Carolina Brewsfest and Half Marathon

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I was up bright and early on the morning of May 2 preparing myself mentally for the task of completing a half marathon followed by Carolina Brewsfest, a six-hour beer fest.  Crazy, right!!?? but it was a beautiful spring day, so I made good use of it.

Let me first say that my half marathon performance was NOT pretty to say the least.  I had no idea that High Point, NC was actually ON a mountain!  I have never in my life completed such a hilly course!  This was my 4th half marathon, so I have learned a few things in my treks thus far, but I was not at all prepared for this one.  Months of bronchitis kept me from training AT ALL…literally 6 miles of running done in the six months prior to this half marathon.  I was determined to finish this race!  After all, I DID have on my Beer Vixen tank!  Thank goodness I had my bestie, Jones, with me to pull me through.

IMG_1475IMG_1474Yes…in all of our post-race glory, the Beer Vixens (AKA Casino Vixens) crossed the finish line before being picked up by the cart of shame (this is a golf cart/car/any vehicle that rides at the back of the race to pick up those who will not finish before designated cut off time).  NEVER….I’d die. After our exciting race, it was time to move on to better things….BEER!!  Home for a quick shower and back to the beer fest we went!

IMG_1460Beer fest day was also Kentucky Derby day, so we had to pay homage with our fun hats.  We arrive to the beer fest around 1, fashionably about an hour late.  To my dismay, some breweries and/or tables were already packed up or out of beer!  Really!!??

The selection of food trucks at the event was AMAZING!! I tried the Korean tacos from Bulkogi Truck.  DELICIOUS amazingness and it was quick, which was a bonus after I just trekked 13.1 miles.  Some of the food trucks had food wait times of half an hour or more.  I got mine right away.  I grabbed a table in the VIP area and dove into my amazing tacos, wholeheartedly hoping no one would shoo me away from the tables since I was not a VIP.  I then took my tiny 2 ounce

I was able to try several new brews that made me very happy. Participating breweries included: Gibb’s Hundred, Bombshell Beer Company, Hi-Wire Brewing, Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, Steel String Craft Brewery, Liberty Brewery, D9 Brewing Company, The Unknown Brewing Company, Fortnight Brewing Company, Frog Level Brewing Company, The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, Pig Pounder Brewery, BruePrint Brewing Company, Flat Top Brewing Company, Carolina Brewing, and Dirtbag Ales.

A few favorites of the day:

Bombshell Brewing Company Lemongrass Pale Ale -These ladies are awesome!! Bombshell was founded and is run by 3 lovely ladies in Holly Springs, NC. I found myself back in this line many times throughout the day.

Fortnight ESB-  Head Brewer,  Derek Garman, was kind enough (even amongst all the crowds) to talk to me a bit about the brewery and the beers.  I am looking forward to my first visit to Fortnight as well!

Frog Level Cinco Ranas Picante- Yes, I know I just talked about this beer in my last Asheville post, but I love it!  It’s spicy and as you all know, I like it HOT!  I was glad to see this beer again because I had already consumed my growler at home and thought I had seen the last of this one until my next trek West.

At the conclusion of the festival, we discovered a statue of jazz legend John Coltrane right by the parking area, so we couldn’t resist a picture with him!

IMG_1461All in all, a decent festival, great venue, great beer, and lots of fun.  The band, Disco Lemonade, was AMAZING and kept us dancing all day long.

And just when you think you’ve reached your fill of fun for the day….you spot this guy!!!  Had to snap a picture with this scary beast.  A great ending to a most FABULOUS day!

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Another Round of Asheville….and the Outskirts

Last weekend, I took another jaunt to Asheville to visit another few breweries and restaurants because….well, I love to drink beer and eat!  Friday on the way into town, I braved the trek across Highway 321 over to Lenoir, NC to visit what I hoped would be 2 breweries.  My first scheduled stop was Loe’s Brewing Company. which, judging by the name, should have been a brewery, right!!? Much to my disappointment, this brewery and gastropub, which has been open since 2010, did not have any of their own beer.  REALLY??!!!  Of course, they will have some next week…  Very convenient for those who have traveled almost an hour off the beaten path to visit the little town of Lenoir.

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Luckily Howard Brewing, just around the corner, was open AND had beer. Howard offered 7 unique beers, ranging from an Apple Ale, brewed with apples from a local orchard, to a beer that was made from a recipe dating back to 1795 handwritten by General Lenoir himself.

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My favorite of the day was Dubbel Secret Probation, a beer brewed in the style of a Belgian Dubbel, but hopped like an American IPA via El Dorado hops. Dubbel Secret Probation was brewed in collaboration with Ivory Tower Brewing, a brewery and teaching facility at Appalachian State University. Highly recommend this one if you’re near Lenoir.

A few helpful hints if you’re visiting Howard…they serve half pours, in case a sample is what you seek.  Also, there is an open room above the brewery, so be aware that it could be very noisy.  In my case, an entire roomful of children were running around above us, so it sounded like a herd of elephants stampeding back and forth above the taproom. Aside from that distraction, the staff were friendly and inviting the beers were good.

Juicy Lucy’s Burger Bar and Grill

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Next up….dinner at Juicy Lucy’s Burger Bar and Grill in Asheville, NC.  This burger joint is almost always packed, and rightfully so!  This was my second visit to this amazing restaurant and I have been pleased each time.  This time, I selected the “It’s So Gouda I Can Hardly Stand It,” a juicy burger topped with generous amounts of melted smoked Gouda cheese, crisp Applewood smoked bacon, and screamin’ sauce, a Juicy Lucy’s original sauce.  Huge, crisp onion rings with a side of chipotle ranch made a perfect partner for my burger. Juicy Lucy’s also has an extensive selection of craft beers that are reasonably priced.  If you’re in Asheville and want a great burger, go try Juicy Lucy’s!

I also want to give a quick shout out to Keenan Kulp, a guy I met randomly while shopping the beer section of Ingles Friday evening.  We talked about beer and he asked my opinion on a few. As we talked, I learned that he has a hot sauce company in Asheville, Fire on the Mountain.  Of course, you know I’m a sucker for hot sauces…especially homemade ones from local ingredients.  Keenan’s Sweet Heat sauce can be found at many local restaurants, co-ops and markets, so look for his sauces around town.

Saturday Road Trip

On Saturday, I had every intention of driving to the furthest brewery in Western North Carolina, but an extended trip to the Goodwill in Asheville put a bit of a time crunch in my schedule, so I decided that Sylva, NC was the furthest West I would traverse.  Although I have visited Innovation Brewing in Sylva before, I love the brewery and wanted to revisit.

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As always, Innovation had a board full of interesting and delicious beer.  On this occasion, I tasted the Double IPA, Honey Lavendar Saison, Ginger Pale Ale, Soulvation IPA, Spaceman Pale, Blackberry Wheat, Grand Cru, Sour Blonde Ale, and Sour Red Ale. I was especially looking forward to the honey lavendar saison, made from local honey and lavendar–sounded like a match made in heaven and perfect for spring. It was bright and refreshing with well-balanced notes of floral and honey.  I’ll have to say my favorite of the day was the Sour Blonde Ale.

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Although I LOVE sours, this one is mild enough to be approachable for the masses who might be afraid of a sour, and also has very nice oaky notes.  I do like my beers a bit more sour, but this was excellent!

Frog Level Brewing, Waynesville, NC

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After leaving Sylva, I headed east to the cozy town of Waynesville.  There are 4 breweries in this small town, however I only visited three this trip, since I had already visited Tipping Point.  As soon as I walked into Frog Level, I immediately fell in love.  The brewery had open back doors leading to a huge deck and an amazing view of the water.  Next door is a coffee shop, Panacea, that serves sandwiches, salads, and local ice cream from Ultimate in Asheville.

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Of the 7 beers on tap, my favorite was Cinco Ranas Picante (5 Frogs) because I like my beer with some heat.  Another great seasonal currently on tap is Popsmoke Pilsner, a pilsner with a great smoky flavor. I loved the Cinco so much, I had to bring a growler of it home!  I can’t wait to have this alongside a juicy burger topped with jalapenos!

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Boojum Brewing Company, Waynesville, NC

In the quaint little downtown area of Waynesville, a gem of a brewery and taproom can be found–Boojum Brewing Company.  In case you’re wondering (because I did), “What in the world is a Boojum?” you’re in luck….owners Woody and Corrine Baker took the time to sit with me while I enjoyed my flight and tell me the legend of the Boojum.

IMG_5766The Boojum, described as a cross between a bigfoot and a mountain man, is a legendary creature who inhabited the Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina in the early 1800s. The Boojum, at almost 9 feet tall, was rumored to live in a huge cave, was known for consuming large amounts of Pert’nin juice (a mountain brew) and stealing gems from local miners.  The Boojum hid his treasures in jugs all along the mountainside, for fear they would be taken while he was out drinking or looting. According to legend, many people sought the Boojum’s gems–some were lucky enough to find a treasure-filled jug, while others were not so fortunate and met up with the Boojum face-to-face.

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After many years, the tales of the Boojum faded and he remained a Smoky Mountain legend.  Now, you can visit Boojum and enjoy several great mountain brews in downtown Waynesville, NC. While you’re in, please speak to the Bakers!  They were very warm and genuine hosts!

My favorite beers from Boojum included the Raspberry Saison and the Belgian IPA.

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Bearwaters Brewing Company, Waynesville, NC

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My final stop in Waynesville was Bearwaters Brewing Company, where I tasted all 9 brews available.  Of the 9 beers, several of them seemed weak and watered down, but I did enjoy the Mango Lager and the Bearded Bear (Stout on Nitro).

IMG_1404After the tour of Western North Carolina, it was time for some dinner in Asheville.  I decided to try White Duck Taco Shop, upon several recommendations.  I was VERY pleased with this choice!.

White Duck Taco Shop, Asheville, NC

First of all, they boasted their watermelon sangria as “world famous,” so of course I had to try!! Don’t judge, but I ordered SEVERAL tacos because I could not just pick one.

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I ordered the Mole’ Roasted Duck, Steak and Cheese, Jerk Chicken, Bangkok Shrimp, and Korean Beef Bulgogi. My favorite, hands down, was the Mole’ Roasted Duck. Note:  you will get 2 tortillas for each taco and there is MORE than enough goodies inside to make 2 tacos from 1, so plan for that when you order.  Although the line was out the door when I arrived, I was served quickly and the food came out fast.

After dinner, it was time to explore more of Asheville, so off to Thirsty Monk!

Thirsty Monk Pub and Brewery, Asheville, NC

Thirsty Monk has an upstairs and downstairs bar with different offerings at each bar. They have a great selection of beer, as well as several brews of their own.  While at the Monk, I tasted the Cherry Gose, Easy Gose, CocoNorm (coconut porter), and St. Norm Hopped Tripel.  I enjoyed all these beers, but the Cherry Gose was my favorite of Thirsty Monk’s offerings, with CocoNorm at a close second.

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One World Brewing, Asheville, NC

One World Brewing is located down an alleyway between Farm Burger (one of my favorites) and Salsa’s Mexican Caribbean. Before entering, you must pass through this door, with a cute little peephole, just like one you may see at a speakeasy.  If they’re not at capacity, you are invited to walk downstairs into the dimly lit brewery.

One World offers ten beers on tap.  Since this was not my first visit to One World, I only had a beer instead of my usual flight of everything.  I decided on the To the Head Red IPA and moved on after one.  While at One World, I gave the bouncer a hard time about his serious face, which resulted in this photo….

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My final stop of the night was Wicked Weed.  As I have mentioned before, I am not the biggest fan of Wicked Weed, not because of the beer, but because of their operations. This visit was no different than my usual frustrations.

Wicked Weed, Asheville, NC

12:50am…enter Wicked Weed intending to head to the downstairs taproom when I am greeted by a friendly door attendant who informed me I could go downstairs, but I would only have 15 minutes to grab a drink.  Hmmm, let’s do the math here:  it’s 12:50am, POSTED hours are til 2am for both upstairs and downstairs, so how does that equate to 15 minutes?  As promised, after 15 minutes, I, along with other patrons, were hustled upstairs to the restaurant area, where there was limited seating at the bar due to the fact that almost every chair in the place had already been placed atop tables for cleaning. Leave it to Wicked Weed…always welcoming!  I do love their beer and usually the people I’m with like to go there, so I suck up my feelings about how they treat people and go enjoy the beer.

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On this occasions, I tried the Melisseus Honey Lavendar Ale…coming full circle from my start 13 hours earlier at Innovation with the Honey Lavendar Saison. Of course, Wicked Weed’s Melisseus was fabulous!!

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Biscuit Head, Asheville, NC

If you’re in the mood for an unforgettable breakfast, head to Biscuit Head in Asheville!  When I looked at the menu, I was a bit overwhelmed. So many great choices, how’s a girl to choose?  I finally decided on the mimosa fried chicken biscuit …a gigantic cat-head biscuit topped with fried chicken, sriracha slaw, a poached egg, and sweet potato butter paired with a glass of fresh-squeezed OJ.  Sounds like a strange combination, I know, but it was unbelievably good!!

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As if the biscuit was not enough….they have an entire line of house-made hot sauces and butters to slather on your breakfast or lunch.  I sampled all the hot sauces and most of the butters.  My favorite butter was the bananas foster.


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On your way home, you can pick up a bottle of the hot sauces or even a large Mason jar of the biscuit mix itself!  They also serve gluten-free biscuits.  My sister-in-law tried one and was ecstatic to find a gluten-free biscuit that did not taste like cardboard.

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Since I was only able to order one item, I had to steal a few bites from my family, who joined me for breakfast.  The maple sriracha sausage was excellent!  I will try that on a biscuit next time for sure!  The jalapeno bacon was also to die for!  If you like grits, the smoked Chevre grits will keep you coming back for more!  Biscuit Head was one of THE best breakfasts I have ever had.  This will remain on my list for each and every trip to Asheville!

Overall, a fun and productive trip to Asheville.  I met some great new people, had great beer, as always, and added a few more breweries to the list of accomplishments.  I have now visited 113 breweries since April 1, 2013!!