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. Continue reading

Be a Sour Puss: the Argument for Puckering Up

Yup. It's sour. What about it?!

Yup. It’s sour. What about it?!

Pucker up, my friends! Today we look at sour beers, simply because I was recently involved in a conversation that, itself, turned sour. I was engaged in a bitter pissing contest with a total stranger who thought he knew more about beer than I do. We started off on the wrong foot when he suggested to me hangover remedies. (Bitch, please.) Matters escalated as we one-upped each other nastily until he asked with a challenge in his voice, “Well, have you ever had a sour beer?” I answered that I had and I quite liked them and I just tried several at the Jolly Pumpkin in Ann Arbor thank you very much. Then I stopped listening.

Sour beers do live up to their name, and some consider them an acquired taste. I hasten to mention that one needn’t be a sour puss to enjoy this style, in fact it helps if you maintain inner reserves of sweetness; but if you don’t at least try one, I will call you a sour pussy.

Sour beer is an old tradition, begun in Europe back before brewers and consumers were so nitpicky about having unknown variables floating in their brews. The sour flavor comes from the wild yeasts used to ferment the batches as well as live bacteria. Wild yeasts being the unpredictable beasts they are, brewing sour beer can be a challenge, but when it’s done right it’s a delightful mix of untamed tastes and solid chemistry. So good I wouldn’t even waste it by tossing it in that little pucker’s face.  Continue reading