June 30, 2012

Nashville, TN: Craft Beer Bars and Brewpubs in Music City

Next stop after Asheville: Nashville!

Often times when you talk about Asheville people think you say "Nashville" and vice-versa. But where Asheville is Beer City USA, Nashville is undeniably Music City USA. It's an important distinction when comparing the two cities on the craft beer spectrum, but still, Nashville has plenty to offer the craft beer lover, and the options are quickly increasing. It just helps to know where to look.

When I lived in Nashville, Yazoo Brewing was about the only spot on the map. It's still the big contender in Music City, and I definitely recommend stopping by their taproom. Their Imperial Smoked Porter, a beer named Sue, is a must-try.

For this visit, however, I wanted to highlight a few spots around town that might carry Yazoo as well as some other local and regional beers.

June 21, 2012

Asheville, NC: Riverbend Malt House

As reported by the New York Times just last week, small-scale, artisanal malting facilities have started to pop up around the United States. A direct off-shoot of the craft beer explosion of recent years, these malt houses are capitalizing on a surging interest in locally-produced ingredients.

Passing through Asheville, NC, I met up with Brent Manning and Brian Simpson of Riverbend Malt Housea young company producing hand-made, artisan malts from locally-grown barley, rye, and wheat since 2010. Not only does Riverbend work with local farmers to source their grains, they are using traditional floor-malting techniques to resurrect a craft hundreds of years old. Brian and Brent are dedicated to creating a sustainable business and to using organic and non-GMO ingredients as much as possible.

Riverbend Malt House is well-situated in Asheville, with some 15 breweries and brewpubs in the area and more on the way. Add to that the fact that Asheville has either shared or won outright the title of Beer City USA for the past four years. It's the city with the most breweries in the U.S. per capita and the future home of three big-time operations from the West Coast. Being a craft beer locavore, I was interested to see how Brent and Brian had come into this line of work and excited to learn about a day in the life of a maltster.

June 19, 2012

Charleston, SC: Closed for Business

After depositing our spoils from CBX, Cristina and I strolled up King Street to see what other Charleston beers we could find at Closed for Business.  Featured as one of Draft Magazine's Best Beer Bars of 2012, this pub has 42 taps, including select craft beer from across the country and many of the local drafts.  All the beers are available in 10 oz., 16 oz., or 1-Liter servings, and you can also fill up a growler to take home.  Food-wise, Closed for Business prides itself on buying local, sourcing from producers such as Ashley Bakery, Bell Honey, Fresh Pickleworks, Mepkin Abbey, and a number of local farms.

We walked in and started with some Crispy Green Beans (with homemade ranch), a Holy City Weak Sauce Stout, and a Coast HopArt IPA.  The beers were both good, but those green beans were killer...

June 14, 2012

The Charleston Beer Exchange

The Charleston Beer Exchange ought to be a certified craft beer Mecca -- any beer fan passing through the area MUST make a stop here. From the top regional brews to the most obscure beers from around the world, CBX has just about every kind of craft beer you can think of, and then some. They've got hundreds of bottles and cans, more or less arranged by region, plus nine taps at the growler station that change on a regular basis. Stay up to date with what's on tap here.

June 13, 2012

Charleston, SC: Westbrook Brewing Co.



The first stop in Charleston -- literally, the very first stop -- was Westbrook Brewing Company. We were on our way to a dinner, but since I happen to be half-Westbrook myself (mother's side), we just had to visit.

June 11, 2012

Alpharetta, GA: 5 Seasons Restaurant & Brewery

I've been hitting the road pretty hard lately; now it's time to get caught up. This is post #100! Here goes!

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For my first brewpub adventure of this state-side road trip, I decided to check out 5 Seasons Restaurant and Brewery. There are three locations in the greater Atlanta area: Westside, Sandy Springs, and Alpharetta. My girlfriend and I went to the Alpharetta location for their weekly Cask Ale tapping (every Thursday at 5:55pm), but also because of the 5 Seasons philosophy that focuses on buying local ingredients and using what's in season:

"At the 5 Seasons we source much of our produce and meats from local and sustainable farms when they are in their peak of flavor.  That is what we call the '5th Season.'  From these wonderful ingredients we prepare a plethora of specials every day."

June 7, 2012

Back in the USA!

USA Craft Beer Map from SwiftMaps.com
After about four months of living in Panama, I am back in the USA for a month to visit friends and family.  I intend to take advantage of this time back in the Southeast to check out some cities both new and familiar, to visit as many breweries and brewpubs as I can, and of course enjoy some great beer and food.

Naturally, about the first thing I wanted to do was go to the good old American grocery store and survey the beer aisle.  (Insert songs of heavenly angels here.)  The selection!  The variety!  Renowned beers from American breweries coast to coast!  IPAs!  I restrained myself and did a build-your-own six pack of some more or less regional beers:

  • Red Brick Hoplanta (GA) - "Hoppier than a bullfrog with a stubbed toe!"
  • Sweetwater Georgia Brown (GA) - "Smoother than a Bill Clinton apology!"
  • Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale (DE) - "A cross between a Scotch Ale, an India Pale Ale and an American Brown, Indian Brown Ale is well-hopped and malty at the same time (It's magical!)."
  • Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA (DE) - "60 Minute IPA is continuously hopped -- more than 60 hop additions over a 60-minute boil."
  • Sweetwater Exodus Porter (GA) - "First brewed on Bob Marley’s birthday, this Legend-ary porter initially delivers distinct irie hop notes which transcend into rich waves of chocolate, creating a multidimensional taste experience!"
  • Abita Jockamo IPA (LA) - "The flavor is bold like the Mardi Gras Indians who march through New Orleans in suits of feathers and beads."

Let this mark the beginning of an excellent state-side adventure!

Beer, glorious beer!


June 6, 2012

Costa Rica: Treintaycinco - La Fábrica Artesanal de Cervezas

cerveceria treintaycinco costa rica
Some people say you must be insane to try to make craft beer in Costa Rica. Well, the guys at Treintaycinco may very well be crazy, but I think they're onto something.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Ignacio Castro Cortinas, one of the founding members of Treintaycinco, a small craft brewery soon to hit the market. Treintaycinco is a trio of Venezuelans made up of Ignacio, his best friend from college, and his brother-in-law. At first they were told they were nuts to try it, that Ticos would never get past drinking Imperial. OK, fine: they're doing it anyways, with attitude and a distinctive local flavor. Their venture is currently located just outside of San Jose in the town of Escazú, where Nathanael Montaño does most of the brewing, and Ignacio and Luis Alfredo "Frito" Araque focus on branding and recipe development.

My first question was, how did they come up with the name Treintaycinco?