Jill: We knocked on Craggie Brewing Company’s door about fifteen minutes before they opened. We’d been in Asheville long enough to know that we wouldn’t be turned away. As we wandered back into their brew room — as always, camera in tow — we noticed a group of people talking together in the tasting portion of the brewery. I remember thinking that it was some sort of staff meeting, and moved on. We later discovered that those folks were part of a a Brews Cruise tour. For $40, beer enthusiasts can get one of several different tours of Asheville’s breweries, gaining them similar access to what we got, but with transportation and better knowledge of the brewery hours.
Ben: I’ve often referred to as the “Dogfish Head” of Asheville; this brewery sported perhaps the most unusual array of beers that we sampled during the entire trip.
Ben: Things started out with their Toubar Brewe, a German zwickel beer. The zwickel possessed many of the attributes of a typical quality lager (spicy hops, crispness, slight “buttery” diaceytl flavor), but with the unique feature of having a somewhat cloudy appearance due to the beer never being filtered in the brewing process. The Battery Hill (English Pale Rye) represented a break from most rye beers made in the United States, which are often combined with heavy malts or with large amounts of hops to create a “Rye IPA”. With Battery Hill, the spicy character of the rye was able to dominate an otherwise mild and light brew, making it delicious. Craggie also brews a Belgian dubbel named Dubbelicious, and a dopplebock named Germinator Dopplebock, which were both solid representations of their styles.
Ben: The two beers that made Craggie stand out, however, were their Antebellum Ale, and their Herkulean Dark IPA. The Antebellum defies classification; it is allegedly based on a 1840’s recipe for a pale ale brewed with molasses, spruce and ginger. Accordingly, the Antebellum is incredibly crisp and spicy, with the spruce and ginger in full force, with an effect similar to an extra strength ginger beer combined with gin. This was, perhaps Jill’s favorite beer during our entire Asheville trip.
Jill: In small tastes, it was incredible. When we opened the growler we’d smuggled across state borders, however, I realized that in pint form, the ale might have been a little loud.
Ben: Of the seventy beers we tried in Asheville, Craggie’s Herkulean Dark IPA was at the top of my list. Unusual for an IPA, the brewer used chocolate and Munich malts in this beer, creating a dark appearance and roasty flavor. (It wasn’t black enough to be a Black IPA, though.) Unlike most American IPAs, the Herkulean Dark derives its hop flavor from an enormous amount of German noble hops (Hallertau Herkules), which impart a more piney and spicy flavor and herbal aroma to beer. (Think: a German pilsner on steroids with a dash of dark malt.) I enthusiastically walked away from the brewery with a growler of this, happy for a chance to bring some home with me.
Ben’s Favorite Beer: Herkulean Dark IPA
Craggie Brewing Co.
197 Hilliard Avenue
Asheville, North Carolina 28801