November 5, 2012

Asheville, NC: A Weekend of Craft Beer, Community, and Good Causes

One month into being an official Asheville resident, I've had the pleasure of attending a handful of craft beer events in the new town. It's fantastic to be in a place where craft beer is mainstream. More than that though, this is a town where the beer business is aggressively involved in the community. More often than not, these events are tied to good causes of one kind or another. What better reason to go out for a beer?

Here's a brief recap of a couple events from the weekend:

Wee Bit Louder Fest

The first annual Wee Bit Louder Fest was held this past Saturday afternoon at Highland Brewing Company. Highland took fan suggestions for naming the festival, the "plugged-in" counterpart to Highland's Appalachian Breakdown Festival held in the summer.

The event started outdoors, taking advantage of Highland's new outdoor stage and the warm fall afternoon.

We started out by going into the Highland tasting room to sample the famed Sierra Nevada Beer Camp brews. In anticipation of their new Asheville location, Sierra Nevada invited 14 Western North Carolina breweries out to Chico for Beer Camp. They divided to the breweries into groups and brewed two commemorative ales:

  • Beer Camp #81: "Headliner" - A dark ale, jet black in color, with a perfect balance between hops bitterness and roasted grain astringency. Full-flavored and surprisingly sessionable. (5.3% ABV, 53 IBUs)
  • Beer Camp #82: "Carolina Dreamin'" - A red "wheatwine," essentially a barleywine, but made with 50% wheat. A complex brew, hops forward, with some fruit and a resiny, alcoholic finish. Spices come out as the beer warms. Bitterness lingers for a minute, then finishes clean. (9% ABV, 41 IBUs)
Proceeds from the sale of these beers support The Abbey of New Clairevaux, a Cistercian monastery in California, and Community Table, a non-profit dedicated to eliminating hunger in Jackson County, NC. 

Highland makes it easy to support other causes as well: They encourage those who attend their free brewery tours to donate cash or food to Manna International, while Habitat for Humanity donation vouchers are available for purchase at the bar.

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We headed outside with beers in hand and walked around the brewery to the stage. People of all ages were enjoying the fall weather: babies, older folks, and everyone in between. Vendors, volunteers, and attendees alike enjoyed what might have been the perfect Saturday afternoon.

The lineup included five bands, and all of them except for the headliner were local acts:

Highland Brewing Company hosts frequent concerts, benefits, hikes, and more. Check their events calendar for the latest.

Hops & Vines 5th Anniversary Party

The Friday before Wee Bit Louder Fest, we visited Hops and Vines to help them celebrate their Five Year Anniversary. Hops and Vines is a wine, beer, and homebrew shop located in the trendy West Asheville side of town, right on Haywood Road and within walking distance of several restaurants and shops.

Hops and Vines has a stellar selection of craft beer, with selections from the likes of 21st Amendment, the Bruery, Bell's, Oskar Blues, and a strong number of regional breweries to round it out. Check out the full beer list here.

Pisgah Pale Ale and French Broad Brewery's Kölsch were on draft, plus a couple home brews (though the latter were tapped out by the time we got there).

100% of the proceeds from the event benefitted two local causes: The Animal Compassion Network, a no-kill animal rescue program, and the "Little Iron Man" Fund, which raises money for a local child battling a rare form of cancer.

The event was intimate, full of obvious craft beer aficionados and their dates. Everyone there was easy-going, but picking out a beer to take home was not. We eventually settled on Foret, an organic Saison from Belgian brewery Dupont.

Big thanks to the Asheville Ale Trail and their Weekly 6ix Pack for recommending the Hops and Vines event!

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