March 25, 2015

Review: Hi-Wire Single-Hopped Simcoe Session IPA

Hi-Wire Brewing has been absolutely killing it since they opened two years ago. Their taproom is always busy, they recently announced the location of a new production brewery, and the beer's good. Really good.

It seems like not so long ago that 40 IBUs was pretty standard for an IPA. These days, if an IPA doesn't wreck your palate, it isn't hoppy enough. Hi-Wire's Single Hop Simcoe Session IPA, on the other hand, is well balanced at 40 IBUs & 4.8% ABV, so the 22 oz. bomber won't knock you out.

The brewers did a great job executing the Simcoe hop flavor, which can easily be overdone. Balance, according to Hi-Wire co-founder Adam Charnack, is head brewer Luke Holgate's hallmark, and I have to agree. In this beer, those Simcoe hops give this beer an expertly restrained grassy, herbal flavor, supported by soft, sweet malt in the background.

So what else might Hi-Wire be working on?

When they open their new facility (which could be as early as this summer), the current brewery will remain a creative outlet for some of the more adventurous beers they like to make. Examples might include beers like their dry-hopped Belgian, brewed with SouthYeast yeast harvested from a local nectarine, Riverbend malt, and El Dorado hops. Or maybe more hop forward beers like Maneater Double IPA. And seeing as this single hop beer was labeled "Vol. 1," hopefully many more expertly crafted single hop brews will be coming down the line soon.

October 29, 2014

Wicked Weed/New Belgium Collaboration Benefits the French Broad River

A new collaboration between Wicked Weed Brewing and New Belgium will benefit WNCA’s French Broad Riverkeeper, a program which works to preserve the environmental integrity of the French Broad River in Western North Carolina. Wicked Weed, a fast-rising star in the Asheville beer community, and New Belgium, which is building a new brewery on the banks of the French Broad, will release "Tributary", an Imperial Brett Saison, on November 15th.

The beer will feature malts from two up-and-coming craft malt houses: Asheville's Riverbend Malt House and Colorado Malting. It is also made with a combination of yeasts from both breweries, sugar beets, Mosaic hops, and an experimental, yet-to-be named hop.

“The local brewery scene in Asheville is so vibrant,” said Alex Dwoinen, New Belgium’s Asheville Brewing Manager, about the partnership. “We’re excited to be involved with Luke, Walt and their team with this collaboration.  The experimentation they do never ceases to amaze me.”

The full press release can be found below.

October 22, 2014

CiderFest Returns to WNC

Cider fans will soon gather in Asheville to celebrate one of the fastest growing segments of the craft beverage industry: hard cider. After a very successful 2013 event, CiderFest NC returns to Western North Carolina on November 2nd, 1pm-5pm. The cider festival will be held this year at the WNC Farmer's Market at 570 Brevard Rd.

In the US, the hard cider market has grown exponentially, tripling in production between 2011 and 2013. Locally, the cider industry is also growing rapidly. Noble Cider recently announced expansion plans, while newcomers Black Mountain Cider Works and Urban Orchard Cider have joined the party in the last year.

This year's CiderFest will host at least 16 different hard cider companies, including several local and regional cideries, plus a handful from as far away as Michigan, Vermont, and even Spain! The following cideries have been confirmed:
  • Naked Apple Hard Cider (NC)
  • St. Paul Vineyard (NC)
  • Black Mountain Ciderworks (NC)
  • Windy Hill Orchard & Cider Mill (SC)
  • Bull City Ciderworks (NC)
  • Fishing Creek Hard Cider (NC)
  • Urban Orchard Cider Co. (NC)
  • Noble Cider (NC)
  • Three Sisters Cidery (NC)
  • Bold Rock Hard Cider (VA)
  • Red Clay Ciderworks (NC)
  • Sourwood Brewing (NC)
  • Blake's Hard Cider (MI)
  • Woodchuck Hard Cider (VT)
  • McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks (NC)
  • Bereziartua (Spain)
In addition to hard cider, CiderFest attendees will have the opportunity to sample cheese and other artisanal foods. Non-alcoholic cider will also be available.

All proceeds from the event will support the WNC Green Building Council. Tickets can be purchased at for $30. Kids and young adults 20 and under get in free.

It's apple season in the mountains! (image via WNCGBC)
Two happy cider fans (image via WNCGBC)

October 8, 2014

Sylva, NC: Heinzelmännchen Brewery

As you're driving across western North Carolina this fall, enjoying the changing colors, consider stopping in Sylva, North Carolina. This small town about an hour west of Asheville hosts one of the oldest craft breweries in the area: Heinzelmännchen Brewery.


Before there were Wicked Weed, Hi-Wire, or even a notion of New Belgium opening a brewery in Asheville, there was Heinzelmännchen. Husband and wife team Dieter Kuhn and Sheryl Rudd opened Heinzelmännchen Brewery in 2004, survived the Great Recession, and are now poised to expand their brewery and become a serious player in the regional beer market.

The Brewery

The current brewery is located at 545 Mill Street in downtown Sylva, a town of fewer than 3,000 people. Though Sheryl and Dieter have become well-known entrepreneurial figures in the area and regulars come in on a daily basis, the brewery relies heavily on tourist traffic from out of town. Dieter spoke fondly of a pair of friends who came through Sylva when the brewery first opened ten years ago. They’ve stopped in every year since when they pass through for their annual camping trip, and now bring their kids along as well.

German-born Dieter Kuhn has personally run the brewhouse for the past ten years, specializing in well-balanced, German-inspired ales. Many of Dieter’s recipes are influenced by the old style of brewing in Germany, where each village would have its own brewery to service the local population. In addition to a rotating line-up of 8-10 draft taps, Heinzelmännchen also serves two homemade soft drinks -- a root beer and a birch beer -- which are popular with the kids.   

The Beers

Among the beers I tasted on my visit were Roktoberfest, a rich, toasty, malty-sweet festbier, and Ancient Days Honey Blonde Ale, a pale, lightly-hopped blonde ale made with locally-sourced Catamount honey. The honey contributed a spicy complexity to an otherwise straightforward beer. All of the beers were well-balanced, though Dieter makes a couple IPAs for the hop heads, including Orange Blossom Imperial IPA and Gnarly Gnome, a 7% ABV Black IPA.

Future Plans

Having established themselves in WNC, Sheryl and Dieter have reached the limits of their current space and are planning a new production facility just down the road in Dillsboro. The new, 30-barrel brewhouse will increase production significantly, enabling Heinzelmännchen to put their beers in cans and bottles, thereby reaching droves of new customers.

The Heinzelmännchen expansion will have a significant economic impact on the surrounding area. The new space will have room to serve up to 144 people, creating a good number of local jobs. The new brewery will occupy an abandoned rail depot, offering an opportunity to revitalize an older part of town. To finance the project, Sheryl and Dieter have begun raising money through a crowd-sourced funding campaign, in which supporters earn rewards for their contributions. Some of the higher-level gifts can be split among a group of supporters.

Aerial concept of the new Heinzelmännchen Brewery.

As Dieter puts it, Heinzelmännchen has been developing the customer relationship “one glass at a time.” That customer-oriented business-style and economic investment will surely have a positive impact on the brewing industry of WNC. 

The future home of Heinzelmännchen Brewery.