We began our latest beer adventure by landing in Greensboro, North Carolina, several hours east of our final destination. While not the most convenient, flying into Greensboro did give us the opportunity to visit a few breweries on the road to Asheville, North Carolina’s beer mecca.
Thanks to a red-eye flight from San Francisco, Merideth and I arrived in North Carolina at noon a bit tired but ready to drink some beer. Our friends, Matt and Michelle, picked us up at Piedmont Triad International Airport and our foursome was quickly headed west to the nearby city of Winston-Salem. Foothills Brewing, our first stop, was located downtown in a beautiful brick 1920s era building that originally housed a car dealership.
After I had a quick jolt of coffee, we delved into a sample set of their brews. Their six regular beers were augmented by four seasonals. It’s always great to start a trip with a double-digit sampler.
Our only prior experience with Foothills was drinking a one-ounce sample of Sexual Chocolate at the Great American Beer Festival a few years back, so we weren’t sure what to expect. Their line-up was the typical brewpub range, from the golden-colored Salem Gold to the jet-black People’s Porter. All the beers were clean and well-made with the overwhelming Bourbon barrel-aged People’s Porter being the only brew we didn’t care for. It had too much barrel for only four hours of sleep.
While Merideth favored the Torch Pilsner, my highlight was the seasonal India-style Brown Ale. At 7% ABV and 70 IBUs, it was the beer that most satisfied my West Coast palate.
We’re not vegetarians, but kudos also goes to Foothills for their non-meat fare. Merideth really enjoyed the DIPA Glazed Tofu and I thought the Black Bean Cake Sandwich was delicious.
Heading west on I-40, it was an hour before we reached the second stop of the day in the town of Hickory. Situated in the town’s main square, our destination was easy to spot with it’s large green awning proclaiming “Olde Hickory Tap Room.”
Gazing at the beer list on the chalkboard, two beers immediately caught my fancy. First was Cookville Blonde, a pretty typical Golden Ale but made with local hops. I would like to say that I could taste the North Carolina terroir in the Cookville Blonde, but it was an pleasant, sessionable brew nonetheless.
My second beer at Olde Hickory, Death by Hops, was the winning entry in the brewery’s first Pro-am competition. Brewed with five varieties of West Coast hops, the 7% ABV Death by Hops was a competent West Coast style brew.
Our final stop before we reached Asheville was Pisgah Brewing in Black Mountain. North Carolina’s first certified organic brewery, Pisgah was located at the back of a somewhat dilapidated industrial park a few minutes off I-40. Well, a few minutes if your GPS doesn’t crap out and you get lost, that is.
We joined a crowd of about a half-dozen fellow beer drinkers enjoying the beautiful afternoon weather in the beer garden out front. One of the most anticipated stops of the trip, I quickly ordered a taster set of their beers.
There were nine beers to sample at Pisgah. It was an eclectic mix of brews ranging from an American Wheat and Solstice, a Belgian-style Tripel to Nitro, Coffee and Imperial Stouts.
The Imperial Stout probably was the best of the lot, but given the bright sunshine and warm day, not the best beer for the conditions. The other two that stood out for me were Solstice and the Red Devil, a 9% ABV Belgian-style Pale Ale with cherries and raspberries.
Pisgah was one of those places where we could have spent hours relaxing in their beer garden. The beers were nice and the neo-hippie vibe pretty cool. But Merideth and I were starting to fade a bit and we thought it best to continue on the road to Asheville.