A Beer Pilgrimage: Asheville, NC


Three shelves of beer — a challenge!

My fridge has never had so much beer in it. I know, I know! It hardly seems possible, especially given that on an average day at least one entire shelf is devoted to beer and the rest of the space is a bachelor-scape of condiments. But having just come home from one of the US’s beer Meccas, Asheville, NC, I have some understandably well-stocked shelves and hardly a square inch for my Dijon.

One flat tire, one broken boot, and a sad, lonely hotel out of the way, I arrived in Asheville just in time to get to Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium. Wicked Weed Brewing is a vacation destination on its own right, or at least for those of us who unashamedly admit to traveling somewhere specifically to get a little fucked up. The Funkatorium is a taproom dedicated solely to sour and barrel-aged beers.

The Funkatorium's back room

The Funkatorium’s back room

I opted for their set flight of two saisons and two sours. And then my biggest regret since not getting a second bloody mary at Casa in Athens that morning: I drank the sours first. I blame it on road weariness. The saisons didn’t taste like much of anything. I’m sure they were lovely, but being a bit of a Sour Puss myself, I was content with the fantastic tastes of Oblivion and Genesis — both just sour enough to playfully pinch your cheeks from the inside, yet robust enough to let you enjoy a full glass. My notes tell me that Oblivion tastes like the shape of Saturn, so there you have it.

Bad snap of great beer at Burial

Bad snap of great beer at Burial

As I was already in the South Slope Brewery District, I wandered over to Burial Beer Co., just down the street. I quickly ascertained that, even if I really wanted to, I could never work there since I cannot grow an unruly beard, or even a ruly one.

Just as I was about to get grumbly about the mass of hipsters that threatened to turn my visit into an SNL skit, I tried the cucumber wheat ale. A beautiful beer. It tasted like Ohio in late June when the garden really gets into full gear but the mornings are still chill and dewey. I definitely liked it better than actual cucumbers. Every other beer I tried there was equally impressive so I left feeling a little lighter and a little less like a crotchety old lady.

I stopped again just up the alley at Twin Leaf Brewing. Again I ordered a generous flight, which I sipped on while watching an old man hit on a much younger woman. The band name that came from this observation is Old Professor & The Sad Ponytails. Twin Leaf’s beers were solid, but the one that stood out was called Peach Arsonist — a smoky, tastefully peachy beer with a gorgeous cloudy, rosy appearance. Made me think of all those southern ladies who really know how to make smoking look good — Delta Burke and the like.

Flights of the BumbleBeers!

Flights of the BumbleBeers at Fonta Flora

Fast-forward through a number of other, less memorable breweries, a number of dangerously well-stocked beer stores, and a rock star bookstore, and I found myself at the top of Mount Mitchell with a terrific thirst. It’s hard work, driving up a mountain. I had heard rumors about a brewer from Cleveland who had started a brewery just outside Asheville. Because I am an Ohioan and think just about everything Ohio is fantastic (notable exceptions: John Boehner and Jeffrey Dahmer) I journeyed to Morganton to find more beer.

Fonta Flora is a great looking brewery tucked in a building that was built to the shape of a fork in the road. The small, rounded end was occupied by a bluesy rock band when I arrived. No unruly beards here, but being a gangly blond man seemed to help you get hired.

Example A. Mystery sour

Example A. The mystery sour

Luck would have it that they had ten beers on tap that day and offered flights of five beers. “Bring them all!” I cried, and soon had a massive quantity of beer spread out in front of me, all colors of the beer rainbow and every style, smell, and orientation. Their IPAs were solid, but it was again a sour that seduced me. Seduced me so well that I got a full pint of it (Example A) and forgot to write down the name.

It was with a heavy heart and a lighter wallet that I drove home the next day. Fortunately I had so much beer in the back that it fit snug enough to not rattle. So off I went, sun bright overhead, blue hills in the rear view mirror.