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Asheville, NC

April, 2000

By Bobby Bush

If you’re a regular reader of this verbose Beer & Loafing column, it’ll probably come as no surprise that I’ve become a big fan of Asheville. Once a hickey, backwards mountain town, Asheville of the 90’s and beyond has become a city of art and entertainment without all the snooty sophistication of a wanna-be metropolitan area like Charlotte.

Every night of the week, it seems, there’s something going on in Asheville. As if beer wasn’t enough, there’s plenty of art galleries, theaters (including one showing strange foreign films), salvage stores, eclectic restaurants and even a Mast General Store. And there’s live music at clubs like Be Here Now, Almost Blue’s Basement, the new Grey Eagle, Stella Blue, Jack of the Wood and many others. Check out www.mountainxpress.com or www.wncw.org for an up-to-date list of entertainment activities. Plus the city sponsors quite a few street festivals during the year, culminating with the famed three day Bele Chere music extravaganza. And, here’s the part I like best, there’s plenty of beer in Asheville.

Though he has no set tour schedule or tasting room, drop in on John Lyda and his basement crew at micro Highland Brewing for a chat and a sample. His beers- in bottles and kegs all over town -are among my favorites anywhere. Around the corner at street level, you can’t go wrong with Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria. Over 40 tap handles, pouring micros and imports, Barley’s is one of the oldest multi-beer taprooms in the state. You’ll always find an interesting selection and a friendly face behind the bar. Great sandwiches, wraps and pizzas too.

Continuing northward on Biltmore Avenue, you’ll find Mellow Mushroom Pizzeria & Taproom on your right. A pizza/pasta joint gone beer-crazy, the ‘Schroom is part of a trio of NC restaurants- the others are in Chapel Hill and Boone -with siblings in Georgia, Alabama and Colorado. With a long L-shaped bar boasting 24 taps of everything from Anchor Steam to Weinhenstephaner and a respectable menu of bottled micros, imports and domestics, this quaint place of colorful wall murals and unusual decor brings beer to life. See for yourself at www.mellowmushroom.com.

Continuing on Biltmore as it becomes Merrimon, Asheville Pizza & Brewery serves steaming pizza, second-run movies and house brewed beer. Originally known as Two Moons Brew-N-View, the brewpub found new owners last year and a new lease on life. There’s always a guest beer or two on tap, often a rare import, but it’s brewer Doug Riley’s Pisgah Pale Ale, Shiva IPA, Rook Porter and others that keep the brewpub hopping. From the bar, you can watch Doug brewing, then take beer and food to the theater for an entertaining flick.

And back downtown, east on Patton Avenue, is an unassuming little rustic pub called Jack of the Wood. Way in the back, behind bar and kitchen, is Jonas Rembert’s domain. Known as Green Man Brewing, this little brewery makes some mighty fine brews. Admittedly not a hop-head, Jonas prefers his Everyman’s Gold Cream Ale, Rat Alley Red and old-style Wee Heavy Scotch Ale. To his deference, I prefer more demonstrative ales like Jonas’ Green Man IPA and ESB. Green Man Porter splits the line, posing a malty roasted robust body as counterpoint to suggestive hops profile. Mixed drinks, single barrel scotches, liqueurs and live music many nights of the week. There are few things more relaxing than listening to the mountain bluegrass strains of Sons of Ralph while nursing a pint of that pungent IPA. This is what a neighborhood pub is suppose to be.

And I’m still discovering Asheville. The aforementioned Grey Eagle music venue lost its lease in Black Mountain and moved west to Asheville. Great music (Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, John Cowan, Chuck Brodsky, Southern Culture On the Skids) meets great beer with a wide selection of draft and bottled micros- sign up for their mailing list at greyeagle@bellsouth.net. The Basement, beneath Almost Blue CD/LP store, also has a respectable choice of draft and bottled beers to accompany a varying cast of musical performers.

Yep, you’ll probably hear me say this again, soon, but Asheville is a extremely beer (and music) friendly town. Check it out.

This article first appeared in Focus Magazine of Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush

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