Showing posts with label Imperial IPA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Imperial IPA. Show all posts

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.

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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.



January 29, 2014

A Trip to NH and VT: Hill Farmstead, Heady Topper, lots of snow

I took some time last month to visit a friend who was back in his home territory of New England for a short break. Like me, he's a craft beer fiend, so we made sure to take advantage of as much of the local beer scene as we could. Our adventures included a delicious dinner at the Farmhouse gastropub, a trip to Hill Farmstead, a sampling of the highly sought after Heady Topper, and a massive homebrew day.

Burlington, VT: Farmhouse Tap & Grill

Hill Farmstead Edward
Hill Farmstead's Edward - a fantastic
beer from Vermont
To start things off we visited a beer bar and restaurant in Burlington called Farmhouse Tap & Grill. This turned out to be one of the best gastropub experiences I can remember. I started out with an "Edward" from Vermont's Hill Farmstead (5.2% ABV, 85 IBUs). Even though we were going there the next day, I couldn't wait to give it a try. The beer did not disappoint. A clean, hop-forward pale ale, the epitome of an American Pale. The commercial description of Edward gives some indication of the care the brewer puts into this beer:
Edward (1917-2002) is our grandfather; Hill Farmstead Brewery rests upon the land that was once home to him and his five children. In his honor, this American Pale Ale is dutifully crafted from American malted barley, a plethora of American hops, our ale yeast and water from Edward’s well. It is unfiltered, naturally carbonated, and dry hopped. Aromatic and flowery, with impressions of citrus and pine, this is the ale that I dream to have shared with Edward. 
The food that followed was also excellent, from the local cheese plate to potato croquettes to the locally raised beef burgers. I highly recommend a visit to Farmhouse if you're ever in Burlington.

After several more local beers, a raging metal show, way too many Rolling Rocks, and an attempt (and failure) to kill a keg of Switchback Pale Ale, we called it a night.

Trip to Hill Farmstead

We were saved the next day by one of the most greasy and delicious bacon, egg and cheese bagels I've ever encountered. Rejuvenated, we got on the road for Hill Farmstead, picking up a four-pack of the famed Heady Topper along the way. If you're unfamiliar, Heady Topper is one of those insanely popular beers that people travel far and wide just to try. We would sample it later that night.

Hill Farmstead VT
Hill Farmstead Brewery in Greensboro, 
The trip to Hill Farmstead Brewery was about a two-hour drive from Burlington, but it was gorgeous. With about six inches of fresh snow on the ground, we drove through the backwoods of Vermont to arrive at the brewery in the tiny town of Greensboro, VT (pop. 770). The brewery is relatively small (be warned: bring cash!), producing only about 2000 barrels of beer a year. But that didn't stop them from being named Best Brewer in the World by RateBeer in 2013. So even though their beer rarely leaves VT, many people like us are willing to make the trip.

We got there just before closing and went through a quick sampling of their beers. They were excellent across the board, but our favorite was Edward. We picked up a growler of it and a bottle of their port barrel aged Damien, an imperial stout, and hit the road again.

(Hill Farmstead recently made the news by announcing that after their expansion, they would cap production at 150,000 gallons of beer per year -- a very unusual move for craft brewers these days. Read the article in the New York Times.)

Heady Topper

The Alchemist's Heady Topper
That night after the long beer adventure, we opened up the Heady Topper. As mentioned before, Heady Topper (8% ABV, 75 IBUs) has a fanatical following, with people traveling long distances just to try it. Someone was recently arrested for re-selling Heady Topper on craigslist. The brewer who makes it, the Alchemist, made news recently by announcing that they would close their retail shop because they were overwhelmed by people trying to get their hands on it. There was quite an uproar following this announcement, reduced only by the news shortly afterward that the Alchemist would attempt to meet demand by opening a second brewery. There must be something in the water in Vermont, because people are going crazy for these beers!

For us, we were lucky to grab a four-pack Thursday morning about 10 minutes after it was delivered to the convenience store. In another ten minutes we might have missed our chance. The can instructs the drinker to drink from the can itself. As soon as up open it the hops aromas explode out of it. It's one of those Double IPAs that just sticks to your teeth. It's pale in color, leading me to believe that the caramel malts are restrained so as not to take anything away from the bitterness. This beer is probably the biggest showcase of American hops I've ever had. Would I drive 600 miles just to try it...maybe.

Big (Cold) Brew Day

Over the weekend a number of homebrewers got together to brew. Despite being 10 degrees outside, it was a great time. We drained the Edward, a couple of beers I brought from Asheville, and dozens of different homemade beers and meads. Needless to say, we warmed right up.

I brought two of my favorite recent beers from Asheville, including Green Man's Harvester (an amber ale made with Riverbend malt and German hops) and Firebreather, a Belgian Strong Ale aged in rye bourbon barrels, a collaboration between Asheville's Burial Beer Co. and Hi-Wire Brewing. I believe the northerners were pleased with the southern representation.

For those of you interested, here is the recipe we ended up using for the brew day, an imperial brown ale.

Imperial Brown Ale
(10-gallon batch, all-grain)

Ingredients
25 lbs. Maris Otter
2 lbs. Riverbend Appalachian Wheat Malt
2 lbs. Chocolate Malt
.5 lb. Crystal 80
.5 lb. Aromatic Malt
.75 lb. Biscuit Malt
2 oz. Kent Golding @ 60 min
1 oz. Kent Golding @ 15 min
1 oz. Fuggles @ 10 min
2 oz. Fuggles @ flame out
Ringwood Ale Yeast
*batch divided between two fermenters, one to get oak chips, one to get oak chips with bourbon

Stay tuned -- I hope to review it soon! Big thanks to Milo for a great weekend!

March 11, 2013

Updates from New Belgium Asheville: Open House Recap

New Belgium Asheville
Rampant Imperial IPA
On Thursday night, New Belgium Brewing Company hosted an open house at Isis Restaurant in West Asheville to officially introduce themselves to Asheville residents. In addition to New Belgium CEO Kim Jordan and Asheville General Manager Jay Richardson, a number of New Belgium employees, contractors, and community partners were on hand to answer questions and celebrate the beginning of the brewery's participation in the Asheville community. Two things were clear: 1) New Belgium is making a sure-footed, conscientious entry into Asheville, 2) the Asheville community is, by and large, VERY excited to have them here.

March 6, 2013

First Ever Micro Brew Fest Rocks Panama

Brewdog in Panama
Scotland's BrewDog was one of the
international craft breweries
served at the festival.
Photo credit: James Bloomfield
This weekend, the Republic of Panama enjoyed its first annual Panama Micro Brew Fest. 

Casa Bruja, one of Panama's newest craft breweries, was instrumental in organizing the craft beer festival. Richo Fernandez, Casa Bruja's Creative Director, reports that 900 tickets were sold for the event.

I asked a friend, James Bloomfield, to share a few words and some photos from the festival.

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Panama isn't exactly known for its good beer festivals.

At least, not til now.

So what happened? Well, the first Panama Micro Brew Fest happened, throwing open its taps to serve Panama a decent pinta. With more than twenty different styles of craft beer, the brew fest hosted some of Panama’s best up and coming breweries. Alongside international craft breweries such as Scotland's Brewdog and Oregon's Rogue, local legends Istmo Brew Pub and La Rana Dorada served their best, while craft beer newcomers Casa Bruja and Cervecería Legítima introduced themselves to the Panamanian crowd.

January 25, 2013

5 Beer and Cheese Pairings That Will Rock Your World


Image used with permission via Rogue Ales and Spirits
At the 2012 Great American Beer Festival this past October, nearly 50,000 people descended on Denver to sample over 2,700 beers from nearly 600 American craft breweries. What blew me away though, more than any hopped-up IPA or high gravity Belgian quadruple, was a series of beer and cheese pairings that left my palate in a state of shock.

During the Saturday afternoon session of GABF, the American Cheese Society and Atlanta Foods International presented a seminar titled, “The Best Wine for that Cheese is Actually…Beer,” in which five phenomenal, award-winning cheeses were paired with five world-class beers from Utah’s Uinta Brewing Company. I was thrilled to learn that a similar event will be presented this weekend in Asheville.

December 22, 2012

Asheville, NC: Wicked Weed Brewing Preview


Wicked Weed in Asheville, NC
Photo: Wicked Weed Brewing
"Community" was the word of the day when I visited Wicked Weed Brewing last week. Scheduled to open December 28th at 5pm, Wicked Weed is expected to make a big splash in Asheville with a number of adventurous beer styles, including a range of Belgian ales, sour beers, saisons, West Coast-style IPAs, and barrel-aged beers, all to be complemented with "enlightened pub fare." Having won the People’s Choice award at this summer’s Brewgrass festival, the Asheville community is sure to give Wicked Weed an enthusiastic welcome on opening day.

The brewing team at Wicked Weed includes brothers Walt and Luke Dickinson and their good friend Eric Leypoldt. Both Luke and Eric bring experience from Dogfish Head, but all three got their start in homebrewing. Walt began homebrewing in California in 2000, and his brother Luke caught the bug soon afterwards. Like many others in their profession, what started as a hobby turned into a dream, and now they're neck deep in it.

December 12, 2012

Brevard, NC: Oskar Blues Opens in North Carolina

Oskar Blues Brewery in Brevard, NC
Photo credit: Beertography.com
The first of the "Big Three" breweries coming to Western North Carolina is officially open. Based in Longmont, Colorado, Oskar Blues' second brewery is located in Brevard, NC, just about 30 minutes from downtown Asheville. Famous for their canned craft beers like Dale's Pale Ale, Mama's Little Yella Pils, and Old Chub Scotch Ale, Oskar Blues decided to expand to the area for the water, the outdoor living, and Western North Carolina's borderline-obsessive beer culture.

November 16, 2012

Asheville, NC: New Belgium Tasting and Cold Mountain Release Party

It was a special night in Asheville, with a New Belgium tasting event and the release of Highland Brewing Company's highly anticipated Cold Mountain Winter Ale.

New Belgium Tasting at Bruisin’ Ales

New Belgium Asheville - Bruisin' Ales
Bruisin' Ales ("A High-Gravity World of Brews") is a bottle shop on 66 Broadway St., right in downtown Asheville. It's not a huge shop, but nonetheless they are very well stocked. They have great selection of imports (Schneiderwiesse etc.), plus the likes of Dogfish Head, Evil Twin, and a respectable number of regional beers as well. It was a busy night, with a good turnout of beer drinkers looking forward to New Belgium's forthcoming Asheville brewery.

October 25, 2012

GABF Recap: Part 2

The remainder of the Great American Beer Festival and the long weekend in Denver was a blast. A little hazy, a little rough on the body, but packed with good food, good times, and great beer. (Read Part 1 here.)

Friday

The Kitchen's Portobello Sandwich with a
Denver Beer Co. Summer Ale.
After some much needed sleep and lots of water, Friday began with another trek up the Cherry Creek Trail towards downtown. I stopped in for lunch at the Kitchen, located on the corner of 16th and Wazee St. in LoDo.

Anticipating that some veggies might help soak up the beer ahead, I opted for the Portobello Sandwich. Locally-baked ciabatta with sautéed red onions, gouda cheese, house-made hummus, and greens -- the sandwich was fantastic! The mushrooms, onions, and greens were all regionally sourced and organic. The sandwich was accompanied by house fries (from organic Idaho potatoes) and homemade ketchup. (Homemade ketchup? Gotta try that!) Some Denver Beer Company Summer Ale washed it down. Awesome.

Heading to the festival a little early, I walked around the convention center for a bit sans crowd and snapped some photos.

August 14, 2012

Craft Beer in Cans: 9 to Try Today

Photo: CraftCans.com
You may have noticed an increase in the number of canned craft beers on the market lately. The benefits of canning are numerous:
  • Cans reduce the amount of light that can hit the beer, potentially "skunking" those delicious hop compounds
  • Cans weigh less than glass, reducing cost transportation costs
  • Cans are more recycled than glass and plastic
  • Cans go where glass can't, poolside, on a hike, or to a music festival for example
Some may question whether canned beer tastes the same as it's bottled counterpart, but I know for a fact that there are some very good canned beers out there.

Here are nine craft beers in the can to look out for: