Showing posts with label blue ridge brewing company. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blue ridge brewing company. Show all posts

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pubs of Downtown Greenville

Mrs Velkyal and I spent the weekend in Greenville, South Carolina. It was Mrs V's best friend's 30th birthday and so naturally we jumped in the car and drove 6 hours to hang out with her and her husband for a few days. It had been planned for Mrs V and friend to have a girl's night out on Saturday, and so I arranged to meet up with a chap called Dan who follows Fuggled and shares many of the same passions as myself, unrepentant Germanophilia and a love of lager to start with. It would also be an opportunity to see some a sample of Greenville's pub life, and so a pub crawl of sorts was planned.

We started off at a place called The Velo Fellow, which advertises itself as a "Publick House" and claims on their website that they aim to "pay homage to the ongoing British publick house tradition". Given my experience of "British" pubs on this side of the Atlantic I was a little wary - the usual approach is to put fish n'chips on the menu, give yourself a pseudo-British pub name, often involving dogs and horses and hey presto, you have a bog standard American bar posing as British. We walked in and it was almost love at first sight. A ramshackle collection of wooden tables and chairs, a leather sofa with unmatching high backed armchairs and a bare wooden floor, we took a table right in the middle. The five beers they had on tap spanned a range of styles (side cynical note, it isn't impressive to have dozens of taps all flowing with variations of pale ale), including the Coney Island Mermaid Pilsner. A sample was tried and a pint soon followed, in an American sized pint nonic glass. I was enjoying myself, and several more pints followed. If we hadn't had a plan, I would have happily not moved all night.

We had a plan however, and so we wandered off to pub number 2, . When we arrived in Greenville on Thursday we had gone to Barley's for dinner, and their 18" pizzas are delicious. Very much a beer bar with a good selection of brews, we found a perch at the bar and got a couple of Sierra Nevada Summerfest in, and took in the busy vibe. The two trips to Barley's has by and large convinced me that American lagers are better on draft than in the can or the bottle. While I like bottled Summerfest, on draft it really steps up a notch. My one gripe though was that it was one of only a handful of lagers on the menu. A couple of pints downed, and conversation ranging from political theory, football and why proper German bratwurst is wonderful, we moved next door.

Owned by the same people as Barley's, I believe, is
The Trappe Door, a basement bar that focuses on Belgian beer, was the name a give away? Again taking a couple of seats at the bar, I decided to change the tack on the beer a little bit. Now, I know I am a heretic when I say this, but I have never been a fan of Belgian beer, or at least the sweet, funky, fruity weirdness that passes for Belgian beer. What I do like though is sour beers. Ever since Evan Rail introduced me to gueuze back in Prague, I have loved the tart sharp tang of sour beer. On the menu was Petrus Oud Bruin, and so I introduced Dan to the delights of sour beer. I should point out that when I go to the pub I rarely bother with tasting notes any more, a pub is for socialising, not using your smart phone to ponce about on anti-social media. In some ways Trappe Door reminded me of the basement at Pivovarsky klub, I liked it muchly.

Moving on, we headed up to the Blue Ridge Brewing Company, a brewpub that I have written about before, and which I think does a decent job. We paid the fleetest of flying visits, downing a pint of Curli Blonde before heading to last pub on the list, Nose Dive - a clean, modern bar with decent beer and a young clientele. After a short while at Nose Dive, word came that we should meet up with Mrs V and friends at a wine bar down the street called On The Roxx, where a collective decision was taken to head back to the rough comforts of The Velo Fellow for more laughter, pilsner and good times.

We had an excellent night out, drank inordinate amounts of beer, and discovered at least one very serious contender for the Fuggled Best Pub in America 2011. If there were more pubs like The Velo Fellow in the States, it would be a very good thing. We will be back for more!

Monday, February 14, 2011

In Praise of Brewpubs

We are inordinately fortunate in this part of the world, as I have mentioned before, to have a wealth of brewing companies within an hours drive. Whether we are talking about the likes of Starr Hill, whose beers are available throughout the south east of the US, with the exception of Georgia, or one of the local brewpubs, we have loads of beer options here. It is great being able to go into our nearby shops and pick up six packs of locally made beer. Having said that, I have to admit that I prefer to combine my two favourite things, pubs and beer, by going to one of the brewpubs.

If you follow Fuggled with even the vaguest sense of regularity you will know that my favourite brewpub in the Charlottesville area is Devils Backbone, out in Roseland. I love the beer, the food, the atmosphere, the drive back in the depths of night can be a bit hairy at times though. Mrs Velkyal and I also enjoy popping over to Blue Mountain from time to time, again for good beer and a nice relaxing vibe. Whenever we venture away from home, we look instinctively for brewpubs to drop in to, and so we have enjoyed Blue Ridge Brewing in Greenville, Hunter Gatherer in Columbia, Southend Brewery in Charleston (yes we go to South Carolina a lot). All this got me thinking about reasons for preferring a brewpub to pretty much any other drinking experience, and I came up with a couple of reasons.

Firstly, most brewpubs are good pubs in general. If you go to South Street Brewery in the centre of Charlottesville, the building itself is beautiful, and it feels very much like a proper pub. Dark, almost brooding, plenty of bare brick and dark wood, it is very much my kind of ambience. Devils Backbone by contrast is mainly stone, wood and corrugated iron (it might be tin, so don't quote me), the high ceilings add a sense of space and light which doesn't translate to bright and gaudy. Blue Mountain kind of feels like my living room, with a very nice patio outside. Different places with different atmospheres but all identifiably pubs. They are places for enjoying beer, first and foremost.

Now this might be slightly controversial, or entirely obvious, but brewpubs succeed or fail on the basis of their beer, and that means they need to be on top of their game constantly. By this I mean that they have no place to hide when it comes to criticism. They brew their own beer, condition their own beer, serve their own beer. If there is a problem with a beer then they can't blame the distributor for not looking after it properly, or the pub for not serving it properly, the buck stops with them. Why then is this a reason for me to prefer the brewpub experience? Simply because if I am enjoying a pint of excellent beer, then I am confident that if I switch drinks, they will likewise well made and cared for, at the same time if the pint is not up to scratch and then neither is another, then it suggests a systemic problem with the brewing setup. As such, it allows me to make an informed decision as to whether or not I want to continue pouring money into their cash register.

A major benefit of the brewpub though is having had a flight of samples, you can then order a pint of the one you liked best and get tucking in to a good session - which is, after all the prime purpose of beer, if beer needs to have a purpose.

The best brewpubs combine the best of the beer world, good beer in a convivial environment.

Now, just in case you are thoroughly confused with me writing a positive post rather than ranting, here's something to restore your sense of normality. Yesterday I was in Barnes and Noble when I picked up the book The Beer Trials, turning to the page about Pilsner Urquell, I was dumbstruck by the ignorance and all round bullshit of the description of the beer. For starters "Pilsner Urquell" is GERMAN for Pilsner from the Original Source, not Czech. Yes they really said that. Twice. Ignorant tits. Secondly opening a bottle of pasteurised Pilsner Urquell thousands of miles from the Czech Republic is hardly the best way to enjoy a famously delicate beer, especially when the glass is green, and so the "traditional lightstruck/noble hop" aroma is not normal. Try drinking Pilsner Urquell from a tankove system, in the Czech Republic before waffling bollocks. Here endeth the lesson.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Challenge to Bloggers/Readers

My somewhat over active brain has been at it again, damned thing really should know when to quieten down and just let me get some sleep. Today's post really comes out of a conversation I had with a colleague from the Starr Hill Brewery yesterday in the tasting room. Sundays are usually seriously quiet and so we have more time to talk, one topic that came up was the kind of range of beers a brewery has, in particular the core brands, using Starr Hill as an example, the core range is as follows:
  • Jomo Lager - a Southern German style lager
  • Amber Ale - an Irish Red Ale
  • Pale Ale - erm, guess what, it's an American Pale Ale
  • Northern Lights - an American India Pale
  • The Love - a hefeweizen
  • Dark Starr - a dry Irish stout
Obviously some breweries have far larger ranges, but I think in general Starr Hill covers the bases of what most people drink in the US. Part of the conversation was what range of beers would we have if we had our own brewery? A challenging thought, especially given all the styles of beer that are out there, but it got me thinking, what kind of beers would I make if I owned a brewery or brewpub - which is in some ways like asking which of the beers I already brew at home would I carry over into a business?

The first thing that I would say is that I would want to push cask ale as much as possible. Having tried the same beer on keg and on cask at a brewpub near Washington DC recently, all I can is that Tandleman knows a thing or two because the cask was infinitely superior. Running concurrent to a commitment to cask ale would be insisting on bottle conditioning. I know of only one brewery that bottle conditions over here (admittedly there are huge gaps in my knowledge of the American scene at the moment), but I think it is no coincidence that Bell's Brewery make my favourite beers at the moment.

As for the range of beers, I would have a core consisting of:
  • Experimental Dark Matter - dark mild, very dark, complex and yet perfectly sessionable
  • Blondynka - a proper pilsner, yes, triple decoction, Saaz hops, only Pilsner malt, at least 45 days lagering
  • Copper Head - a best bitter, like many things British, a much maligned style because it isn't done properly
  • Old Baldy - an American IPA, big malty brew with hops galore, none of your thin hopbominations here
  • Skippy Porter - a smoked chocolate porter, hopped only with Fuggles and it tells
  • 94 - a Dortmund Alt, not a common style over here, but one that I love so it would have to be there
My challenge then to my readers and other bloggers is what kind of beers would you make if you ran or owned a brewery/brewpub? I know a few of my readers already do brew on a commercial scale, what do you think of my line-up?

Happy thinking!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Blue Ridge Brewing Company

Friends of Mrs Velkyal and I are getting married in April and have asked me to "consult" on the beer selection to be available for the reception. Thus it was, yesterday, that we found ourselves sat in the most convivial surroundings of the the Blue Ridge Brewing Company in Greenville, South Carolina. Unfortunately we didn't have our camera with us, so to get an idea of what the place looks like, see the Photos section of the their website.

Before I start on about the beer, just a quick word about the food - delicious. That's enough of a digression methinks.

On to the beer, I ordered a flight and in return received 6 decent sized samples of:
  • Kurli Blonde Ale
  • Colonel Paris Pale Ale
  • Rainbow Trout ESB
  • Total Eclipse Stout
  • Santa's Little Helper Porter
  • Little Wille Barley Wine
I have to admit that I have grave misgivings about blonde ales, I usually find them boring - perhaps that is because they are generally thought of as a crossover beer to introduce drinkers of regular beers to craft beer. Kurli Blonde really didn't change my opinion, sure it's well enough made, but just unexciting for me, but then I doubt I would be the target market for these kind of beers any more. The Colonel Paris Pale Ale on the other hand did make an impression, largely because it wasn't as in your face hoppy like some American Pale Ales and all the better for it.

The ESB was, well, an ESB, full of all the goodness of Kentish hops and with a nice malty body, very nice beer, so I had a pint of it once the flight was done, whilst wistfully wondering how much better it would be served from cask at cellar temperature rather than a tad too cold. They describe the stout as "Guinness without the acidity", which is certainly is, an excellent stout which belies its 6.7%ABV to be very drinkable.

Santa's Little Helper is their Christmas oatmeal porter, hopped with Galena apparently, and again a very nice beer, by this point my pulled pork sandwich had arrived, see previous comment about food. Last up on the beer front was Little Willie Barley Wine, a total treat and proof that an 11.5%ABV beer need not feel like drinking paint stripper, lots of seville orange flavours and a beautifully smooth body, simply a wonderful beer.

Overall I was very impressed with the Blue Ridge Brewing Company and will certainly be recommending at least one of their brews to our friends for their wedding. Just another quick digression into food, they make thier own tomato ketchup and it is delicious, it actually tastes like tomatoes instead of red coloured sugar.

Fantastic stuff.

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...