March MADNESS!!

And….the updates continue!  Here’s a recap of my adventures for the month of March.  I attended some great events, so enjoy the journey!

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Geeks-n-Taps, Foothills Brewery, Winston Salem, NC

On March 9, I attended the Hip Hops event hosted by Geeks-N-Taps.  During this event, I gained a new understanding of the intricacies of hops.  The flow of this event was much better than the first, as the group was divided into two separate seating times.  This allowed participants to have more time at the stations to interact with the scientists. The stations at this event included a table featuring local hops farmer Ben Sunderman of Cedar Ridge Hops Farm in Lewisville, NC.  Cedar Ridge Hops Farm provides fresh, hand-harvested hops to several breweries along the East Coast.

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At another table, I was able to taste 9 different hops (Sorachi Ace, Citra, Simcoe, Amarillo, Chinook, Hull Melon, Nelson Sauvin, Fuggle and Cascade), each of which I mixed in a cup of Carolina Blonde to taste the differences between the hops. With each sample, I took time to appreciate both the taste and aromas of each hop. Other adventures included sampling a skunked beer and comparing to a non-skunked beer; randalling beers with selected ingredients, such as anise or cinnamon; and guessing the ABV and IBUs of a few beer samples. It was a fun and educational evening…and the best part was that I was able to drink while learning!  I am looking forward to the next event offering!

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All Ale to the Queen Beer Festival, Charlotte, NC

March 28, Amos’ Southend hosted All Ale to the Queen beer festival, which boasted 2 tasting sessions with over 1700 attendees.  Imagine craft beer + beer competitions + a carnival.  That describes my experience at All Ale to the Queen.  The location was an ideal spot for this event, with two floors of craft brews, food samples, artisan crafts, and 2 stages featuring aerialists, midget performances, live music, hula hoopers, and belly dancers.  Although there were many attendees at this event, it did not feel crowded and there seemed to be enough beer to go around for all.  Some new and noteworthy breweries that were in attendance included Thirsty Nomad, Ass Clown, Granite Falls, Carolina Bauernhaus, and Blind Squirrel, just to name a few. The festival also featured a Queen’s Twin Challenge, where homebrewers attempted to replicate known brews. I was quite impressed with the quality and likeness of these brews.  This was a great event!  No wonder it is listed as one of the top beer festivals in the US by Beer Yeti and Beer Fests.

One of my FAVORITE food samples was the hummus.  There were 9 delicious flavors of ROOTS hummus available for sampling.  My favorites were the mango sriracha and Thai coconut curry. These yummy, locally-made packages of hummus are available in the Charlotte area and at fine retailers such as Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, EarthFare, and Ingles.

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While at the festival, I was fortunate enough to meet and talk with NC Beer Guys.  I love these guys’ site and I frequent it often to find out about breweries in NC, upcoming festivals and events, and other fun beer info.

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Cardinal Directions Beer Festival, Carrboro, NC

Oh yes I did go to 2 beer festivals in 1 weekend….and Sunday, March 29, I attended the inaugural Cardinal Directions Beer Festival in the parking lot of Steel String Brewery.  Proceeds from the festival benefitted Farmer Foodshare, a local hunger relief organization. For a mere $12, one could sample 5 different beers, with additional tickets available for $1. The event featured over a dozen local craft breweries boasting their freshest spring seasonals.  Five Orange County breweries including Mystery Brewing, Steel String, Carolina Brewery, Top of the Hill, and Starpoint, participated in a collaboration beer, where each brewery took the same recipe and put their own spin on it.  It was great to see the creativity and innovation displayed by these brewers.

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A few of my favorite beers from the day included a Sweet Tea Saison from Raleigh Brewing and Year of the Wood Goat by Fonta Flora, a unique beer brewed with Charleston Gold and aged on Tumeric and Miso.

Private Open House, Copper Barrel Distillery, North Wilkesboro, NC

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I was fortunate enough to receive an invite to the Private Open House for Copper Barrel Distillery in North Wilkesboro on March 30. I was very excited to try one of the newest moonshines to hit the North Carolina market before the location opened on April 11. Among the attendees were city officials, other media representatives, and community friends and family.  We were greeted with a delicious array of hors d’oeuvres to accompany moonshine samples.

Located within a historical site which houses Key City Furniture’s wood-fired boiler (which is located within the facility), Copper Barrel is full of character and a look into the history of Main Street.

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The interior and exterior of the facility emit an ambiance and character that reminds you of an old friend.  The history and distinctive character of Copper Barrel is reminiscent of the roots of Wilkes County, the Moonshine Capital of America.

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Copper Barrel prides itself on making 100% moonshine, which is distilled using local, North Carolina grains and produce.  Copper Barrel’s line of moonshines includes White Lightning (pure moonshine) and blueberry currently, however they plan to also produce red cherry, black cherry, strawberry and apple pie flavors soon.  Copper Barrel’s fruit moonshines are not sweet like other flavored moonshines I have tried.

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The entire process, including bottling, takes place in the facility.  The bottles are filled manually by one of the Copper Barrel staff.

I got a chance to catch up with Buck Nance, master distiller and the heart of the distillery. Buck is a second-generation distiller who has been a part of the moonshine business since he was 8 years old.  Buck remembers helping his father haul bags of sugar needed for the moonshine. The equipment Buck’s family used was the first distilling equipment in America run by steam. Buck’s father saw the equipment design while in the service in Germany.  He wrote down notes on how the equipment was designed and from his notes, he crafted the first steam powered distilling equipment.  The equipment in Copper Barrel is fashioned after his father’s design and skillfully mastered by Jeff Davis, a local craftsman who literally welded the entire facility together piece by piece.

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Copper Barrel produces over 200 gallons of shine a day in its 650-gallon still.  Copper Barrel Distillery is a true combination of the history of moonshining in Wilkes County, the best of NC local ingredients, and a piece of the Nance family distilling heritage. The distillery is now open for business and welcomes visitors to sample moonshine and enjoy an afternoon on the front porch in a comfy rocking chair.

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Yes, Barrel Aged Babe has been very busy these past few months!  Stay tuned for tales of my April Adventures!

Mystery Brewing: Release of Alexandre

On January 10, 2015, Mystery Brewing released the 3rd in their Literary Greats Series. Each quarter, Mystery releases a new Literary Greats installment.  The other installments of the Literary Greats series include Sophocles and Admiration.  On my visit, I was fortunate enough to have a tour given by the Founder and CEO of Mystery, Erik Lars Myers (check out his book, North Carolina Craft Beer and Breweries).  As an added bonus, the business partner and chemist, Andrew Turner for the brewery was also on the tour.

The newest release, Alexandre, was exceedingly pleasant on the palate.  Alexandre is a 100% Brett Saison with lime leaves and sage. Boasting a hefty 8% ABV, this is one of Mystery’s highest alcohol beers.  It is an excellent drink now, but I’m holding on to a bottle or two for a bit to enjoy later!

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Mystery Brewing presents a unique concept.  It is a rustic-style brewery that was started in 2010 as a result of a highly successful Kickstarter campaign.  The brewery concept was so well-received, the Kickstarter campaign raised $44,000 to start the brewery. Mystery is a seasonal-only brewery brewing all unfiltered beers.  They have no flagship beers, however they offer a variety of seasonally-appropriate beers which can be enjoyed each year during their given season. If you’re looking for a light, refreshing summery pilsner, Mystery is not the place to go; however if you are looking for excellent seasonal beers carefully planned to mirror the beer styles of the season, Mystery is your brewery!

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Brewery Tour

While on the tour, I was able to enjoy several of the beers, which made for an even more delightful tour.  Erik was very knowledgeable about the ingredients used to brew their beer, the process of moving the brews during each stage of production, and the equipment.  It was very interesting (but at times a little too over my head in the science department) to hear about the process of creating the yeasts used in the beer.  In fact, Erik has created his own proprietary strain of yeast that was once in a bottle of Dupont Saison de Miel.  This proprietary strain went through many batches and several mutations before Erik perfected his yeast.

Of the beers available at the brewery, listed above, my favorites were Six Impossible Things and Alexandre.

The Public House

The Public House, located just around the corner from the brewery, offers a wider selection of Mystery’s beers.  They also offer small plates, including olives, jerky, and cheese and meat plates. Hillsborough BBQ is located a few doors down from the Public House if you’re in the mood for a little more substantial accompaniment to your beers.  Hillsborough BBQ and the Public House have a “symbiotic” relationship, so patrons of the Public House can order BBQ and it will be delivered to the Public House.  The small plates and BBQ looked great, however I was so full from all the tasting, I was unable to try any food this visit.

I was, however, able to try all of the beer selections offered at the Public House.  They have 1 cask in the Public House, and beers are rotated periodically into the cask. I sampled all 10 beers available at the Public House.  Find information on some notable brews below:

Memorial Day 2012 Wild Saison- One of my favorites!  Aged in 2 barrels with 2 yeasts.  This beer was a collaboration between Mystery and Haw River Farmhouse Ales. It had an effervescent mouthfeel with a sweet and tart flavor.  I proclaimed this beer “Sweet-Tart Champange.”

Fantine had a very nice balance of hops

Thornfield’s End- notes of smoked meat with a sweet taste mid-palate.  It was very enjoyable.

The White Queen Bids Farewell- a nice blend of coffee and caramel, but it had a somewhat watery mouthfeel. Perhaps a little more time in the bourbon barrel would have made this one even more pleasing.

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