About- Chris Hilliard
Without question, 2020 has been one of the wildest years in human memory. With world-shaping events happening (it seems) almost every day, and the constant, grating drip of catastrophe from the news, one is always on the lookout for reprieve, for some sort of grace.
We’re deep into the North Carolina summer. That means it’s sticky, wet and insufferable. It means it always looks like it’s going to storm, but only actually storms for ten minutes at a time. It means heat so hot there’s no good reason to be outside unless you’re sitting in the shade drinking a cold beer. And what better beer than something refreshing and delicious? For your consideration, I present Hopfly Brewing’s Triple Berry Sour.
Beer hunting is most fun when digging up long-forgotten, buried treasure. Recently, I had the pleasure of discovering Olde Hickory’s Flanders Red Ale. This beauty was aged for 30 months—a full two-and-a-half years!—in bourbon barrels before bottling on Halloween 2016. I found it in late 2019, hiding in plain sight on the shelf at Carrboro Beverage Company. That means this Bad Larry was aging for more than five years before I picked it up. Today, I have the pleasure of sharing it with you, our lovely PorchDrinking readers.
This past summer a trip ended with good luck and bad. The good started with a layover in Las Vegas. You can probably guess we met success at the airport slots. Not a jackpot, mind you, but enough to cover dinner and drinks! The bad luck started at our destination, Salt Lake City. Because our schedule was full with stuff like ziplining and hot air balloon launches, we had enough time to visit just one brewery. One.
They say you can’t go home again. I beg to differ, at least when it comes to beer.
A big part of my introduction to craft beer, as I’m sure is the case for many of you, was sampling as many different beers from as many different styles as I could, within reason (and sometimes without). I didn’t realize this at the time, but these were my formative craft beer years: a time spent feeling out boundaries and developing personal standards and learning what I like and why. One of the most outstanding examples in my mind is The Sixth Glass, a Belgian-style Quadrupel from Kansas City’s Boulevard Brewing Co.
From Appalachia to Outer Banks and everywhere in-between, fine craft beer crops up all over North Carolina. For example, some 25 minutes east of Chapel Hill, you’ll find Saxapahaw, North Carolina. If you reach Haw River, turn around and look for a rejuvenated old mill. You’ll know by music from the chronically hip Haw River Ballroom, weekly community get-togethers in the form of Saturdays at Saxapahaw, and maybe most importantly, fine craft beer from Haw River Farmhouse Ales.
Regret is hard to live with, especially when that thing was right in front of you. My story begins at Brewery Bhavana in downtown Raleigh. My wife and I attended one of their private parties where they served up some of their signature dishes and drinks. Edamame and ginger dumplings, pork and mushroom bao, an open bar featuring many of their core brews and if that weren’t enough, at either end of the room they popped bottles of barrel-aged beauties. To try it all, you either had to be super lucky or a pushy jerk. For better or worse, I was neither. So, I missed out on a beer that I thought would be gone forever: Patina Gold #1, a peach and apricot sour aged for four months in a Cabernet foeder.
Fortunately, Bhavana had the good sense to produce more. Even more fortunately, I found a bottle of Patina Gold sitting in the dusty back room of Chapel Hill’s Bottle Rev. Given the price ($14 a bottle), I had to think twice about buying it, but only twice. The regret from earlier, missed opportunity was gnawing at me.
Before we get into that, let’s talk about Durham and its minor league baseball team, the Durham Bulls. Thirty-odd years ago, the Durham Bulls became part of popular culture with the release of the Susan Sarandon/Kevin Costner/Tim Robbins film “Bull Durham.” If Rotten Tomatoes can be believed, it’s safe to say people like it. I would say it has its moments.
It’s been a season of surprises in North Carolina. First, we have one of the biggest December snow storms I’ve ever seen. Then, I discover a new brewery — Preyer Brewing — that managed to fly under my radar for the past 3 years.
Confession: I never wanted to be a beer snob. In fact, I fought it. But I wouldn’t be writing this if I succeeded.
I started drinking craft beer because I didn’t know better. All I knew was I liked it better than the macros. Before long, I was drinking craft beer because I did know better. Words like “boozy” and “barnyard” and “mouthfeel” entered my vocabulary. At bars, the hunt began with the most expensive. I researched the history of lambic and pilsner and bière de garde. And to complete my snob-ucation, I joined a beer club.
We’re hitting the end of a hot North Carolina summer, which means we can look forward to the days being less hot, humid, and sticky. Hopefully you haven’t let the weather change many of your plans this year. But when you do venture outside, I recommend taking with you Lonerider’s new dry-hopped American wheat ale, For A Few Hops More.
Welcome to the next installment of Beer and Book Club! Today, my good friend Ben and I discuss Jeff VanderMeer’s genre-bending, science fiction-ish novel Annihilation (buy it here). Along with it, we’ll drink Double Helix, a Belgian-style blonde ale produced by Twin Leaf Brewing out of Asheville, NC.
Somehow I’ve managed to go years without reviewing a single thing from Burial Beer Company, one of the better-known, Asheville-based brewers in North Carolina. Today we make an end to that with One For Me, Burial’s collaboration Helles Lager brewed with Other Half Brewing out of New York.
YesterYears is a thing of the past. YesterYears Brewing, I mean. And from its ashes rises Vecino Brewing Company.
This very weekend, even as I type this, the room is full of patrons, a musician in the corner, and bartenders and food runners and dish collectors (oh my), all of whom are here for Vecino’s grand opening weekend celebration, Cinco de Vecino in Carrboro, North Carolina.
Ben and I are back for another installment of Beer & Book Club (NC chapter)! After our last meeting in the UK, we’ve hopped back across the pond into the good ol’ US of A. Manhattan, New York, to be precise. There we met Joe Pitt, the enigmatic, vampiric protagonist of Charlie Huston’s pulp, noir, detective novel Already Dead. To complement our discussion, we drank Blood Orange Wheat from New Sarum Brewing out of Salisbury, NC.
Drinking beer is as much an adventure as an education. At least, for me it is. For example, just the other week I discovered yet another new style, the kvass, a traditionally Slavic beverage, brewed with rye bread that is low in alcohol (≤1%) and slightly sour. A quick read on Wikipedia informed me of kvass’ long, historic journey from the Middle Ages to modern-day.
Fear not, fellow PorchDrinkers, I have returned with my friend Ben for the next installment of Beer & Book Club. We’ll discuss Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day over a couple of pints of Old Speckled Hen, one of the most British beers you can get your hands on.
Raleigh’s own Big Boss Brewing is at it again with a limited release of Saints on Raspberries. A tart, fruity twist on their Flanders red-inspired Saints & Sinners, Saints on Raspberries is another feather in the cap that is their foedre-aged “Strange Cargo” series. The twist? Six extra months in wine barrels soaking up raspberry essence. Now, without further ado, the beer.
This installment of Beer & Book Club takes us to England, turn of the 20th century, where we immerse ourselves in three of H.G. Wells’ most recognized works: The War of the Worlds, The Island of Doctor Moreau, and The Time Machine. To complement the discussion, we’ll indulge ourselves with a fine specimen of a milk stout, Young’s Double Chocolate Stout.
Things of late have been eventful for me, dear readers. A new home, a newborn nephew, and now my first foray into SweetWater Brewing Co.’s The Woodlands Project. The Woodlands opened its doors around this time last year (October 2016) and ever since has served as HQ for SweetWater’s barrel-aging program where they produce small-batch “funky, sour, or otherwise awesome beers.”