Sunday, November 15, 2015

Greenville Craft Beer Festival 2105: Another Success.

Yep, had an exciting and enlightening day trying new brews, meeting and making new friends in one of the best venues around, Fluor Field, the hometown team's baseball field. Still a lot of editing to do, but here are a few pics to whet your blog-reading appetite:

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Hi-Wire Stout Bout 2015: For Stout Lovers and Non

Something for everyone is how I saw it, not just for stout-heads. Hi-Wire's first ever Stout Bout (featuring a blind tasting) certainly pleased hardcore stout drinkers (Narwhal, anyone?) but there was more than enough variety to entice folks to try something new. ABVs ranged from 5.% (Highland's entry) to 12.9% (Sierra Nevada) so it was possible to find one that agreed with your palate and safe driving obligations.

Despite the occasional rain showers, this event was well attended and the impression I got was that most folks there knew their stouts. I know there were some newbies but overheard conversations tended to discuss comparisons with favorites.

 I thought this whole concept was inspired (thanks to Marketing Director Abby Dickinson) and really made it a contest. I am partial to any brew with peppers or chiles in it so there were several to try my taste buds. But I also like chocolate and coffee so there was no shortage of any of those. The only one that really tested my tolerance was a sorghum based dry stout. Sorry, but an aftertaste just didn't work for me.

My favorite chile-infused brew was from Asheville's Twin Leaf, their MDXXI (or 1521 in English) which used arbol chiles, a new one for me. Enough heat to make an impression but not overpower and the chocolate-cinnamon combination was well balanced. The finish was lighter bodied than you might expect and I could see myself having a second pint, a criterion of mine when judging.

Their Instagram post lists the top three winners, voted on by participants:

And your winners of the Stout Bout 2015 are... 1st Place: @burialbeer | #burialbrewing - Piston Espresso Stout, 2nd Place: @highlandbrewing | #highlandbrewing - Black Mocha Stout w/ Cherries & Oak, 3rd Place: @sierranevada | #sierranevada - Barrel Aged Narwhal, Congratulations!! 


One small complaint was the serving temperatures. I and several others were vocal in our opinions that the jockey boxes were chilling the stouts way too much. I understand the viscosity issue, but hopefully next time a method can be found that serves the stouts warmer. As serious stout lovers know (and I don't quite fit that group), as a stout warms, it releases more flavors and adds body. Anyway, just thought I would pass that along.
 Some photos and more notes:

Rain held off most of the day.

Hi-Wire's Big Top brew house/pub is a good size for eventsl

5 Tables in all, each with different stouts and voting pitchers.

Fellow stout enthusiast, Bob Muller, gets his first taste.

Decisions, decisions.

More tokens were available, $2 per, a token for each taste

One of my faves, and second place winner, HIghlands Black Mocha Stout with cherries and oak.

This is how the blind tasting stouts were revealed. Tasted blind for two hours!

My congratulations to the top winners and mucho thanks to Abby and the folks at Hi-Wire for hosting this very special event. #nextyear


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Pyramid Leaves Berkeley, Atlanta Moves In?

Well, not Atlanta per se, but Sweetwater from Atlanta has bought all the brewing equipment from Pyramid with plans to open a brewery "out west."  I have fond memories of eating/drinking at the Berkeley brewpub. One of the very early ones in the Bay Area.

 Read more here:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Greenville Craft Beer Festival at Fluor Field Just Days Away

Third Annual Beer Tasting invades Fluor Baseball field. November 14th is the day, and what a day for craft beer lovers! Like the past two, this one will offer some special beers, many cask conditioned versions made especially for this event. Some photos of previous years will help you in your decision to attend:


Monday, November 2, 2015

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dark Horse Brewing Now in SC

Well, after the suds had settled, so to speak, last night at The Community Tap's Dark Horse Brewing's launch party, hosted by RAFA representative Ashley Bower, I chose my favorite beer for the evening. Not an IPA, surprise, surprise, tho there was one there, but it was this one, Scotty Karate (a name I like saying). Thanks to Ashley for the introduction and for getting this new brew into our market.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Birds Fly South's Shawn Johnson - Profile

Many successful brewmasters today describe their first attempts at brewing as a failure. Such is the case with Shawn Johnson, brewmaster and co-owner with wife, Lindsay, of Greenville's Birds Fly South Ale Project Brewery.

Lindsay, l, and Shawn with friends at Swamp Rabbit's 2015 Septembrew Fest.

Shawn with Bob Sylvester Saint Somewhere Brewing in FL.
According to Shawn, his first attempt ten years ago, a pale ale made from a kit, was a disaster. But, unfazed he continued and from experience working with Bob Sylvester at St. Somewhere Brewing, in Tarpon Springs, FL, plus his own continued home brewing skills, he has set a course to offer the Upstate (and everyone else eventually) a brewery focusing on Farmhouse Belgian style ales with an emphasis on sours. 
All this while maintaining a full-time active service career as an aviation engineer in the US Coast Guard, moving to our area in 2014.

Shawn is enthused about this style of beers, largely the result of his work with St Somewhere, but it appears to be the style that just spoke to him and he's become an evangelist on the subject. He says he wants to produce "pitcher sours," beer that people will want to drink again and again.

Currently he brews at Thomas Creek Brewery while waiting for the appropriate space to become available which will allow him and his wife to finally make their dream of having their own brewery come true upon his retirement from the service.

Brew day at Thomas Creek, always a Friday due to scheduling restrictions.

Barrel storage at Thomas Creek. Sours gotta age!
His brews are aged in prepared wooden barrels, usually white or red wine barrels ,  using the solera method, which Wikipedia describes as " a process for aging liquids such as wine, beer, and brandy, by fractional blending in such a way that the finished product is a mixture of ages, with the average age gradually increasing as the process continues." According to Shawn, this means a "continuous supply of sour for blending fresh beers, and more important, local sourced fruits and spices."

BFS has three core saison-style beers that I've tasted, most recently at a Community Tap event which featured Shawn pouring samples to us uninitiated in farmhouse/saison sours:
Brand New Eyes,a dry-hopped tart saison; Rustic Sunday, with rye and Rumblefish, a hoppy pale ale.

Shawn is very good at explaining saison complexities.

Tasting at The Tap. Brook Bristow (wearing lawyerly tie) appears to really appreciate sours.

Just finishing up after a timely release is a seasonal sour Pumpkin, which might sound unlikely but I enjoyed the taste I had of it, fresh from the fermenter. He also released a session sour-IPA, Yoder which was intended as a one-off but was so successful that he's not ruled out making it again.

Florida photos by Blake Coleman.

If you'd like to know more or even follow BFS, visit their Facebook page (and learn about his recent trip back to Florida for some collaborative brewing with old and new friends) or to really support sour beer, their Gofundme page will let you do just that.

So, while Shawn is waiting for his ideal brewery site to appear, you can look for his beer at the usual suspects' taprooms. I can personally attest that these beers are worth searching out.