Is this heaven? No it’s live beer blogging!

computer and beer

Let the wild rumpus begin!

Could this be heaven? I’m sitting at a table – phone, laptop and camera in hand – while 12 brewers come around and bring me samples of their beer. All you have to do is drink it, first, and secondly, write about it.

So the live beer blogging late Saturday afternoon of the Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference may be the highlight. It’s basically “speed dating” with brewers courting bloggers, and this year’s brewers were all from North Carolina. Here’s a recap of the beers and what I learned in the five minutes or so that each brewer had to share their stuff.

Innovation Brewing, Sylva This cute young brewer couple shared their Beet and Basil Pale Ale and a Black IPA that is their most popular beer. Innovation distributes only through their taproom, where they have an impressive 21 beers on tap at all times, and they try to source much of their ingredients locally, including from their own 14-acre farm. The Beet and Basil Pale was especially nice with a pink color (beets) and a spicy, earthy taste. The Black IPA was “aggressively hopped,” and the dark color was provided by Midnight Wheat, with 10 percent rye for flavor. And shhhhh … local fans with gluten intolerance have discovered that several of the beers are surprisingly drinkable, but they don’t advertise as gluten-free.

Highland Brewing, Asheville Highland, Asheville’s original craft brewery, brought their just-released King MacAlpin Double IPA — soooooo hoppy. The Double IPA was released the night before, and at the Saturday evening program sponsored by the Asheville brewers we had the chance to sample Highland’s amazing Oktoberfest, on its way to bottle shops in a few weeks. Tip: Don’t wait until October to buy this one or you’ll be disappointed. Next up in the production line at Highland: Double Milk Stout.

Fullsteam, Durham Sean from Fullsteam described how the Durham brewery, which has received wide acclaim, likes to celebrate local farm ingredients. We sampled Summer Basil Farmhouse Ale, Fullsteam’s best selling seasonal beer, brewed with North Carolina basil, wheat and barley. Because the ingredients change over time, Fullsteam’s beer also     changes over time. Summer Basil is popular, and one of Fullsteam’s challenges is getting people to celebrate the NC basil season, rather than anticipating the season — basil isn’t available in NC until late June.

“Beer is agriculture,” Sean says. Fullsteam’s Persimmon beer won a Good Food Award, and Carver is made from copious amounts of NC sweet potatoes.

Front St. Brewery, Wilmington Front Street Brewery opened in 1995, making it the sixth oldest brewery in the state. The brewery sells all its beer off its own taps and doesn’t distribute it at all. We tasted Absurdity Belgian IPA, 9.1 percent ABV, and a very smooth hoppy beer. Other popular beer styles at Front Street are the Scottish Ale, Coastal Kolsch and Raspberry Wheat Ale. Last year, Front Street became the first brewery in the state to hire a woman as head brewmaster.

Duck Rabbit Brewery, Farmville We tasted Duck Rabbit Milk Stout, which may be the best known North Carolina beer sold outside the state, in just seven states with Pennsylvania being the farthest north. And yet this geographically hard-to-find brewery has only just “expanded” its taproom hours to ?? Daniel Bradford of All About Beer Magazine recommends serving Duck Rabbit Milk Stout over vanilla ice cream – yummmm!

Big Boss Brewing, Raleigh I’m biased of course because I love all Big Boss brews, and I’m not alone. Big Boss has been named the best brewery in Wake County, and Angry Angle Kolsch has been named the best beer in the county. We tasted Hell’s Belle Blonde Ale, one of the brewery’s beers named for WWII planes. Big Boss distributes only in the Carolinas, thank goodness, and Harvestime, their fall seasonal, is highly sought after. Again, don’t wait until October to buy yours.

NoDa Brewing, Charlotte Charlotte’s NoDa Brewing comes around with Hop and Roll IPA – hopppyyyy! The noise in the room is so loud by now, I cannot hear a thing…

White Street Brewery, Wake Forest Again, what can I say because I love White Street Brewery. White Street has really brought life to sleepy downtown Wake Forest and has been named one of the top 10 breweries in the U.S. to watch. A rep from the NC Brewers Guild brought White Street samples of Kolsch, Scottish Ale and Hoptimist.

Olde Mecklenberg Brewery, Charlotte I had never tried Olde Mecklenberg beers before, but I found Copper Amber Ale, their flagship beer, to be very smooth, and Capt. Jack Pilsner, has a summer taste.

Final round (almost)!! Why can’t I read these notes??

Trophy Brewing and Pizza, Raleigh   Trophy brought the popular Trophy Wife American Pale Ale and Milky Way Salted Caramel Sweet Stout, a malty, chocolatey stout — yummm. And their pizza isn’t bad either.

Lonerider Ales for Outlaws, Raleigh Saving the best for last? Lonerider has long been a favorite of mine. They rolled out Sweet Josie Brown Ale and Red Spur seasonal ale. (Did I miss something? I can’t read my notes…)

Can somebody help me find the door?


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