Friday 7 June 2019

Weaving my way to Weaverville

Can’t say I’m feeling my best this morning. When I drink a glass of water then puke it up again, I know this isn’t going to be a great day.

With my flight not being until 13:44, I’ve time to lounge around my room in the hope of recovery. I eventually manage to keep down a few mouthfuls of water. That’s something, I suppose.

At the airport, I get myself a diet cola. Then realise that I’m still landside and will need to drink it before going through security. That wasn’t so smart. I’m really not at my best. As I’m not in a rush, I at least have time to drink it slowly. After bashing out most of the CO2.

I get myself another cola airside. I really don’t want to become dehydrated. Especially not in this heat. I once had heatstroke and it’s not an experience I’d care to repeat.

This is how shit I’m feeling: I don’t visit a bar. And not for financial/fear of Dolores reasons. Instead I slowly suck on my cola. Hoping the setting concrete feeling in my stomach won’t reappear. It’s quite a way to the nearest bog. Ejecting bodily fluids in public isn’t cool.

My destination is Greenville, where Mike Karnowski, my man in Asheville, will be picking me up. It’s not a huge airport and I’m soon at the baggage carousel. Twitching nervously as I await my bag.

Thankfully, it turns up. I’ve packed socks and trollies in my hand baggage, just in case. Not getting caught out by that one again. My whisky is in my check-in bag. Be hard to last a day without that.

The heat hits me like a well-aimed handbag when I step outside to wait for Mike. Fuck me, it’s hot. Way too hot for me. Why the hell didn’t I pack any shorts? The jeans I’m wearing are totally inappropriate for the temperature. I should have checked the weather before I left Amsterdam.

It’s a while before Mike arrives. But I’ve somewhere to sit and, as long as I don’t move, the heat isn’t that overpowering. Not exactly pleasant, mind. I am still lightly sweating, even while immobile in the shade.

When Mike rolls up, I jump straight in the car. Getting into the air conditioning as quickly as possible is all that's on my mind.

Soon we’re chatting away like crazy. We share several interests, so it’s not all beer.

“There are a lot of gun shop adverts at the side of the road.” I remark.

“That’s the South for you. They love their guns. Some states even allow open carry, where you have a handgun on your hip.”

It’s all a bit Wild West. I’m not sure what scares me more: being able to see the gun or not. I find it best not to think about who might be armed when over here. It just fucks with my head.

As we get closer to Asheville, the countryside becomes prettier, hillier and more wooded. It really is lovely around here. I’d forgotten just how mountainous this part of Western North Carolina is.

Our destination isn’t in Asheville proper. Mike’s brewery, Zebulon, is in the little town of Weaverville, a few miles north of Asheville.

“Would you believe it? Someone has opened a brewery almost next door.” Mike tells me.

“The bastard.”

It’s truly crazy how many breweries there are in the Asheville area. Something around fifty for just 100,000 or so people.

Mike complains about overdevelopment of Asheville. “The city council lets developers build hotels and condos wherever they want.”

Sounds like the problems here are similar to those in Amsterdam. So many hotels and tourists that it starts destroying the town.

As we pull up outside Zebulon, I see that it’s quite full inside. Must be the pull of those Warwick’s beers. Mike always has a dream set of beers on tap when I’m in town. Last time it was the selection you’d have found in an Edwardian London Pub: Mild, Porter, Bitter, Burton and Stout.

If you can believe it, the set this year is even dreamier: Warwick’s & Richardson’s draught beers from 1910. Mild, Light Bitter, Home Brewed, IPA and Stout.

Chris Whaley is behind the bar. A jolly chap with a near permanent smile on his face. We’ve met before, as he was already working here when I was last over, two years ago.

Soon I’ve a pint of Warwick’s Mild in my hand.  How long have I waited for this moment? It’s one I’m going to savour. As I am the pint.

It’s rather nice. Quite strong – over 5% - and semi-dark in colour, as was the fashion in Edwardian times.

There are lots of people in that I’ve met before - like the bloke who dressed as a vicar two years ago. He’s disappointingly dog-collar free today.

John, with his bright orange beard, is here, too. We’ve a strange connection, as he worked for a while at Mondo Brewing in Battersea. When they wanted to brew a historic beer, he suggested they get in touch with me. I’ll be staying in John’s cabin for a few nights, starting tomorrow.

Home Brewed is my next pint. Something else I’ve been longing to try ever since I discovered there was a style of that name. I’ve never tried a recreation. This is the only recipe I’ve ever come across, too.

I explain to Mike what the style is: “A sort of strong Brown Ale. It was mostly limited to the Southwest. Warwick’s is the most northerly one I’ve found.”

It’s somewhere in the Burton/Strong Brown Ale area. Malty, but quite bitter, too. Very nice. I only wish I was more in the mood to slurp it down.

Gabe, Mike’s other half, asks: “Are you hungry? I can go and get us sandwiches.”

I’m not really hungry, but I can give a sandwich a go. It’s 3 PM and I still haven’t eaten a thing. Probably a good idea to chomp down something. At least the beer is keeping me hydrated.

I’m dead impressed by the Warwick’s IPA I have next. It has that magical flavour only achieved by a shitload of Goldings: more citrus than twig. For a 6% plus beer, it’s scarily drinkable. To think that I used to fill kegs with this beer. Albeit a much later, emasculated version. In the 1970’s, when it stumbled on, sold in just a handful of pubs in Newark and brewed at their former rivals, Holes.

I decide sitting down would be a good idea and find myself a seat towards the rear. I eat two bites of my sandwich and almost immediately need to vomit. Just as well I’m close to the bogs.

We hang around for quite a while after the taproom closes. I manage to force a little more beer into my grumbling guts. But there’s no way I’m eating anything more. I pass on the pizza that’s brought in. I can imagine the havoc it would wreak on my innards.

I’m staying quite a way out of town, in a cabin owned by Chris and Kirsten. They drive me there along some scarily winding, narrow roads. Extra scary on account of the darkness.

My stomach is too fucked for a whisky lullaby tonight. That’s how shit I feel.

Zebulon Artisan Ales
8 Merchants Alley,
NC 28787.


Edd The Brew said...

Hi Ron ,
Chester Northgate Brewery were , doing a `Home Brewed ` at one point ,Pre Great War though ,

Cheers ,


kaiserhog said...

Ron: You and Michael Jackson are my favorite beer writers. I have to tell you that you are also my favorite travel writers. Western North Carolina and the whole Blue Ridge region are beautiful.