Three days, two amazing breweries, more beer poured than you’ll find at a frat party and 150 plus amazing bloggers, writers and social media experts, all interested in beer. I don’t know exactly where to begin, but the 2015 Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference in Asheville was all I expected, and more. The first day of the conference was all about tours to nearby Oskar Blues in Brevard and the recently opened Sierra Nevada Brewery in Mills River. Look for additional posts coming up soon.
Disney World for beer lovers
Ever since Sierra Nevada of Chico, Calif., announced it was opening an East Coast brewery in Asheville, anticipation for the brewery taproom’s opening, earlier this year, was huge. And Sierra Nevada in Mills River does not disappoint. From the moment the bloggers got off the bus to shake hands with brewery founder Ken Grossman and son Brian (totally starstruck) to the gigantic brewery, complete with enormous copper kettles refurbished and imported from Germany to the hop room where whole hop cones are thawed for the day’s brewing to the taproom patio and riverfront events area, we were impressed!
As the first bus group waited for our tour, a guide announced that, “We have someone here who knows so much more about the brewery…” Oh yeah, Ken Grossman was our guide. His passion for the brewery showed every time another guide had to stop and remind him that “the next group is right behind you.” What was normally a two-hour tour was collapsed to about 45 minutes.
Just for us beer bloggers, Sierra Nevada took the opportunity to release its Oktoberfest beer, a collaboration with German brewer Brauhaus Riegele of Augsburg, an effort to learn more about German festival beers, according to the website. It was served up in huge beer steins –ours to keep — at our riverside dinner site, along with grilled veggies, roast pork and bratwurst.
Ken Grossman quote about quality and the need to occasionally dump bad beer, “Making beer is an art and a science, and there are a lot of things that can go wrong.
Oskar Blues Brewery, Brevard
Before Sierra Nevada came to Western North Carolina, Colorado brewery Oskar Blues opened its East Coast site in Brevard, just a short drive from Asheville. The facility is designed for production and distribution of Oskar Blues canned craft beers.
We toured the 80,000-barrel-per-year facility that has plans to ramp up to 200K barrels a year eventually. A few more facts about Oskar Blues:
- 300 cans of beer per minute are produced on the canning line.
- East Coast beer is distributed in 20 states.
- Most of the beers ferment for up about 15 days.
The beers we sampled at Oskar Blues included Mango Habanero Dale’s Pale Ale, with a little hot kick at the end, and Death by Coconut, an Irish Porter with a strong coconut, chocolate flavor. Mama’s Little Yella Pils was a nice, crisp summer lager.
Fun fact: Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis loves bicycles, and rewards employee who stay with the company two years with a bicycle for their anniversary gift. When Dale’s bike was stolen several years ago, he started building bikes that are all-American materials at a facility near the Colorado plant.