Sierra Nevada Mills River brewery a jewel of the North Carolina brewing scene

Photo by Marc Wisdom

Photo by Marc Wisdom

Even though the large brown attraction sign on Highway 26 headed in to Asheville, North Carolina announce its existence, it is hard to form an accurate picture in one’s mind just how extraordinary the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company brewery in Mills River, North Carolina really is. Even after you drive along the side of the small regional airport and then take a non-descript road behind it the magnitude of the brewery does not sink it. It is only when you get your first glimpse of the intricate front gates of the complex as you enter the roundabout outside them that you start to get a feel for the splendor that lies ahead.

As you drive along the winding road that leads from the gate to the brewery it is obvious that this brewery was not built in an old warehouse or abandoned brick factory as so many craft breweries are. The care that was given to the look of the road, the safety rails and even the street lights are clues to what will greet you when you arrive at the front of the building.

As round the final bend in the road the first thing you notice are the solar panels placed evenly throughout the parking lot. Then, as you move further in to the parking area you notice the beautiful façade of the brewery building, the eye is drawn to the peaked roof trimmed in copper over a wall of windows looking in on the shiny copper brewing vessels. To one side of the brewing room are a cluster of towering fermenters on the other are arch-topped windows and signs announcing the location of the brewery offices and taproom. The building is a work of art that both impresses and provides a measure of coziness. It exudes class and taste while maintaining a warmth not dissimilar to what one might feel in a mountain chalet.

Photo by Marc Wisdom

Photo by Marc Wisdom

Inside, the building is equally impressive. The windows let in streams of natural light that reflects off highly polished copper surfaces that seem to be everywhere. Above the entry for the offices and tour desk hangs a beautiful tiered chandelier that upon closer inspections reveals it is fabricated of hundreds of brown beer bottles. The wall behind the tour desk is a modern, yet rustic mixture of layered glass panels with roughly hewn wood planks sandwiched between them.

The guided tour takes visitors deep into the heart of the brewery and along a gleaming central corridor. Stops along the tour include a view at one of only a few wet grain mills in the United States, the hops room full of bins of herbaceous, brightly colored hops, in to the brewing room, the fermentation room and for a look at the yeast propagation tanks and the packaging rooms. It also includes stops in hallways festooned with dark wood display cases showcasing brewing memorabilia including some of the very first bottles of Sierra Nevada beer ever produced.

As is often the case on brewery tours, there is also an opportunity to sample the fruits of the brewers’ labors. On our visit we were treated to a number of special beers because it was the breweries 35th Anniversary of being founded in Chico, Calif.

Photo by Marc Wisdom

Photo by Marc Wisdom

But, after the tour is over there is plenty more to do at the brewery. Just a few short steps away is the brewery taproom and restaurant. Upon entering this space you will notice that there are several small beer kettles lining the windows to the right. These are used for smaller batch and experimental brews to be served at the taproom bar visible straight ahead.

If you are looking for a taproom with a kitchen slapped on as an after-thought, you are going to be disappointed. However, if you are looking for a restaurant that prepares delicious, thoughtfully created dishes that pair incredibly with beer, you will be in heaven. Dishes like wood roasted pork belly, duck fat fries and pretzels with pimento beer cheese are served on small plates meant for sharing and enjoying together. Special beers along with Sierra favorites are also available in the taproom and can be expertly paired with the menu items upon request.

After dinner, plan on strolling to the back of the building and enjoying a few brews on the patio or in the amphitheater. The space features a roaring fire pit and plenty of comfortable chairs and tables throughout. In addition, there is a bar serving cold brews right on the porch.

It is evident in the attention to detail that the North Carolina brewery was a labor of love for Sierra Nevada. Many have referred to it as the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory of breweries. For beer-lovers that are looking for an extraordinary experience that encompasses an interesting look into one of America’s best breweries, lively tasting and delicious culinary experiences in a beautiful setting, the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Mills River, North Carolina is a must-visit.

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Posted by on November 22, 2015 in Craft Beer Brewery


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Beer mug can call a cab after a night out

epintAs the popularity of craft beer continues to escalate, it was inevitable that technological advances in how to drink beer would make their way in to the collective beer consumption scene. Enter the ePint, a geewiz beer mug that boasts LED lights, a bluetooth connection and the ability to signal your barkeep that your mug is empty. The mug is the creation of Xtreme Tech a Los Angeles, California based tech company that is raising money via Kickstarter to put the vessel into production.

Among the many features of the mug beyond just holding beer are Internet connectivity, the ability to sense when it is empty, the ability to light up when your favorite sports team scores and built in drinking games. Most of the fun of the mug comes from the built in, interactive LED lights that pulse and change color depending on what the mug is signaling.

“The ePint is hospitable enough to know when you need a refill,” says the company’s promotional video. “And responsible enough to contact a cab when the party’s over.”

Powered by a smartphone app, the mug can even keep track of the number of drinks its owner has had and call a cab at the end of the evening. The app is really the brain of the system. From it, users can set scoring alerts, keep track of the number of drinks consumed, suggest how much water of exercise is needed to counteract beer drunk and control drinking games.

The device comes with a rechargeable battery that, according to the company, “…will last longer than you do at a party.”

The ePint is available to pre-order via Kickstarter from $30.

The gadget is expected to ship in April, if the company meets its $50,000 goal.

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Posted by on November 11, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Highland Brewing company releasing 2015 Cold Mountain Winter Ale

CMWA_litreWhen the trees are at their peak of autumn color and the air in North Carolina has taken on a distinctly cooler snap, Highland Brewing Company releases one of its most coveted brews, Cold Mountain Winter Ale. The seasonal release is a malty, spiced ale that is named for Cold Mountain in the Blue Ridge range. The release is accompanied by a festival bringing together lively music, food trucks and plenty of Cold Mountain on tap.

If the name Cold Mountain seems familiar aside from the brew carrying its name, it is because it shares its name with a best-selling novel by Charles Frazier and later a major motion picture. The novel, published in 1997, won the National Book award in its year of publication. The movie, starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, and Renée Zellweger, won an Academy Award for Renée Zellweger’s performance as a supporting actress. Both the novel and the movie follow the story of a Civil War deserter’s journey home to his wife and home on Cold Mountain.

The beer is not named for the novel or the movie, rather it is named for the mountain itself as are many of Highland’s other beers. But, the historical contexts of both are, in a way fitting on a personal level for me. After going through a difficult divorce and enduring several years of depression I made a November journey to Asheville and the Cold Mountain release party with my girlfriend in 2013 and proposed to her in front of the entire event. And, this year, we will return to the event to celebrate one and half years of marriage and enjoy the pleasant company of our friends at Highland along with the wonderful beer they are releasing.

Highland Brewing Company was founded by Oscar Wong who, after retiring from a career as a successful civil/structural engineer, landed in Asheville in 1994. He started Highland Brewing “as a hobby” in the 3,500 square foot basement of Barley’s Taproom in downtown Asheville. Over time his brewing ambition grew and the brewery moved to its current location.

The Cold Mountain Release Party takes place on Thursday, November 12 with bottles of the brew going on sale at 4:00 p.m. Bottles of Cold Mountain will be sold in a variety of sizes ranging from a special one-liter, swing-top bottle, 22-ounce bombers and 12-ounce singles. Guests may purchase a limited number of each size bottle or choose to purchase a bundle that includes one, one-liter bottle, two bombers and one case of 12-ounce bottles for $50.

Guests at the release party will enjoy music from several bands and specialty kegs of Cold Mountain. They will also be treated to the opening of the brewery’s new event center. For full information about the release party and bottle pricing go to the event’s web page at:

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Posted by on November 6, 2015 in Beer Releases


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Beer:30 a host of Jax Beer Week events

San Marco beer bottle shop and bar Beer:30 are representing this Jax Beer Week with a full slate of events you will want to check out. Stop by the shop for fun and beer tasting to celebrate all that is beer in Jacksonville. Beer:30 is located at 1543 San Marco Boulevard.

All events begin at 5:30

Monday, November 9

New to the Jacksonville area, Due South Brewing is the spotlight brew.

Tuesday, November 10 

Local brewery Engine 15 will be featured.

Wednesday, November 11

Two breweries are featured on Wednesday, Tallahassee’s Proof Brewing and Michigan’s Founders Brewing.

Thursday, November 12

Join the San Marco nights celebration and taste three collaboration brews created just for Jax Beer Week.

Friday, November 13

Victory Brewing company will be in the spotlight for your drinking pleasure.

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Posted by on November 3, 2015 in Beer


Jax Beer Week events are falling in to place

jaxbeerweekJax Beer Week is quickly approaching and the calendar of events for the week is filling out nicely. As you may recall, in previous years the week was held in May as a lead up to the Jacksonville Craft and Import Beer Festival. But, this year the event is being managed by The Jax Beer Society, a group of local craft beer industry insiders such as distributors and brewers along with members of the public who have joined to support the local Jacksonville beer scene. The group sponsors monthly gatherings at local breweries to preach the gospel of good, local craft beer and convert new followers.

Events for the week are still being scheduled, but the current roster leaves little to be desired

Saturday, November 7

Brew Five Points (1024 Park St.) kicks the week off by serving a brunch featuring Founders Breakfast Stout and items made of spent-grain from the brewing process. Members of The Jax Brewing Society and ticket-holders for the Mash In event held later in the afternoon receive 10-percent off purchases. Brunch begins at 9:00 a.m.

The official Jax Beer Society kickoff event is the “Mash In” that will be held at Engine 15’s new downtown production brewery (601 Myrtle Ave.).  The event will feature beers from all local breweries, food tucks, live music and more. General admission tickets are $35 and VIP tickets that include access an hour earlier, lunch and special beers are $55. Tickets may be purchased online here.

Jacksonville’s local amateur brewers club – Cowford Ale Sharing Klub (CASK) – will be set up in front of Just Brew It (2670 Roselle St.) for a demonstration on how the world’s favorite alcoholic beverage is brewed. The event coincides with the store’s 10-year anniversary and will include a crowd-judged homebrew contest. More information is available on Just Brew It’s website.

Tap takeovers are a staple of any beer week and Jax Beer Week is no different. The new kids on the block at the Beaches, Really Good Beer Stop (323 10th Ave. N.) will feature 10 local craft beers on tap for growler and crowler fills all week. See the store’s website for more details and hours.

Swing by Earth Fare (11901 Atlantic Blvd.) for a taste of SweetWater brews.

Sunday, November 8


Monday, November 9

Join the fun folks at Alewife Craft Beer & Bottle Shop (1035 Park St.) for A Night of Mead. The event will feature mead – also called honey wine – from B. Nektar Meadery and local mead producer Harris Meadery. The fun starts at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $33 and can be purchased online here.

Kickbacks (910 King St.), one of the anchor bars in the King Street Beer District, will feature beers from local brewery Engine 15 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Boynton Beach brewery Due South will be featured at Beer:30 San Marco (1543 San Marco Blvd.) from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Kitchen on San Marco (1402 San Marco Blvd.) has not been open long, but they have already garnered a reputation as a great place for farm-to-table food paired with great craft beers. The Jax Beer Week, they will offer daily specials on local craft beers paired with unique nibbles.

The Hourglass Pub (345 E Bay St.) will feature daily tap take overs that include three collaborative brews.

Tuesday, November 10

For those with a sweet tooth, Alewife will host a beer and dessert pairing starting at 6:30 p.m. Funky Buddha will provide the beers while desserts will come from locally-owned restaurant Moxie Kitchen and Cocktails. Tickets are $38 and available online here.

German-themed bar and restaurant Hoptinger (333 1st St N.)in Jacksonville Beach will feature an Aardwolf pint night with six of the brewer’s beers on tap and a free glass. The event takes place from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Highland Brewing Company will serve Breakfast for Dinner at Mellow Mushroom Avondale (3611 St Johns Ave.) from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The event will feature the brewery’s Black Mocha Stout, Thunderstruck and Gaelic Ale that were aged with maple chips.

Think you know your beer? Prove it at Engine 15 (1500 Beach Blvd.). Put on your thinking cap and beer goggles and get to E15 for Beer Trivia from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Noting goes better with a cold beer than a great burger. Burgerfi (108 Riverside Ave.) agrees and will offer four Intuition Ale Works Specialty brews on tap and several can selections for just $3. Want to pair your brew with a delicious burger? Pony up $7 and it is yours! The event goes from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Due South Brewing heads north from Boynton Beach for a special tapping at Kickbacks from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Tenacious Tuesday brings a special rare or one-off tapping at Pinglehead Brewing Company (14 Blanding Blvd.)located inside Brewer’s Pizza.

The Silver Cow (1506 King St.) plays host to a special tapping of three collaborative brews beginning at 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, November 11

Drink and help the whales. Green Room Brewing Company (228 3rd St. N.) will host a special tapping of Vanilla Imperial Stout from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. A portion of the proceeds from each pint sold will go to the Sierra Club to help with Right Whale preservation.

Beer and cheese go together like, well, beer and cheese. Indulge in a decadent pairing of five delicious artisan cheeses paired with equally delicious Cigar City beers and ciders. Alewife is hosting the event at 6:30. Tickets are $33 and available online here.

Roll out the barrel at Engine 15 for Barrel-aged beer night. Try selections from the E15 stable of brands that have been aged in a variety of barrels from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Kitchen on San Marco pairs four brews from Green Bench brewing with a la cart menu items.

The age old question of whether to drink beer or wine with dinner is finally put to the test with a Beer vs. Wine dinner a Royal Palm Village Wine & Tapas (296 Royal Palms Dr.) in Atlantic Beach. Diners will enjoy five dishes paired with Engine 15 beers and Stacoe wines. Tickets are $65 and can be obtained by calling (904) 372-0052.

Thursday, November 12

Science! Beer science that is. Join the folks at Alewife for an evening of discussion about barrel aging and wild yeast. There will be plenty of samples, too. Tickets are available online here.

For those of you who were not fortunate enough to get a ticket to Cigar City’s Hunahpu’s Day this year, this event is for you. Head over to Poe’s Tavern (363 Atlantic Blvd.)in Atlantic Beach for a Cigar City tap take over that will include such hard-to-find and highly-coveted beer as Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout and Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout. The tapping begins at 6:00 p.m.

Bring in your MaB stein for $8 fills at Engine 15 from 5:00 p.m. to midnight. Don’t have your own MaB, nut one of E15’s.

Proof Brewing Company of Tallahassee is taking North Florida by storm. Try some of their tasty suds at two tasting events. From 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. grab a pint at Grape & Grain Exchange (2000 San Marco Blvd.) Then catch up with the gang at Kickbacks from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. for more.

Bold City Brewing Company will invade The Silver Cow for a tap takeover from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Rain Dogs (1045 Park St.) will feature the brews of Ballast Point Brewing Company. Look for taps pouring The Big Eye, Grapefruit and Habanero Sculpin and bottles of The Commodore.

Friday, November 13

Breweries from the four corners of Florida will take to the taps in the Intuition Ale Works (720 King St.) brewery bar. Beginning at 5:00 p.m. guests will be able to taste beers from Miami’s Wynwood Brewing, Tallahassee’s Proof Brewing, Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing and two Jacksonville breweries – Engine 15 and Aardwolf – as well as Intuition’s regular lineup of brews.

The art of the pub crawl is not lost on Jax Beer Week. But, this year the crawl has a twist.  Lumberjackies Pub Crawl will see the women of Jacksonville’s craft beer scene dress up as lumberjacks and leading fellow crawlers to stops in Riverside including M Shack, Alewife, Rain Dogs, Silver Cow and Dahlia’s Pour House.

Saturday, November 14

Start the last day of Jax Beer Week with a hearty brunch at Brew Five Points. Beers from Aardwolf will be featured and used in several offerings. Enjoy White Russian Stout Speedballs, Ermah Gourd Pumpkin Waffles and spent grain pastries.

The final event of Jax Beer Week 2015 is the Florida Brewers Guild Barrel-Aged and Sour Fest. Sour heads and barrel-aged aficionados will be in heaven tasting brews from over a dozen local and Florida craft breweries. Tickets for the event that will take place at Intuition Ale Works from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. are $35 for general admission and $50 for VIP (one hour early entry, chance to participate in discussions). You can purchase tickets online here.

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Posted by on October 27, 2015 in Beer


Oskar Blues releasing Death by Coconut Porter nationally

deathbycoconutA few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to visit the Oskar Blues brewery in Longmont while I was in Colorado for the Great American Beer Festival. But, even before I arrived in Denver, I had heard stories of Death by Coconut. The stories told of a dark brew redolent with chocolate and coconut aromas and flavors. Many compared it to a Mounds candy bar.

So, when I finally arrived at the brewery’s tap room, The Tasty Weasel, I bellied up to the bar and ordered a pint of the brew. And am I ever glad I did. The descriptions I had read were all spot on. The beer truly is reminiscent of a candy bar with its smooth, rich chocolate flavors and toasted coconut. Without hesitation I purchased a crowler of the decadent porter to bring home.

Now, it appears that Oskar Blues has realized that they have another hit on their hands and have decided to release Death by Coconut nationally. I, for one, will be picking up a few four-packs.

Read more about Death by Coconut in the official press release below:

Longmont, CO and Brevard, NC – Oskar Blues Brewery shakes up the fall craft beer lineup with a national limited release of its rebellious take on the traditional Irish Porter, Death by Coconut, starting this month and while supplies last.

Death by Coconut (6.4% ABV/25 IBUs) is a semi-sweet porter made from loads of dark chocolate and extra dark caramel malt. It pours a rich velvet black with a frothy head and exudes intense fresh cacao flavors swirled with popping coconut aromas.

Death by Coconut is an easy-drinking, big-flavored beer that is reminiscent of sweet treats, which is no wonder given it is brewed with Cholaca out of Boulder, Colorado. Cholaca is a form of pure liquid chocolate that contains only three ingredients: cacao, water and coconut sugar. Cholaca adds a rich and smooth chocolate touch that makes this beer liquid perfection. Using only fair-trade cacao beans sourced from select farms in Ecuador and Peru, Cholaca gives it the most authentic flavor kick.

Death by Coconut, awarded the 2014 GABF Silver Medal in the Chocolate Beer category, hits shelves nationally in 4-packs of 12-ounce CANS and will also be available in 19.2-ounce cans in the Colorado and North Carolina markets. Look for it in limited release on tap starting in October as well.

Release events are slated for end of October. Stay tuned for more info.

Posted by on October 22, 2015 in Beer Releases


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Characters abound at GABF 2015

For many, dressing to attend the Great American Beer Festival is simply a matter of pulling on a pair of jeans and slipping on a favorite brewery t-shirt. And, the majority of attendees to the festival are dressed in these mundane garments garnering little to no real attention. But, for those who crave the limelight, who seek attention and who have a bit of a wild side, the dress code extends to more exotic apparel.  For those brave and outrageous souls, a mere pair of lederhosen is something an amateur would wear.  Outlandish costumes range from Where’s Waldo garb to full mascot outfits.

Here are just a few of the characters I ran into at this year’s Great American Beer Festival.

The answer to the eternal question,

the answer to the eternal question, “Where’s Waldo?” is answered; he is at GABF.


Shark infested waters?


Captain Hops


Even the Brits are stylin’ at GABF.


Bears, oh my!


The pope may have been in Philly, but St. Arnold was in Denver.


The kilted gang play their pipes.

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Posted by on October 2, 2015 in Beer Festival


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