We got to Asheville on Tuesday afternoon. After checking into Sweet Peas Hostel, we walked up the street to Bruisin Ales for a tasting of Fullsteam beers. Founder and 'Chief Executive Optimist' Sean Wilson was on hand to do the pours. We ran the gamut, starting with Carver Sweet Potato ale, Fullsteam Southern Lager (their flagship beer), Working Man's Lunch (which Sean had us taste along with the moonpies that he brought, nice combination!), Hogwash hickory-smoked porter, and First Frost, a winter warmer brewed with persimmon. My favorites were the Fullsteam Lager and First Frost.
We walked around the city for a while after that, and man what a beautiful place. The big event for the evening was 'Caskageddon' at Barley's Tap Room. We got there early to have a bite to eat before delving into the drinks. The event featured Foothills bourbon barrel aged People's Porter, Mother Earth's Tripel Overhead aged with black pepper and cardamom, Big Boss Brewing's High Roller IPA dry hopped with Chinook hops, Duck Rabbit Milk Stout aged with Escazu chocolate, and Red Beans & Rice from Fullsteam. Red Beans & Rice was really smooth and sessionable and you could pick up just the right amount of each flavor. I found the hop bite of High Roller to be a little much, but I liked the flavor. I wasn't crazy about the Milk Stout with chocolate. Something seemed to be clashing a bit. Tripel Overhead was awesome, but my winner for the night was the People's Porter. Just the right amount of woodiness and alcohol bite to go along with the dark malts and subtle chocolate of the porter.
On an un-beer related note, on Wednesday morning we hit Early Girl Eatery and I had the best shrimp and grits I've ever had.
We walked around the town all day on Wednesday, stopping in shops and cafes, snatching up whatever we could afford and tasting anything we felt needed to be tasted. This included a stop at French Broad Chocolate Lounge for what they called a "liquid truffle".
Later in the afternoon, we stopped at 5 Walnut Wine Bar - yes, wine bar. But here's the deal, first of all, the entire front of the bar had huge open windows, so the bar became more of a patio, and the weather was beautiful, and second, the selection of beer at this wine bar was better than any regular bar back home. And arguably, it was better than some bars that claim to be "beer bars". The list included local beers from Pisgah Brewing, Green Man, Nantahala, Highland, and Catawba, plus bottled craft brews from Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues, Founders, Lagunitas, Bell's, Rogue, Avery, Stone, and Allagash. I had the Green Man ESB, which is probably the best ESB I've ever had. Here was the board...
On Wednesday night there was a New Belgium tap takeover at the Thirsty Monk, and I had the Vrienden wild sour ale collaboration with Allagash, brewed with hibiscus flower, brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and sauteed endives. They also had Avery Mephistopheles on tap, which I couldn't resist a 4 oz pour of.
We had breakfast again at Early Girl before leaving Asheville on Thursday morning, then headed to Charleston. We headed straight to Charleston Beer Exchange to get some growler fills for the beach house (picked up Grand Teton Persephone imperial pilnser and Grand Teton Coming Home holiday ale). The Persephone is delicious, possibly better than DFH's My Antonia, which I already really love. The highlight of the stop to CBX is finding Bell's Hopslam. Even without Brewvival, I think the trip was already worth it.
Needless to say, I've spent quite a bit of money on beer in the stores in Asheville and Charleston, but I feel it's justified by the fact that I got stuff that I can't get in Maryland. 5 boxes so far, and over $280 spent. Oops.
By the way, even the grocery stores down here carry beer. And not just any beer, I'm talking selections (in the case of Piggly Wiggly) that rival Dawson's shelves, for all you Marylanders. They even have a growler station in the Piggly Wiggly. I love my hometown, but when it comes to beer, I think I live in the wrong state.