From Taproom to Kitchen: A Taste Test with Hi-Wire Brewing

Woman walking on tightrope over cityscape, low section

Back in September, I made a trip to beer Mecca, Asheville, NC, to visit friends. During my stop, I made sure to check out one of North Carolina’s newer breweries, Hi-Wire Brewing, which opened up over the summer.

As you’d expect from any Asheville business, the place was cozy and friendly … but what about their beers?

Well, it just so happens that Hi-Wire recently began distributing three of their year-round beers to the eastern side of North Carolina. After finding them in my local bottle shop – an IPA, pale ale and brown ale – I decided to do a retroactive taste test.

What I’ve done is taken my initial impressions, as captured on Untappd, and separately taken notes on the bottle versions I bought last week. I was curious to compare and contrast my thoughts.

As I’m sure you know, getting beer straight from the source is always the best way to do things – a la my great Beergrimage of 2013 – but I figured this would be a fun way to offer up a few new NC beers in case you happen to pass through the state.
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Six-Pack Project: New States and Where to Buy Beer in North Carolina

six pack-beerToday marks the second round of entries into the Six-Pack Project, an effort to bring together writers from all over the country to highlight a six-pack of our home’s native brews that best represent what our beer culture has to offer. If someone is coming to visit, what bottles or cans would we want to share?

There’s a great lineup of beer bloggers sharing their insights this time around, including our first Fantasy Beer Draft between Baltimore Bistros and Beer and Literature and Libation. Need to familiarize yourself with the Six-Pack Project? The rules…

  1. Pick a six-pack of beers that best represents your state and/or state’s beer culture.
  2. Beer must be made in your state, but “gypsy” brewers are acceptable, so long as that beer is brewed with an in-state brewery and sold in your state.
  3. Any size bottle or can is acceptable to include.
  4. Current seasonal offerings are fine, but try to keep selections to year-round brews as much as possible. No out-of-season brews preferred.

Here are the locations we’ve got covered this month (updated as applicable):

While these writers got to have all the fun, I decided to join the fray by revisiting my original post on what to buy in North Carolina. While I (hopefully) offered a solid collection of brews that represent all the NC has to offer, the key to enjoying NC beer is finding a place to buy it. All six of my selections should be easily found in nearly any grocery or beer store, but what if you really wanted to get into the weeds of North Carolina beer?

I’m here to help. If you or anyone else is searching for the best places to buy local beer in North Carolina, let’s check out some great options from across the state…

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The Six-Pack Project: Beers from Around the Country

six pack-beerWith Memorial Day in the rearview mirror, we’ve entered the (unofficial) start of summer. Barbecues, beaches and vacations lie ahead.

But what’s a trip away from home without throwing beer into the mix?

Enter the Six-Pack Project. It’s a new, collaborative effort between beer bloggers from around the country to highlight a six-pack of our state’s native brews that we believe best represent what the beer culture of our respective states offer. If someone is coming to visit, what bottles or cans would we want to share?

Here are our rules:

  • Pick a six-pack of beers that best represents your state and/or state’s beer culture.
  • Beer must be made in your state, but “gypsy” brewers are acceptable, so long as that beer is brewed with an in-state brewery and sold in your state.
  • Any size bottle or can is acceptable to include.
  • Current seasonal offerings are fine, but try to keep selections to year-round brews as much as possible. No out-of-season brews preferred.

Welcome to the inaugural round of the Six-Pack Project. I hope to include bloggers from across the U.S. in future versions, so contact me on Twitter if you or someone you know may fit the bill.

Some quick notes to about selections for my state, North Carolina:

1. I approached this task as if I were building a flight of beers for you to try. Because of that, I’ve picked six different styles of beers that would (hopefully) take you through a great North Carolina beer experience, although subjectively selected by me.

2. All of these picks can be found year-round in NC beer shops.

Without further adieu, let’s find out what North Carolina has to offer…
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When the ‘Crowd Rules,’ Beer Wins

mystery brewing-cnbc-crowd rules-hillsborough

A funny thing happened on the way to the modern American Dream. It got knocked around.

But this post isn’t about politics or economics. This post is about how maybe that dream hasn’t quite been knocked down … or out. It’s alive – sometimes you just have to look for it.

Especially in the world of beer. For as much as I harp on the idea of a “craft beer bubble” here’s an important fact: the reason the number of breweries around the country has skyrocketed in recent years is because of the American Dream. It’s because men and women who are passionate about beer decided to pursue their love and hope for the best.

It’s because sometimes a shot in the dark leads to the light at the end of your tunnel.

I was reminded of that this week when Mystery Brewing, just down the road in Hillsborough, North Carolina, won an episode of “Crowd Rules,” a entrepreneurial-based game show on CNBC. Aside from winning $50,000 to put toward his business, Mystery’s owner, Erik Lars Myers, showed yet again that passion can lead to success with some help from others.

Yet again? Well, let me explain…
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Foothills Brewing Frostbite black IPA

frostbite for web

There are two things I dislike when it comes to brewery websites – a lack of updates and a lack of information. It’s something that bothers Benjamin Moore over at Active Beer Geek, too.

But fear not, that isn’t deterring me from doing my best to dissect what I can from Foothill Brewery’s Frostbite, a black IPA that’s apparently so new(!) it doesn’t have ratings on Beer Advocate or Rate Beer yet. Cheers to me for being ahead of the curve.

If you check their website, Foothills hasn’t updated their news section in years (2008 press releases coming soon!) or offer in-depth information about their brews to the nerds out there who may come to their site seeking additional information that’s not on the bottle. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that Frostbite used to be made by another brewery that was bought by Foothills, which completely changed the recipe.

(In all fairness, a writer for Examiner.com visited Foothills last month and apparently got the ingredient list for their beers, which throws me for a loop that they’d give it out to him but not post any of it on their website. So that makes things easier.)

So, with that lovely intro, let’s try to break down this overly hoppy black IPA after the jump.
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Big Boss Night Knight (en garde)

I’ve been very happy with previous black IPAs – Hoppy Bunny blew me away – so I was excited to see local Big Boss Brewery take a step in that direction with their first(?) offering in this style. Like many other North Carolina breweries, Big Boss seems to excel at creating top-notch dark beers.

Aptly titled Night Knight, this brew is apparently so new and so local it barely registers on Beer Advocate. It’s around 200 check-ins on Untappd, for which it’s averaged a 3.78 out of five.

So how did this brew fare for me? Let’s hit the jump.
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Roth Brewing Forgotten Hollow

“If any beer makes us world famous, it will be this one.”

That is the initial tag line from the Roth Brewing (no relation) website for Forgotten Hollow, a damn special beer that speaks the truth to the bold statement. It’s a fairly straight-forward brew – a porter with cinnamon – with great results. It’s got an 84 on Beer Advocate in limited review.

I met the brewery’s CEO and brewer, Ryan Roth (I swear, no relation), a couple years back shortly after Roth Brewing opened. This beer is based from his own homebrew recipe, although I can’t recall how many iterations he went through before finding the right amount of everything. Needless to say, it’s a great and unique entry to the North Carolina beer scene. It’s just a shame this seasonal isn’t around more often.

Curious where this beer took my senses? Hit the jump for a quick review.
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Big Boss Harvest Time … it’s a pumpkin beer, so you know it’s good

Creepy levitating Harvest Time

As we roll into the end of October, with Thanksgiving around the corner, we are sadly into the waning days of the pumpkin beer. Winter and holiday styles have already started showing up in my local beer store, considering pumpkin beers were being delivered in mid-July.

As a lover of all things pumpkin, this saddens me. I’ll only have my homemade pumpkin pies to keep my belly full until I give that up sometime in mid-winter. So, for now, I’m enjoying pumpkin beers while they still last. One of my favorite fall seasonals comes from a local brewery, Big Boss. The Raleigh-based brewery puts out Harvest Time, which currently sits at 85 on Beer Advocate and was even featured this week as one of “7 Great Pumpkin Beers” on MadeMen.com.

What does this ghoulish brew have to offer? Hit the jump to find out.
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Mystery Brewing Pickwick

It seems these days session beer is all over the place: it has its own blog, pops up in the news and receives a weekly mention from everyone’s favorite beer devotee/curmudgeon, Ding:

Yes, there are differences in what a session beer is to the originators – the Brits! – and the newly acquainted – ‘Merica! – but (hopefully) we can all agree on one thing: a session beer is a low-ABV brew that can be enjoyed at a good length of time to enjoy the company of others and the (hopefully) flavorful beer in your hand/mouth/liver.

I’d be a fool if I made a trip to a local brewery and didn’t come away with something, so this weekend I put a growler of Mystery Brewing’s session beer to the ultimate test – a football-filled Sunday. Since this 3.5 percent ABV beer is only found in North Carolina, it’s yet to receive plenty of ratings on Rate Beer or Beer Advocate. Hit the jump to see how it played out for me, however.
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A Unique Experience … at Mystery Brewing

“Beer does not make itself properly by itself. It takes an element of mystery and of things that no one can understand.”
– Fritz Maytag

You’ll find this quote from the “godfather” of modern craft brewing, Fritz Maytag, throughout the building that houses one of North Carolina’s newer breweries, Mystery Brewing. It’s with good reason – invention, innovation and playing with beer seems to be the raison d’etre of an outfit that prides itself on producing quality, seasonal-only beers that have been a hit around here. This weekend I spent a couple hours soaking up some suds and knowledge as part of a brewery “tour.”

Curious about what I found and how the beer tasted? Spoiler: It was a perfect end to my month-long Oktoberfest fun. Continue the mystery after the jump…
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