me, like, say, all the rest of you, the only other reason I can think to go would be the Old Dublin Pub.

I generally try not to be too fanboy-ish about a  place I’ve only been once or twice.  I mean, let’s be honest, even an airport bar can have a good day every now and then.  But I’ve been to the Old Dublin on two separate occasions, spaced roughly a month apart, and I don’t know how else to put it: if I lived near anywhere the Old Dublin, it would be my regular, home pub.

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Look! The bar! And the first of many taps!
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More Taps!
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Yes, three shots just to get all the taps. Blame my phone.

I say that for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, the Old Dublin’s atmosphere is exactly what  I’m looking for in a place to hang my hat for a bit and quaff a pint or two.  It’s darkish and full of warm wood but doesn’t feel like you’re trapped underground in preparation for a role as a dwarf in next Hobbit movie. Second, the place is equally inviting to first-time customers as everyday regulars.  And, oh, does the place have regulars.  As I said, I’ve only been there twice and I recognized several people the second time around.

Now, I know what’s going through your head.  “Puddin,” you think, “every place has some sad, lonely barflies that have exactly two friends in the world: the beer in front of them and the bartender that served it.” And, sure, the Old Dublin probably has some of those.  But the regulars I saw came in mostly for a couple of pints, some friendly conversation, and maybe a round of darts.  They were met like Norm from Cheers and sipped their pints while comfortably chatting about the everyday with other patrons.

Even more impressive, that goes for everyone there. I found myself drawn into several conversations in the brief time I spent there, and usually when I visit someplace alone I’m about as likely to join in a discussion with strangers as I am sing a karaoke rendition of, well, anything.

I found the tap selection impressive both times I visited, especially for a smallish local pub.  As you can from the pictures, they have quite a few handles and nary a single one from the Big 3. What you probably can’t see from the pictures (well, unless you get all squinty) is the fairly even distribution of regional beers with national ones.  Guinness, Bass, Newcastle, and Sierra Nevada stood next to taps from Bluepoint Brewing and Back East Brewing.

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A sampler of four 6-oz pours for $7.

 

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That’s a mess of bangers and fries. I surely didn’t go hungry.
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You can always tell good beer bar…
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…by the glassware. The Old Dublin has glasses…
…perfecly suited to the brew of your choice, from a Belgian to a blonde ale.

Are there better places to enjoy a beer in the world?  Maybe. Are there better places in Wallingford, CT? I highly doubt it.  Either way, for my money, if you’re looking for a comfortable pub to enjoy an evening of a excellent beer, tasty pub food, and even better people, I don’t know that’ll find anyplace more welcoming than the Old Dublin Pub.

Of course, whether or not you want to go to Wallingford, CT is something I’ll have to leave entirely up to you.

Pud’n

Traveling Tuesday: Phantom Canyon Brewing Company – Colorado Springs, CO

Late this summer I took a backpacking trip through Colorado and eastern Utah, hitting up points of interest like Arches National Park, Canyonlands NP, Mesa Verde NP, and the ‘million dollar highway’ along the Rockies through central Colorado.  On my way back to Denver, I stopped in Colorado Springs for a quick lunch and some much needed liquid refreshment.  I thank the fine folks at Phantom Canyon Brewing Company for overlooking my scraggly beard, slightly funky odor, and wilderness-worn hiking clothes…all of which, I suppose, passes for ‘business casual’ in outdoor-loving Colorado.

The brewery and pub is located in what looks like a recently revitalized area of Colorado Springs, which is about an hour and change drive south of Denver. A door into the production facility was open, making the whole street outside smell of sweet, mashing grain.

 PCBC has a wide selection of beers that rotate regularly. They were happy to let me sample anything and even encouraged it for some of the more interesting offerings.

After 5 days of eating canned, boxed, cured, and other non-perishable foods, a great pub salad was in order. The hefeweizen dressing was fantastic.  They also offer 10 ounce pours (I love it when brewpubs do this), so I was able to try a couple different beers and still be more than fine to finish the drive back to Denver.

 The historic building was once a hotel, so it’s very open on the inside.  The 2nd floor has an incredible billiards hall (so sorry the photo I took didn’t turn out), and the 3rd floor is a banquet hall.

Happy Travels!
-John

Traveling Tuesday: Downtown Grill & Brewery – Knoxville, TN

Since it’s after Labor Day, and I guess we’re not allowed to wear white anymore, or whatever, I figured it was time to finally bring my series of summer vacation adventures to exciting new better beer locations to a frothy conclusion.  And I have saved the best for last.

As I’ve said before, I’m not a big believer in subjecting children who generally have trouble sitting still for half an hour to 12-hour cars rides.  Trust me, no one wins in those situations.  So, on our way home from our stay in Myrtle Beach, my wife, kids, and I stopped for an overnight stay in Knoxville, TN.  We almost had our hotel room given away, had some pretty decent pizza, and got to see the Sunsphere and World’s Fair park downtown.

That turned out to be more convenient for me than hot running water, because I’d had designs on stopping at the Downtown Grill and Brewery the whole time.

We arrived just about noon on Sunday, and the place was in full-tilt brunch mode.  We’d eaten breakfast already, though, so we got a sampling of appetizers – yes, obviously including the obligatory nachos – and I sampled a few of the brews.WP_000116

The nachos were tasty, and the While Mule Ale and the Woodruff IPA were awesome and both very clean. I enjoyed the IPA especially, as it leaned more toward the English variety of the style, which I tend to prefer.

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Downtown Grill and Brewery has two floors, with two distinct bars and dining areas. On the first floor a square bar takes up the center of the floor space, with dining arranged on both sides. There are more tables directly above the ones on the first floor, on balconies that overlook the central bar. In the rear of the second floor, though, is a relaxing lounge area with the second bar, pools tables, couches, TVs, darts, etc.

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Without question, DG&B was my favorite better beer stop of our vacation.  The beer was great, the place is housed in an old building with plenty of character, the people were incredibly nice, and the second floor lounge is the kind of place I could see myself spending hours and hours just hanging around with a bunch of friends and a few pints.  If you ever find yourself in Knoxville, definitely check the place out.

Oh, and if you get a chance, try the brunch menu.  The stuff looked good enough to steal from your wife’s plate.

Pud’n

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

http://greenmanbrewery.com/

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.

 

Cheers!

-Jared

Follow me on Twitter @jrodwhalen

Traveling Tuesday: Salud Beer Shop (Charlotte, NC)

Early in July, my son Caleb and I took a short weekend trip down to visit my sister Katie and brother in law Jay in Charlotte North Carolina.  As we discussed what we planned to do over the two and a half days, Jay, who has a taste for better beer, mentioned that some of his co-workers were involved in a new beer store that opened in Noda (Charlotte’s Historic Art District).  As it doesn’t take much more to get me to go someplace other than saying the words “good” and “beer” in close proximity, I was ready to jump in the car and head down to Noda. 

Salud Beer Shop sign

What I found when we got there was a pretty cool little place unlike anything I have experienced at home.  Salud Beer Store was a comfortable little establishment with leather furniture and a circa 1990 television and original Nintendo greeting you as you enter.  Lining both walls are shelves and shelves of better beer from all over the country.

Salud Beer Shop shelves

Not only does Salud boast an excellent selection of bottle beers, they also have a modest growler station that constantly rotates different delicious offerings to partake while you are hanging out or to take home in your favorite growler.  The staff is friendly and just about everyone is from Cincinnati believe it or not.

Salud Beer Shop

After trying a Rein Pale Ale by North Carolina Brewer Olde Mecklenburg and a Madrugada Obscura – Dark Dawn by Jolly Pumpkin, I sampled the Hop Flood by Evil Twin Brewing from the growler station.  And since I was like a kid in a candy store, it was only fair that my sister took my boy down the street for some frozen yogurt while his father and uncle sampled what Salud had to offer.  Before heading out we picked up a variety of other beers, many of which I have never seen at home, and we headed to the pool to enjoy the rest of our short vacation.

Salud Beer Shop beer

So next time you find yourself in the Charlotte area, make sure you pay Salud a visit.  Besides that, the Noda area seems like a pretty neat part of town to check out while you are there.

Salud Beer Shop beer and glass

Traveling Tuesday: Liberty Taproom and Grill – Myrtle Beach, SC

When the family and I were staying in Myrtle Beach proper last month, I was a little concerned about my brew-seeking options.   Let’s face it: it’s a pretty touristy area.  And when I think “tourist trap”, the last thing I typically expect to find is a solid beer venue.

So I was generally happy when I read about the Liberty Taproom and Grill.  While it’s not a brewpub, it part of the same group that owns New South Brewing, which supplies the 7 “Liberty” styles sold on tap here.  And those make up only a fraction of the 36 available taps, so there are plenty of solid craft brews available (including, at the time of my visit, Stone Arrogant Bastard, a personal favorite).

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Theme alert: Look kids, Lady Liberty…in glass!
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Theme alert, redux!
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From left to right, Liberty Nut Brown, Red Rocket, Belgian White, and IPA. Now, I swear there were five of these. Hmmm…somebody must have stolen one
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Here’s one bank of taps…
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…ooo! Look, here’s another.
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Ok, so the place looks a little “PF Chang meets TGI Friday’s”. But the beer options totally make up for it

Admittedly, the Liberty Taproom and Grill is a lot different from my first stop on vacation, Asheville Brewing Company.  The latter is as small and independent as a place can be while Liberty is clearly one piece of a regional chain.  But you know, what?  The beer was fresh and local, the food was good and there were no shortage of craft brew options.  Oh, and the growler of IPA I took back to the hotel didn’t last long either.  My only real complaint is that they didn’t have T-shirts which thwarted my plans to get a shirt from every place we stopped.

The point here is that, while Myrtle Beach isn’t a place known for its craft brewing options, a believer in better beer could do a lot worse than bellying up to the bar at Liberty Taproom and Grill.

Pud’n

PS: The pizza is pretty darned good too.

Traveling Tuesday: Asheville Brewing Company, Asheville, NC

The road was a long one.  The Puddinette and I and all four of the puddinlings piled into the Family Truckster one bright, warm Tuesday morning two weeks ago, and bid farewell to la casa de Puddin for the week as we headed out on our Great American Family Summer Road Trip.  Some hours later, after leaving the relative familiarity of Kentucky behind, we crossed Tennessee’s harrowing mountains, and finally arrived in Asheville, North Carolina.  We secured our room for the night, wandered the massive gardens of the Biltmore Estate, and then, finally, turned our attention to a much needed dinner.

Of course, since I was tasked with scoping out food locations in each of the target cities throughout the trip, it should come as no surprise that we, um, miraculously ended up at the Asheville Brewing Company.  And, thinking ahead, I made sure to take plenty of photos while we were there so we could share the experience as a Hoperatives post.  Unfortunately, though, I ended up taking some of the worst Traveling Tuesday pictures of all time.

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If I hadn’t taken this picture in the dark, you could see how simple and unpretentious the place seems from the street.

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The pub has an eclectic feel to it, which seems to match the patrons.  I dig the sun-flare logo.

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The obligatory tap shot.  Mmm…beer.  I had the Red Light American Pale and Old School British Pale, and both were very tasty.  Left to my own devices, I would have stayed for much longer and enjoyed several more beers, and probably a good dose of people watching.  Sadly, the following morning included a long drive to the beach, so I let the Puddinette and the kids drag me back to the hotel room.

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I really wanted to get one of these filled with tasty beer, but in the immortal words of the Rolling Stones, you can’t always get what you want.

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If this wasn’t The. Worst. Photo. Ever, you could totally see the really cool decorative wall hangings (err…whatever…I don’t know what you call them) of several of the Asheville Brewing Co. beers.

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The Nacho Daddy (with chicken) was awesome.  Thirty seconds after this pictures was taken, nothing remained on that platter but tumbleweeds and a few lonely black beans.  And I can’t even tell you what happened to the pizza.  That kind of decimation is just…just…too awful for words.

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I decided that henceforth, whenever I visit a brewpub while traveling, if the place is cool enough to recommend/advertise, I’m getting a shirt as a souvenir.  See my new shirt!  It’s okay to be jealous.

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It was only after buying it that I realized my new shirt came with an awesome quote from Hunter S. Thompson, whom I idolize, you know, a little.  Obviously, this made it my new favorite shirt.

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One of the neatest things about the place is the huge outdoor seating area next to the brewpub.    And believe it or not, the patio was packed on a Tuesday night.  Oh, and did I mention they had hula hoops out there to mess around with?

The Asheville Brewing Co. is a fun, eclectic place with both really tasty brews and food.  If you every find yourself in Asheville, NC, I highly recommend stopping in for a pint or three.

And maybe bring a photographer.

Pud’n