Sunday, May 25, 2008

Asheville, NC

On Wednesday, Dana and I hopped in the car and headed south. Our ultimate destination was Hilton Head, SC, but rather than driving the full 13 hours in one day, we decided to check out Asheville, NC for a few days as a stopping point. We left Indiana at 9am and drove for about 3 hours before stopping for a sandwich and picnicking at the New River Gorge Bridge. We stopped for gas once, and for a leg-stretcher on the TN/NC border heading over the mountains. We landed in Asheville at about 6pm and checked into our hotel on the south side of town (near NC-25 and I-40).

Asheville is a pretty cool hippie-college-tourist town off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Definitely has a good beer scene! After a long day's drive, we decided to grab dinner and a couple of beers at The Mellow Mushroom. This was our first time at one of these, and the pizza is really good. The beer selection was also very nice, particularly with their focus on local microbrews. I enjoyed both a Pisgash Brewing Endless Summer Ale and their Pale Ale.

On Thursday, we decided to just look around town and get familiar with the layout. We took shopping stops at several places, including the Asheville Wine Market, the Green Sage Coffeehouse, and the Woolworth Walk, where Dana found her graduation gift from me - a really cool painting by Sarah Faulkner. Sarah happened to show up and signed the work for Dana, so she was really jazzed about that. Now we gotta figure out where to hang it. Thursday in town continued with a beer buying trip at Bruisin' Ales - a phenomenal beer store with a great selection of Belgian beers. I grabbed a bunch of stuff to take to the beach (Hilton Head is not known for its beer selection) and ended up with a free tulip glass. After more shopping, we stopped for a pint at The Bier Garden, where I enjoyed a Foothills Seeing Double IPA.

Our hotel offered a deal on Biltmore, where you get two consecutive days of entry for the price of one. So on late Thursday afternoon, we went over and hiked around the gardens and down to the bass pond and back - glad we did that, because trying to do that and a house tour in one day is a lot!

On Friday morning, then, we headed back to Biltmore and spent the morning touring the house ... holy crap is that thing amazing! We've toured some pretty big places in Europe and this gives them a run for the money. After about two hours, we were pretty hungry, so we did lunch on the estate at the Arbor Grille, after which we sampled some of the wine they produce there. Meh.

On Friday evening, after a light picnic down by the French Broad river, we headed over to the French Broad Brewery, a little hole-in-the-wall brew 'pub'. They're only open from 4-8 or so, where you can get pints or growlers (and samples) in the brewery while listening to live music. On this evening, we enjoyed a few beers while listening to Brushfire Stankgrass. Good band - bought one of their CDs.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tastings, Pints for Pets, and Great Smoked Porter

I can't believe how quickly May is passing - already three weeks down! It's been a good beer month, so far, and I hope to keep pace for the remainder.

On May 8, actually the evening of my last post, the majority of the Homebrew Club "exec" board met at Dave's for some good beer tasting. Justin and Jon were also present. Some pretty good beer flowed that evening, including: Stone 05.05.05 Vertical Epic that Jon had stored properly for the last couple of years; Lost Abbey Avant Garde and Devotion from Justin; an Avery Fourteen from me; and then both Surly Furious and Bender courtesy of Dave (via trade) finished by Dave's growler of North Country Double Buck-Up Stout.

On the 13th, the Indiana Homebrewers Club had a large homebrew tasting at The Coney. The notes from that event are here.

On the 17th, several of us rented the Coney van and went to Altoona for the Pints for Pets brew festival. This was the first beer festival for everyone in the van except for me, and I think they'll now be spoiled after Pints for Pets. There were at least 1400 people in attendance for the single 4-8pm session. Over 50 brewers & distributors were present, each pouring several beers. In all, it was a well-run and well-attended event, and I look forward already to next year's festival!

And finally, because I enjoy good Rauchbier (smoked), I wanted to give praise to North Country Kian's Smoked Porter, now on cask at the brewery. Wow! Dana and I had lunch there yesterday on the way to the Prime Outlets ... always helps to have a pint before going shopping ;) Anyway, between the two of us, we tried the Nit Wit!, the Simcoe Pale Ale, and the Cherry Garcia .. but that smoked porter was delicious. Outside of the Aecht Schlenkerla line and similar Bamberg beers, this was the smokiest I've had. Went very well with their Roasted Garlic Burger.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Lichtenhainer, A Graduation, and Time Off

Last Friday & Saturday, if to be summed in one word, were hectic. I'll not bore you with the nitty gritty details, but it stemmed from needing to pick up several last-minute items in preparation for a small gathering at our house on Sunday to celebrate Dana's graduation!!

So first, a big Congratulations! to Dana for completing her Masters in Physician Assistant degree from St. Francis University. I couldn't be prouder, and I was a freakin' mess during the ceremony on Sunday.

So, part of the preparation on Friday was a trip to Altoona - which, of course, means that I stopped by Marzoni's. I walked in with a small cooler because I had two empty growlers to fill (one for me, one for my father-in-law) and two bombers filled with coffee porter to give to Bill. As I walked to the bar, I hear off to the side .. "What'cha got in the cooler? An extra liver?"

There sat Rick & Dave (of Cassidy's Brew Zoo), enjoying a late lunch. They're also hugely responsible, along with several others, for the Pint for Pets Brewfest coming up next Saturday. Bill was just on his way off to an appointment, so I sat and BS'd with Rick and Dave while enjoying a large glass of Lichtenhainer, a smoky, lightly sour session ale that I enjoyed but will take others some time to get used to. This beer was part of a collaboration between Bill and Scott at East End Brewing. They're also working on a gose, which they're brewing today in Pittsburgh.

After a pint, I grabbed a growler of Bill's Red Ale for me and my father-in-law, and hit the road.

Saturday was spent completely cleaning the house and de-junking.

Sunday was graduation day. My parents came over and we drove them to Loretto for the event. Luckily, this year SFU decided to split graduate from undergraduate graduation - so we were done in less than 1.5 hrs. A nice reception followed, then we all headed back to Indiana for the after party.

Now it's Thursday. My grading is done, finals here are over, and our graduation is on Saturday. I'm not teaching this summer (a first) and look forward to these months with excitement and some nervousness. I have some research projects and household tasks to keep me busy here and at the office, but I've never in my life had a long chunk of time where I wasn't on a schedule while still employed (I've had chunks of unemployed time, of course, but that's a different feeling alltogether). I already feel irresponsible and lazy!