Nash Community College: Producing brewers for Eastern NC

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patio at community collegeBig things are brewing at Nash Community College. The college, outside of Rocky Mount, boasts successful academic programs that are preparing students for the craft beer and hospitality industries.

In April, the beginning of NC Beer Month, NCC held a community workshop to showcase the skills of its culinary and brewing students. Guests enjoyed a meal of seafood paired with college-brewed beers under the lights on NCC’s patio.

Located just minutes from Rocky Mount Mills, home to an “incubator brewery” where would-be brewers can try their hand at brewing before launching their own operations.

The evening opened with guests learning to shuck their own grilled oysters, harvested from North Carolina’s Pamlico Sound. The first beer of the evening was Andes Mint Chocolate Stout, brewed with a Dutch chocolate malt, with fresh spearmint and peppermint added at the end of the brewing process.

The Seville Nights-themed dinner included two types of paella, potatoes and calamari, with two types of sauces, salsa verde and garlic aioli. In addition to the beer, the meal included a Sangria made from grapes grown at the college.

Trent Mohrbutter, NCC’s chief academic officer, said the NCC Brewing, Distillation and Fermentation program was developed to support the state’s brewing industry, and specifically to help boost the number of breweries in eastern North Carolina.

Randy and Danny

Randy Griffin and Danny Toole shared their specialty brews with guest at the NCC dinner.

The program, which leads to a two-year associates in applied science degree, is built around three tracks: the science of brewing, the industrial/mechanical and maintenance aspects of brewing, and the entrepreneurial/small business development side of starting a brewery. The college also offers certificates and a diploma of shorter duration.

Two brewing students shared the secrets of the beers they brewed for the dinner. Randy Griffin created an oyster stout by adding oysters on the half shell to a classic American stout during the last 15 minute of the brewing boil. The beer had a lightly salty flavor to it, but no overwhelming oyster taste.

Griffin said he saw a sign about the NCC brewing program while visiting Rocky Mount Mills. A long-time craft beer drinker, Griffin said he was ready to make a job change and enrolled in the brewing program. “I want to know everything possible. I want to learn the business side as well as the brewing side.”

A fan of brown ales, Griffin said that another major brewing project was a marshmallow brown ale he calls “Sta-Puff.”

Brewing student Danny Toole created a pecan porter, brewed with real roasted pecans. The pecan taste was very distinct. Toole said he would use more of the porter’s pale chocolate malt in future batches.

Toole said he found the NCC brewing program online. “I wanted a different are in the craft beer industry that is growing in North Carolina.” Eventually, he would like to own a brewery of his own.

buffet line and oven

A wood-fired grill is featured on the patio of the culinary program.

Entrance to building

Culinary arts building at NCC.

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Some Wicked Good Beer

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beer on ice

Wicked Weed beer tasting at NC State University Club.

Wicked Weed Brewing was the darling of Asheville’s craft beer market until earlier this year when they shocked their fellow brewers by selling their operation to Anheuser-Busch, makers of Budweiser. But in spite of the ownership change, the brewery has continued with business as usual, with a goal of expanding their distribution throughout the Southeast, according to Wicked Weed’s Raleigh rep Gregory Little.

Wicked Weed brews a little something for everyone, and recently, they rolled out a tasting at the NC State University Club in Raleigh that included some favorites and some brews I hadn’t tried before.

Lunatic Blonde: A Belgian blonde, lightly hopped and refreshing.

Napoleon Complex Hoppy Pale Ale: A little more hop than I care for.

Pernicious IPA: Yes, it’s hoppy, but it’s more of a citrus hop; no bitter finish.

Hop Coca Porter: More coca than hop, this porter is a great cool weather beer – brewed with coca nibs.

Brettanomyces Farmhouse Ale: The one sour – nice cider-like quality.

Any time you’re in Asheville, be sure to make a stop at Wicked Week Brewing – either the brewery or the nearby sours brewing facility, the Funkatorium. The food at the brewery is actually really good, and like many of Asheville’s dining establishments, they throw open the doors and make the whole restaurant feel like a patio in warm weather.

beers

Wicked Weed brought out the goods for the NC State University Club.

It’s NC Beer Month — Five Ways to Celebrate

Brewer during a tour

Tour a brewery to celebrate NC Beer Month.

April is NC Beer Month, and there are many ways to celebrate. So whether you’re a new or seasoned craft beer lover, here are five ideas for how to celebrate.

Tour a local brewery. Not all breweries offer tours, but many do, and some do a really great job of showcasing how their product is brewed. Most brewery websites will give the time and details of the tours. Some charge for their tours, usually with a beer reward (and a glass) at the end. Others offer free tours, but you buy your own beer. Know what a mash tun is? The four ingredients in beer? Yeah, you definitely need a tour!

Visit your local bottle shop and try some NC beer. Some grocery stores now carry a good selection of NC beer, but without the expertise you’ll find in a bottle shop. Explore the different ingredients that give beer its taste – are you more of a hoppy — bitter, citrusy — beer person, or do you prefer the caramel, coffee flavors of malt? Not sure where to start? Take this NC Beer Month quiz to find out your beer style.

Attend a beer tasting event. There are lots of them in April, from the mountains to the coast. Take the opportunity to try something you haven’t tried before. Some events offer unlimited tastings for the price of a ticket; at others, you pay as you go for what you taste.

Set out on a beer trail. Find an NC community with several breweries, maybe even some within walking distance of each other. Could be one of NC’s beer meccas, like Asheville or Raleigh. Some areas offer incentives to visit all their breweries, like the Raleigh Beer Trail. A new app from Our State Magazine helps you find breweries around North Carolina.

Experiment with beer and food pairings. Love Mexican food? Ask for something light and refreshing to offset the heaviness of the food. Chocolate dessert? Try a nice dark porter or stout. Whatever you do, make sure that your favorite restaurant serves a good selection of NC beer.

Two beer glasses

What’s your favorite beer? Try something new for NC Beer Month.

Drinking our way through Montana

Beers that go great with food or to wind up a day of hiking

two glasses of beer

Pilsner from Kalispell Brewing, at Three Forks Grille.

Like any out-of-state travel, a recent trip to Montana provided a great opportunity to discover some good local beers, and to get reacquainted with some West Coast favorites – Alaskan Brewing Co. and Deschutes of Oregon.

The first Montana beer we tried was a Pilsner from Kalispell Brewing Co. We were staying in Columbia Falls, between Kalispell and Glacier National Park. The Pilsner was nice and smooth, good with the delicious meals at Three Forks Grille in downtown Columbia Falls. Husband Kyle had salmon, and I had a nice pork chop.

One of newest hot spots in Columbia Falls is Backslope Brewing Co., which serves some really good food along with its brews. Bowls with a mixture of stuff are one of the attractions here: I had red beans and rice, with a shrimp skewer with a Backslope Buxum J Ginger Beer. Kyle had black rice, kale and Brussel sprouts, with a Pilgrim Kolsch.

two glasses of beer

Pilsner from Kalispell Brewing, at Three Forks Grille.

At the Night Owl Backroom, we shared an amazing plate of ribs, with a Golden Grizzly from Glacier Brewing Co., MT, and Nut Brown Ale from Bitter Root Brewery, MT. Three types of ribs came with potatoes, baked beans, slaw and fry bread.

We also kept a six pack of Alaskan Amber Ale in the fridge for an end-of-the-day treat.

So Montana’s craft beer goes great with real Montana food, especially after a day of hiking in Glacier National Park. And since I can’t share the beers, take a peek at the park, easily one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Now, what brew would you pair with a slice and to get reacquainted with some West Coast favorites – Alaskan Brewing Co. and Deschutes of Oregon.

The first Montana beer we tried was a Pilsner from Kalispell Brewing Co. We were staying in Columbia Falls, between Kalispell and Glacier National Park. The Pilsner was nice and smooth, good with the delicious meals at Three Forks Grille in downtown Columbia Falls. Husband Kyle had salmon, and I had a nice pork chop.

One of newest hot spots in Columbia Falls is Backslope Brewing Co., which serves some really good food along with its brews. Bowls with a mixture of stuff are one of the attractions here: I had red beans and rice, with a shrimp skewer with a Backslope Buxum J Ginger Beer. Kyle had black rice, kale and Brussel sprouts, with a Pilgrim Kolsch.

At the Night Owl Backroom, we shared an amazing plate of ribs, with a Golden Grizzly from Glacier Brewing Co., MT, and Nut Brown Ale from Bitter Root Brewery, MT. Three types of ribs came with potatoes, baked beans, slaw and fry bread.

We also kept a six pack of Alaskan Amber Ale in the fridge for an end-of-the-day treat.

So Montana’s craft beer goes great with real Montana food, especially after a day of hiking in Glacier National Park. And since I can’t share the beers, take a peek at the park, easily one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Now, what brew would you pair with a slice of huckleberry pie?

backslope

Backslope Brewing Co.

Bombshell Explodes on the Brewery Scene

bar-scene

Bombshell is a great place to hang out on a Saturday afternoon.

Bombshell Beer Company in Holly Springs is one of the few women-owned breweries in the state, but the women owners really seem to know how to create a brewery experience that suits everyone. We tried two of Bombshell’s brews at a recent NC State University Club event, and were so impressed we decided to pay a visit.

The tasting room and brewery are right off the main drag in Holly Springs in an industrial complex that also includes a daycare center, right next door. The brewery offers a regular food truck schedule and tours on Friday and Saturdays (no charge, but reservations encouraged).

Here’s a nice touch at the brewery that speaks to the influence of women owners – there are some really good snacks by the Veggie Wagon for sale in the brewery – fresh pimento cheese, salsa, black bean and garlic hummus, with an assortment of chips and crostini. A great idea for those of us who have to be careful of how much we drink between meals.

And for those who aren’t beer fans (is that possible?), Bombshell also offers a selection of wines and cider. Or bring your own bottle of wine, for a $5 corking fee.

We visited on a recent Saturday, when one of the tours was underway. With our five-beer flight, we enjoyed a container of the black bean hummus, along with tortilla chips.

Bombshell cans some of its beers, and we came away with a six-pack of Starlight Ale to take to the pool. A really good choice!

Holly Springs is getting to be a happening place. Home to one of NC’s oldest craft breweries, Carolina Brewing Co., it is in a good neighborhood for craft beer. And the town even has a minor league baseball team now – look up the schedule for the Salamanders and plan a visit to Bombshell to coincide with a game.

Bombshell Beer Co.
120 Quantum Dr.Holly Springs, NC

bombshell_sign

Six pack of Starlight Ale, a good summer beer.

Six pack of Starlight Ale, a good summer beer.

 

 

Baseball goes better with beer

beer taps

Carolina Brewing Co. is one of the featured breweries at the Salamanders ballpark.

Nothing is more American than summer baseball and the beer that goes with it. In the Triangle area, baseball pairs perfectly with great local beer.

Last year, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park debuted their own brewed-in-the-park beer, Bull Durham Beer Co., which is the only brewery in a minor league baseball park. The beer is good – I’m partial to the Lollygagger Kolsch – and their fill-from-the-bottom cups just get me every time I see them.

There aren’t as many different beers now at the DBAP. Used to be there were concessions from Carolina Brewery of Chapel Hill, Natty Greene’s of Greensboro and Foothills of Winston-Salem. The first time I ever tried a Foothills beer was at the DBAP, and I think you can still find it there. When Natty Greene’s still had a Raleigh brewery, they offered round trip bus rides to games at the DBAP, complete with beer.

You can still find Carolina Brewery beer at the park. Bullpen Pale Ale is brewed in honor of the Durham Bulls, and Sky Blue is a favorite among those who prefer really lite beer. We found a White Street Kolsch at one of the vendors recently.

I think the food concessions at the park have sort of lost their way, and friends have said the same thing. The barbecue sandwich is pretty good, if you can find your way to the stand high above right field. As long as you can find a good beer to wash it all down, you will be fine.

The Holly Springs Salamanders are college players getting in a little practice over the summer, and they have a really fancy little park for a small Wake County town. The local Carolina Brewing Co. is a major sponsor, and you can certainly find lots of their beer for sale there. But Salamanders’ park also offers some drafts from Draft Line Brewing Co. of nearby Fuquay-Varina, which opened two years ago, and from also from Holly Springs’ own Bombshell Brewing Co.

A pretty good beer lineup for a small ball park. I was pretty happy to find the Bombshell Strawberry Crème Ale on draft, having recently visited Bombshell. Try any of these local beers – they will knock one out of the park every time.