Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Asheville day three

Not sure what’s going on with the sleeping. The final half of the night is a checkerboard of waking and dozing. Leaving me not hugely refreshed.

I’m in no rush, at least. I’m not being picked up until around 3 PM. My plan is to wander into town and hit a couple of breweries.

I get an email from Mike asking what cables I have to connect my laptop to the projector. I’ve had problems with cables before and now always carry both an HDMI and a VGA one with me. I’m sure one will work.

Before leaving. I remember to water the flowerpots. It’s been quite warm and I wouldn’t want them drying out. It’s the one thing my hosts requested. Wouldn’t want to let them down.

The house isn’t that far from South Slope, a neighbourhood in central Asheville with a stupid number of breweries. It’s about a ten-minute walk. Pretty easy, especially as it’s all downhill. But there’s the long-term problem: the walk back is all uphill. Up a pretty steep hill. And, after my decades residing in the Netherlands, I’m all out of hill-climbing capacity.

I decide to start out at Green Man. Their new place, which was half-built last time I was in town. The brewery, the old one, where Mike used to work.

It’s a beautiful, sunny day as I work my way down the hill. Through an archetypal neighbourhood of wood-clad houses, embraced by mature trees and proper gardens, not just the usual lawns. (The steepness of the land rules out lawns of any size.) Like a film set of the idyllic American street.

At the bottom of the hill is a weird pub we noticed last night. It still has the signs up for a tool shop, but inside is a strange Hawaiian sort of place*.

The new Green Man building is huge. The downstairs bar is at least two normal storeys high. Looks like it cost a few bob. Though it is a bit cavernous. And lacking atmosphere.

Flagship ESB 5.5%
Looks too dark to me – more like a Brown Ale. Tastes too roasty. And a bit on the sweet side. Given it blind, I would never have guessed it was an ESB. Apart from the ABV, it doesn’t seem to have much in common with the Fullers beer.

The barmaid just gave me a taster of Berry Berlinerwiesse (it really is spelt “wiesse”). Not very sour and with an artificial-tasting fruit flavour. More like an alcopop than a Berliner Weisse.

I did reasonably well flogging books yesterday – eight in total. Hopefully I can shift the remaining 25 today.

Quite a few people have wanted to have their photo taken with me. Which is slightly weird. Odd that I seem better known on this side of the Atlantic.

Time for another beer.

Trickster IPA 6.4% ABV
A bit hazy, but not full-blown murk. Nice tropical fruit aroma – mango, passion fruit, peach. (I know that last one isn’t tropical). A pleasant enough IPA.

Most people are going upstairs to the patio. Presumably to bake themselves in the sun. No way I’ll do that. I like to maintain my healthy pallor.

Everyone under 30 is being asked to show ID. Why didn’t they ask me? I still look like I’m under 30, don’t I? I do in my head. Surely that’s what everyone else sees, too?

Two is enough for here. I feel like checking out Wicked Weed. Just to see if I can taste the evil in their beer yet.

It’s pretty hot outside. I work up a nice sweat walking up the slight incline to Wicked Weed. That big hill on the way back to the house is going to be fun. But that’s later.

The takeover doesn’t seem to have put folks off. The patio is mobbed. As is the bar inside. Luckily, there are two free seats. But before I can grab one, two women move in. Though they don’t sit down. Obviously they’re just going to order. So I hover behind them until they’re done. Amazingly, the barmaid ignores them and asks me if a want to order, despite me standing well back from the bar.

Eventually the women are done and I can park my sorry fat arse at the bar.

BA Smoked Rye, 8.5% ABV ($5.75 for a snifter)
Big and Stouty. Thankfully not too smoky.

Evidently no-one has heard how wicked this brewery now is. Then again, quite a few people are ordering house Chardonnay. So not exactly beer geeks.

The slightly drunk young man sitting next to me asks if I’m writing beer reviews. “Just taking notes to I can remember what I’ve drunk.” I reply. A bit later he’s led away by his very pregnant wife. Must be a fun day watching hubby get pissed while drinking water.

I order a roast beef sandwich. Got to eat sometime.

Not tasting the evil in the beer yet. Maybe it was brewed before the sellout. I get another beer, too:

Pernicious IPA, 7.4% ($4.75 for a US pint)
It’s pretty cheap in here, really. A grapefruity IPA. Quite bitter for a modern US IPA. Pretty easy drinking, though.

The nice young people from NYC sitting next to me wonder which King Henry has his face on the wall. “Is it Henry V or Henry VI?”

“It’s Henry VIII,” I tell them, “the one with all the wives. He never said that about hops, you know. He only forbade Ale brewers from using hops. He had his own personal Beer brewer, who did brew with hops.”

Hope that didn’t come across as too pushy. They continue to chat with me, so I guess not.

I deliberately leave returning until quite late. I’m hoping that Gabe, who’s picking me up, will arrive before I get to the top of the hill. I really don’t fancy the climb. I’ve only gone about 50 metres up the hill when I hear a car horn behind me. It’s Gabe. Now how’s that for timing?

The brewery is filled with chairs. Around 50 or so. After 4 PM those with VIP tickets start rolling up. It entitles them to a chat with me before the crowd turns up. Which is what happens. I also shift a couple of books, which is always good.

I’ve brought a selection with me. The home Brewer’s Guide to Vintage Beer. Both volumes of Scotland!. And a few copies of Mild!, Strong! And Porter!. There are quite a few of my books clogging up our living room. Dolores would love to see the back of them.

The man who wore the dog collar yesterday is here. Totally civilian dressed. Knew he was no vicar. Eventually.

Mike has jerry-rigged a screen from two boards. It’s held up with duct tape, but keeps falling down. I connect my laptop to the projector using the HDMI cable. Nothing appears on the screen. Oh no. I fiddle with the video output key. Still nothing. Someone hands me the projector manual. Looks like I need to connect using VGA. Thankfully, that works. 

That’s a relief. I feel naked when there are no pretty pictures behind me.

Mike is my warm-up act. He gives a talk – using a marker and big sheets of paper, which he hangs up - comparing Old English 800, a Malt Liquor, to an 1880’s X Ale. The specs are surprisingly similar, except for the hopping rate. He provides tasters of both the Malt Liquor and an X Ale he’s brewed himself. It’s a wonderfully bonkers concept.

Then it’s my turn. Being a new talk, I’ve a few jitters. Including stuff on music, which I’ve never talked about (in public) before.

Half of the screen keeps falling down. But it doesn’t put me off my stride. Eventually we just prop it up.

Based on the number of laughs I get (my usual maatstaaf (apologies for the Dutch. It’s the first word that came into my head. Sometimes I think my inburgering has been too successful)) it goes really well. And there are lots of questions. A surprisingly large number about the music part.

Questions done, I hang around a while to chat. Then Mike, Gabe and I head out to eat. A pizza place again. Where I again don’t eat pizza.

* Looking it up on the internet, it’s a place selling kava, a drink made from a root grown on pacific islands, which seems to have some mild psychoactive effect.

Noble Kava
283 Biltmore Ave,
NC 28801.

Green Man Brewery
27 Buxton Ave,
NC 28801.

Wicked Weed Brewing Pub
91 Biltmore Ave,
NC 28801.

Zebulon Artisan Ales
8 Merchants Alley,
NC 28787.

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