Monday, 5 June 2017

Asheville day two

Not the greatest sleep again. The latter half is a mix of dozing and restless turning.

The house I’m staying in has a hi-tech toilet. Though I’m too nervous to engage any of its special functions. They look a bit scary.


After warily completing my ablutions, I water the plant pots outside the front door. The garden is much nicer than the usual US expanse of bland lawn. It has plants and shit in it. Happy to keep it looking nice.

Mike picks me up at 10:30 and we drive over to the brewery in Weaverville. For the moment it’s the brewery. Evidently another one is due to open soon just a little further down the same alleyway. For the record, Weaverville has a population of just 3,000. That’s fewer inhabitants than Balderton, where I grew up. I can’t imagine Baldo ever having two breweries.

On the way over, Mike tells me has no desire to get any bigger. His 7-barrel plant gives him total freedom to brew what he wants too. If he grew much bigger, then he wouldn’t be able to experiment as much as he does. With no debt and no investors, he’s in complete control. I’m sure it’s a situation many brewers would envy.


I watch Mike set up, mop the floor, arrange the furniture outside and move the tardis into place. There’s nothing quite as relaxing as watching someone else work while you have a beer in your hand. Especially when it’s a full imperial pint. Not being a total pisshead, I kick off the day with Maclay 60 bob.

A beer that yesterday was confusing the hell out of the punters. Who expected a dark Scotch Ale and were served a beer above the same hue as Pils. It’s a lovely light refreshing beer. Perfect for breakfast.


After a while, Gabe brings tacos. Which form the solid part of our breakfast.


Punk stuff is still spitting out of the speakers. Mike tells me he’s been very impressed by The Damned. Not a band he’d known that well. I have to agree with him. Re-listening to them in preparation for this trip, I was pleasantly surprised by their musical prowess. Well put together songs, just played at kamikaze pace. You have to love a band that manages to get through a song in less than a minute.

Mike tells me about some frustrating customers:

“They come in and say: ‘Give me your IPA.’ When I say we don’t have one, they turn around and walk out again. They drive all the way over here and then don’t even bother having a beer.”

At 1 PM Mike opens up and people start trickling in. The same scenario as yesterday: I tell people the background of the beers and try to flog books. While drinking from an imperial pint glass.

I didn’t quite get around every beer yesterday. Putting that right is my first task. Starting with the Whitbread SS Stout.

The beers are going down well with the public. The Burton has been particularly well received. Though I’m pleasantly surprised by the popularity of the Mild. At least this one is the colour people expect a Mild to be: a darkish brown.

Maybe there is a place on today’s bar far older, stronger forms of Mild. Stranger things have happened. Who the hell would have predicted Milk Stout making a comeback? A style as trendy as a fat fifty year old in a string vest a few years ago. Mind you, a string vest does feature in my talk tomorrow. A trendy one, too. The vest, I mean. Not my talk. They’ll never be trendy.

A man around my age enters wearing a dog collar. Judging by the shoes and trousers he’s wearing, I doubt very much that he’s a vicar.

I have to agree with the punters: the Burton is very pleasant. And rather scarily easy-drinking. Getting totally plastered would be no problem. I’m ever more convinced my Edwardian pub idea would fly. Assuming there are other pissheads out there.

The concept is simple. Find a genuine Edwardian pub like, for example, the Adelphi or Garden Gate in Leeds, and have a range of Edwardian beers. Maybe occasionally jumping to another decade – say the 1930’s – for a week. Please get in touch if you have a suitable pub and like the idea.

Mike seems to be shifting a fair number of the four packs of historic beer styles. Lost and Forgotten Beer Styles it’s called. As is my talk tomorrow. The pack includes a little booklet which is a summary of that talk. An odd mix of beer history and punk reminiscences.

I ask Mike what connections the projector for tomorrow’s talk has. “What projector? I plan using a whiteboard.”

Ah, that’s not great. “I’ve prepared a Powerpoint. I need a projector.” Gabe puts out the word on social media to see if anyone has a projector we can borrow. I hate all the technical stuff.


Before I know it, closing time is upon us again. Mike, Gabe and I go to a pizza place. Which also sells good beer. Only Gabe orders a pizza. Mike and I share a charcuterie plate, followed by sardines on toast.

Sitting outside with sausage evokes memories of lazy evenings in the Bavarian sticks, nibbling meat and cheese. Interrupted by languorous draughts of beer.

The light slips behind the hills and night creeps up to embrace us with its dark fingers.

Another good day.



Zebulon Artisan Ales
8 Merchants Alley,
Weaverville,
NC 28787.
http://www.zebulonbrewing.com/


All Souls Pizza
175 Clingman Ave,
Asheville,
NC 28801.
http://www.allsoulspizza.com/

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