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We didn’t have high hopes for this place because it was in a mall parking lot next to a Chili’s - we thought it might just be a generic restaurant with a couple of house brews. But we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of their beer! Liberty offers flights of four 5oz pours of their beers for the very reasonable price of $4.00. We had two, and this was our first, from R-L: Miss Liberty lager, the IPA, the Blackberry wheat, and the Rockets red ale. The lager was very plain - it tasted like Budweiser - and wasn’t a great start. The IPA was very solid, though - just not quite on the level of Hoppyum. The Blackberry wheat was nice - the blackberry flavor was very subtle. But the flight ended on a disappointing note with the red - it was not very flavorful.
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Foothills offers a sampler of their regular beers, 6 oz each, for $7.99. You can add additional seasonal samples for $1. They were out of the Pilot Mountain pale ale, so we got the Cottonwood Low Down brown in its place. The others we were given were the Carolina Blond cream ale, the Torch pilsner, the Hoppyum IPA, the Seeing Double IPA, and the People’s porter. We also asked to try the Foothills Red ale and the Frostbite black IPA. Getting a sample of the Sexual Chocolate was not an option but the bartender did let us each have a sip. The Carolina Blond is a very light summer beer but with more flavor than other light beers. The pilsner is a very light, solid beer. The Hoppyum is Nick’s favorite beer - it’s hoppier than the Seeing Double (and he prefers this hoppiness). The People’s is a solid porter with nice coffee notes - Nick dubbed it “effing delicious”. It is noticeably better than when it’s bottled. The Low Down was more bitter than some browns, which Nick liked - some browns are too plain. The Foothills Red was our favorite of the beers we hadn’t tried before. Very drinkable - smooth and flavorful. The Frostbite tastes like black Hoppyum. Overall we were very pleased with our stop here - one of the best of our trail adventures so far. The space and bar itself are great, we can vouch for their great fried mushrooms (generous portions!), and they had live music playing the whole time we were there. Drafts are normally $4 each but on Sundays they’re $3 (except for the Sexual Chocolate, which is always $5).
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Ass Clown offers flights of 4 beers of 6 oz each for $8 (and $2 for each additional 6 oz pour). We ordered the Ginger Bread brown, the nitro Dark Chocolate Sea Salt stout, the Raspberry Jalapeño stout, and the Guajillo Chili Honey stout. All except the Jalapeño had a noticeable sour taste. The Ginger Bread seemed like a good seasonal beer for Christmastime. The nitro chocolate was the most sour and our least favorite, followed by the Guajillo. The Jalapeño was by far the best, even against the samples we tried - the Butter Apple Pie (pale ale?), the French Oak IPA, and the Red Rye Weck IPA. The Apple Pie definitely had a buttery smoothness but overall it was sweet in a weird way. The French Oak was aged in Chardonnay barrels and the wine flavor was noticeable. The Weck had some strange savory flavor to it, and we’re not sure that we liked it. But the Jalapeño! It was SO spicy. Jalapeño flavor dominated all others (there was no discernible raspberry flavor) and left your lips tingling long after you’d taken a sip. You could even smell the jalapeño before taking a swig.
Our second flight at Pisgah included Nitro Chocolate Stout, Benton’s Bacon Snout, Vortex II Imperial Stout, and IPA. None of these were disappointing. The chocolate stout was deliciously smooth and creamy due to the nitro tap. The Benton’s was perhaps the most noteworthy of all. I’ve never tasted a drink so smoky! It tasted like a campfire in my mouth. It would be perfect paired with barbecue! For that purpose, I’d choose it over Fullsteam’s Hogwash any day. The IPA was also quite good and stood out from other IPA’s by having nice citrus notes.
Shiva IPA, Red Light IPA, Bier de Garde French farmhouse ale, Ninja porter, ESP pale ale. Ben ordered the Ashevillain, the black IPA. All these were good, solid beers but we weren’t blown away by anything. The Ashevillain was Nick’s favorite. We were disappointed we didn’t get to try the Fire Escape jalepeño ale; they had just run out.
Here’s our ($7.00!) flight. This is all of their current beers. The pilsner was surprisingly flavorful; the pale ale was a little strange (probably the rye); the saison was a perfect balance of sweet and hoppy; the Golum was VERY drinkable as promised, and definitely dangerous at 10.8%; the porter was very good (one of the better porters I’ve had, although it ended up being overshadowed by others); the oatmeal stout was solid — but the Imperial stout, oh man, THAT was some good frickin beer. It was like a dark chocolate raspberry dessert in a glass - and definitely not too sweet. We definitely saved the best for last, though - both the IPA and the Imperial IPA were fantastic. Nick says the Iron Rail was “definitely one of the best IPAs I’ve ever had - strong and complex hop flavor without being overly bitter”. The Imperial IPA had noticeably more body and you could taste that it was high gravity (although not in an overbearing way). We were disappointed to learn that they don’t distribute at all - not even within Asheville! The only thing you can get in any kind of container is the Iron Rail in a growler. If you want to drink this beer, you basically have to come here.
Overall, we were pretty disappointed in Olde Hickory. We had high hopes at first because they had about a dozen of their own beers on tap. We asked for a beer menu expecting to get a detailed list with descriptions of each beer, which is the norm at brewpubs. Instead, the waitress printed out a receipt from the cash register that simply listed every drink they have with no explanations of anything. This was not helpful. Using our phones, we were able to pull up their website which did describe most of their beers, but a few were not listed on the website and several on the website were not on tap. The bar offered 4 oz sample sizes for $1 each ($1.50 for high gravity), so we ordered six samples: Hefeweizen, Orion Belgian-Style Farmhouse Ale, Ruby Lager, Hickory Stick Stout, Imperial Stout, and Death by Hops. The first five were underwhelming. We began to write notes about each one but soon realized we were saying the same thing over and over. They were all bland, unexciting, run-of-the-mill beers for their style. This changed when we got to the Death by Hops. It lived up to its name as a very flavorful beer with a strong hoppy taste from start to finish. We were glad to find one that we liked! Also, it was clear that people don’t come here for the house beers. The bar was crowded and the vast majority of folks were drinking mixed drinks, Guinness, or domestic macrobrews. It’s a chicken or egg question: do the customers avoid Olde Hickory’s beers because they’re not very good, or does the brewery put minimal effort into their craft because they know their clientele is not interested? Either way, why do they go to the trouble of brewing and selling twelve different beers? We left confused and unimpressed.
Four Friends and Ass Clown Breweries were both closed today, so we ventured to Brixx Pizza in Birkdale to try Four Friends’ IPA (left) and Ass Clown’s Belgian IPA (right). The Belgian IPA tasted like a Hefeweizen and an IPA were poured into one glass. Nick described the Four Friends IPA as “a bit bland” and “not very hoppy”.
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$6 for all of these beers! Back row, L-R: Southern Flyer Light Lager, Prospector’s Pilsner, Stingin’ Brits IPA, Sweet Magnolia Brown Ale, Imperial Stout, and a Brewer’s Select dunkel. Front row, R-L: Brewer’s Select Belgian Witbier, Winter Seasonal bock, and a cask version of the dunkel infused with honey. Nick says the IPA isn’t as hoppy as some and it’s good. I liked the brown a lot - mild sweetness and a bit of coffee flavor but still very light body. The stout was good, but very different from Duck Rabbit’s and with noticeably lower ABV. The pilsner has a slight sour (though not unpleasant) flavor to it. Overall we liked them but nothing stood out.
Inside the Mother Earth taproom. Very intentionally sparse, mod atmosphere contrasted sharply by bartenders in plaid. Ordered a flight of the Sisters of the Moon IPA, the Dark Cloud Dunkel, the Tripel Overhead, and a smoky amber ale whose name we can’t remember (although it was Nick’s favorite!). Our bartender was friendly without being overbearing and answered a lot of our questions. He also gave us a taste of the nitro-tap IPA, which was markedly smoother than the CO2 IPA. That smoothness mellowed the bitter hoppiness and gave it an almost creamy finish.
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We had two flights at Aviator so we could try them all! Nick dubs the IPA “excellent”, the Black Mamba Oatmeal Stout “solid”, and says the Frost Nipper Winter Ale “RULES!”. The Mad Beach Wheat Ale wasn’t memorable, and even less so the California Common, since neither of us can remember its name. The Devil’s Tramping Ground certainly did with 9.2%, although as a Belgium style brew Nick was bound to not like it very much anyways. I loved it, though! A little sweeter than Allagash’s White. Finally, the Hot Rod Red made a big impression on both of us - really unique flavor and goes down smooth.