Got there a little early and spent some time enjoying a couple breweries that I would return to several times over my weekend - Wicked Weed, and the Wicked Weed Funkatorium. The Funkatorium houses WW's sour program and I absolutely loved hanging out there. It was cozy and full of excellent beer. I could have hung out there all day, every day. One thing I thought was especially cool was the emphasis they placed on bottle service. The difference in taste in a wild fermented beer on tap and from a bottle can be quite significant (Note to self: next time I have the opportunity to do a side by side comparison, take it!)
I got to try a special bottle there which was one of my favorites all weekend. It's part of their Domicile series, a sour called Bless Her Heart, and it was brewed with peaches, black tea, and ginger. It was refreshing - the brewers were going for that feeling of drinking peach tea on the porch during a hot summer day. One of the brewers told me that it had aged really well - when it was first kegged, he said he didn't like it as much as he did when it was bottle aged a bit.
Check out that bottle contraption - it reminds me of the lambic baskets in Belgium.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable drinking experience - in a comfortable space with a low key atmosphere and tasty and well presented beer.
One of the coolest things about the Beer Bloggers/Writers Conference is that it allows for intimate and, well, damn deluxe opportunities to interact with breweries and brewers. One such event took place at Sierra Nevada's new Asheville facility. Man, Sierra Nevada spared absolutely no expense with this brewery and tap room. It was like Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory, and when we stepped off our bus we were greeted by Mr. Wonka himself, Sierra Nevada founder and owner Ken Grossman, who led our tour. It was so much fun - the facility was totally overwhelming with a room full of hops, enormous copper brew kettles, huge windows letting in streaming sunlight bouncing off shiny equipment.
And then we were led down a path through the forest to the river, while serenaded by a German oom-pah duo. Seriously, you guys, IT WAS LIKE THE MAGIC KINGDOM, OK. When we arrived at our destination we were greeted with a giant mug of Sierra Nevada's new Oktoberfest, which was a collaboration with a German brewery Brauhaus Riegele (whose owner and brewer was also there, WHAT IS THIS, CHRISTMAS?)
I highly recommend trying this once it becomes available, it's delicious.
Although the walk back UP the steeply graded path was not nearly as much fun for this flatlander, Sierra Nevada threw a hell of a party in a hell of a facility.
It's good to know that jaded beer writer like myself can still experience wide eyed enthusiasm at the sight of a beautifully designed brewery built by people who obviously love beer and love sharing it with other beer lovers. That's a lotta love, and baby, I felt it.