Jill: I’m going to get killed and no one is ever going to find my body. These were my thoughts as we entered the maze of the industrial park that houses Asheville’s Pisgah Brewing Company, the only certified organic brewery in the Asheville area. No, I had nothing to be afraid of. And yes, it was complete daylight. But the parking lot was deserted and I got the same irrational fear that I sometimes get when places are too quiet.
Jill: My timing, of course, was completely off. Had I been at Pisgah (whose name is forever incorrectly ingrained into my mind as PIG-SAH) a few hours later, or—better yet—a few months later, I would have arrived at a crunchy music venue filled with bluegrass or folk, friends of like-minded values and, most likely people that closely resemble myself in college (but with better taste in beer). Pisgah’s warehouse location, halfway between Asheville and Black Mountain, makes it a perfect music venue and bar. At the sight of an NPR sticker on the wall, I happily sipped my beers, knowing that I would not be killed at an organic brewery.
Ben: Pisgah had, by far, the largest selection of suds of the Asheville breweries. Open since 2005, the brewery’s many beers can only be found locally and in area restaurants. To give each style its own paragraph would take up several pages and would likely lose the bulk of the readers along the way, so here is a summary of the highlights, split into loose subgroups, as follows. We started out our flight with the lighter beers: Endless Summer lager, Pilsner, Leaf Amber, Pale Ale, and the 5th Anniversary Pale Ale. The Endless Summer was clearly brewed with the macro-drinker in mind, and was mild and crisp. The Pilsner took the Endless summer and simply made it more flavorful. At this point, the beers became a bit hoppier, especially for their style: Leaf Amber (an amber ale), the Pale Ale, and the 5th Anniversary Pale Ale, with each beer a bit hoppier than the last. The two Pale Ales were particularly strong entrees, as both provided the right balance between American hops and pale malts.
Ben: Next, the beers get darker and maltier. One unique feature of Pisgah is that they provided, essentially, two different Oktoberfest beers. First, an aptly named Oktoberfest, possessed a nutty malt flavor, but lacked the strong syrupy malt flavors of most Oktoberfests. I was told that this crisper Oktoberfest/Marzen style is more indicative of its German origins. This point was driven home when tasting their more American-inspired Marzen, which while still a very tasty beer, was much darker, stronger, and cloyingly malty.
Ben: Further along, we sampled their Porter, a chocolately brew with a surprisingly hoppy nose, and their Stout, which was served on nitrogen-tap (see LAB for explanation), making this an extremely smooth and drinkable treat, and one of my favorites at this brewery.
Ben: Rounding out the more conventional styles, the India Pale Ale represented your typical American hop-bomb, while their Belgian Tripel, named Solstice, was overpowering in its yeast and alcohol content.
The remainder of Pisgah’s beers were essentially “imperial” or high ABV versions of typical styles. Most of these, including Vortex 1 (an imperial India Pale Ale), Vortex 2 (a Russian Imperial Stout), and their Barleywine, were much too boozy for my taste; it was difficult to taste much else other than the alcohol. The one standout was Valdez, a coffee-flavored stout that had a novelty tap at the bar with a coffee cup on the handle. This low-carbonation beer boasted the smoothness of their regular stout, without the aide of the nitro-tap, and had an essence of fresh coffee in its flavor. I found the stout to be comparable to the world-famous Founders Breakfast Stout—particularly high praise from this beer drinker.
Ben’s Favorite Beer: Stout