On the road again, completely blew any notion of being healthful by breakfasting on two of these at Zack’s in Burlington, NC. I can’t resist a place that’s been around since 1928, though, and they were delicious, especially washed down with a bottle of Cheerwine. After visiting the Folk Art Center and checking into the hotel, we headed out for some beer. I couldn’t help but detouring to The Chocolate Fetish on the way to our first bar. We split two truffles as an “appetizer”, the Ancient Pleasures, a cayenne dark chocolate, and Dragon’s Kiss, a wasabi dark chocolate topped with white & black sesame seeds, both were delightful. We walked down to The Thirsty Monk, Asheville’s newest craft beer bar. I had learned about the Monk on the Asheville Beer Blog and was eager to check it out. Located in the back of the “purple building”, we walked down a long ramp running the length of the bar to enter. Housed in a deep rectangular shaped room with a high brown ceiling, cream painted walls, exposed stone, and classy light fixtures, Thirsty Monk is a warm, inviting place. A long wood bar on the right with sixteen padded captains’ chairs and chairs and tables in the back provide seating, fourteen taps, and a sizeable bottle cooler provide beverages. It was happy hour when we arrived (M-Th 4-6 pm, F-Sat midnight to 2 am), the cheese plate was discounted to $7 and all baguette sandwiches were only $4. JB and I ordered smoked trout sandwiches and I settled in to study the beer list. I settled on two small pours (or flights, as they call them) of the local Pisgah Solstice and Cuvee Angelique. Solstice is a tripel and simply delicious, with honey & fresh fruit in the nose and mouth but nicely balanced with some hop bitterness, very nice. The Cuvee Angelique poured with a huge head, apricot aroma, bready maltiness, tinge of sour, and a sizeable amount of hop bitterness, also very good. The sandwiches arrived and we chowed down. Thirsty Monk uses a lot of local ingredients, including bread from City Bakery in downtown Asheville, spicy mustard from Lusty Monk, and trout from nearby Sunburst Farms. The sandwich was pure bliss. The Thirsty Monk would most definitely be one of my local hang-outs if I lived in Asheville and a fantastic start to our Asheville beer crawl, highly recommended for an Asheville visit.
We rounded the corner and crossed the street to Jack of the Wood Public House, purveyors of Green Man Ales. Also a very welcoming place, with a concrete floor, painted & exposed brick walls, U-shaped wood bar with sixteen padded wood captains’ chairs, lots of wood tables and chairs, and a mural on the back wall. Jack of the Wood is kind of a hippyish English pub that integrates itself perfectly into the vibe of Asheville. On draft, they were pouring six of the Green Man Ales, the Gold, Pale, IPA, ESB, Porter, and Abbey Ale, as well as Highland Gaelic, Pisgah Pale, Duck Rabbit Porter, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Harp and Guinness. I ordered the sampler and found all of the Green Man beers very nice, with the exception of the Abbey, which I found weak, although Vic enjoyed it. The Gold, ESB, and Porter were my favorites, the Gold a light, grainy, clean, almost Kolsch like beer, the ESB with biscuity/light toasty maltiness, some bitterness, easy drinking, and the porter lightly sweet, toasty, lightly roasty, with smooth milk chocolate flavor. I also tasted samples of the Pisgah Pale and Highlands Gaelic, both were top quality. I didn’t eat, but JB had the tasty potato and bacon chowder. Cool place.
Our next stop was the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. I had first learned of French Broad chocolates at the Thirsty Monk, where they offer a chocolate plate containing three French Broad chocolates, one of which is specially designed to pair with Belgian ales at the Monk. I looked them up on the every-useful iPhone, found that they have a retail store/café dowtown with local draught beer on the menu, and added them to the crawl. They offer four Organic Pisgah beers on draught: the pale ale, porter, stout, and seasonal Solstice, a fantastic almost-all organic truffle selection, amazing desserts, and Pisgah a la mode, a stout float made with locally-produced Ultimate Ice Cream, as well as Ultimate’s Mocha Stout ice cream. The Chocolate Lounge is a very comfortable place, with sky blue walls and ceilings, lots of exposed brick, chocolate brown trimming, carpet, and leather chairs and wood tables. JB ordered a stout, I selected four truffles, the lemon pepper, Indian kulfi, maple, and mole negro, Vic & Sarah split the mocha stout ice cream and a pecan tart, and we sat down to enjoy. The truffles are to die for, wow! I could spend some serious time in here, as well. This is a must for any craft beer lover wanting to drink local, organic beer and nosh on some first-rate chocolates and desserts in a comfortable setting.
The Asheville Brewing Company on Coxe Avenue was our next destination. Although the outside of the brewpub is rather nondescript, I was bowled over by the large outdoor area where movies, sporting events and the like are shown. The inside is very laid-back, with an L-shaped wood bar with backed wood chairs, latte-painted walls, concrete floors, and high-backed wood booths. Pewter club mugs hang behind the bar and there is a separate back room with arcade games and tables and chairs. Five beers were on draft, my sampler was served in plastic cups, a drawback to the experience. Of the Rolands ESB, Ninja Porter, Scottish Brown, Shiva IPA, and Stout, the latter was my favorite, with nice depth of dried fruit, sourness, roastiness, a nice-drinking beer. We split a Moon Pie pizza which was quite good.
We swung by the Green Man Brewing Company in hopes of a cask pour. Alas, no cask was on but we enjoyed pints of the porter and complimentary pretzels with the local Lusty Monk mustard. The brewery is located in an old garage and is a swell space with a small L-shaped bar with around ten seats, additional seats in front of the bar and a small outdoor patio in the tasting area, nicknamed “Dirty Jack’s”. Five beers were on tap, board games were on offer and soccer was playing on the TV above the bar. They’re open from 4-9 each weeknight evening, a cool haunt.
Our last stop was Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria. Housed in a former 1920’s appliance store, Barley’s is another impressive space, the downstairs room has very high tin ceilings, wood floors, breweriana on the walls, a gorgeous wood bar with captains’ chairs, and wood tables and chairs. They have 25 tap lines downstairs, all craft including quite a few locals. I started with a small pour of the Pisgah “Thank You” Brown ale, specially brewed for their third anniversary, a tasty brew with light brown sugar character, easy drinking. JB opted for the Highland Oatmeal Porter, Sarah had the Catawba Valley Blackwater Uber Pale Ale, at 9.2% ABV, brewed with five hop varieties and four malts, this is an intense potion, toasty, bitter and balanced. Vic had the French Broad Alt-Bier, a clean and biscuity drink. There is an upstairs room, with more high tin ceilings and wood floors, four pool tables, four dart boards, an L-shaped wood bar with 28 taps and coolers full of water for the taking. Vic’s French Broad Imperial Porter was excellent, very fruity and toasty/roasty in disposition.