Asheville Breweries – Hi-Wire, Burial, and Hillman

Hi-Wire

Hi-Wire is known for their sour beers and after my visit this makes sense. They have a medium sized tasting room without air conditioning. I tried a flight and then moved on to the next stop.

I started with their gose. It was funky on the nose and had a nice mix of tart lemon, kiwi, and light salt. While I could have gone for more funk, this was an excellent version of the style. Pink Drink was a nicely balanced berliner with raspberry and lemongrass. Raspberry was mild and worked nicely with the rest of the beer. Most of the flavors were quite subtle.

The Brut IIPA was resinous and bursting with tangerine and peach hop aroma. The beer was flavorful and super dry, making it easy to drink despite high alcohol. The blueberry sour was fantastic and clearly inspired by the lambic tradition. It had tons of barrel character and strong funk. The beer was good and thick and not too tart with prominent blueberry. It was so good that I bought a bottle and bought another sour bottle without tasting it.

Hi-Wire has a huge variety of beer but it is best to visit for sour heads who are not interested in supporting Wicked Weed after they sold to AB InBev.

Burial

Burial was the one stop on my Asheville trip that had some air conditioning. Because of the taster prices I stuck to full pours and tried only two beers. They have a nice dark vibe inside and it kept cool enough to be an improvement over other breweries around.

I started with sword of crucifixion, a sour golden ale aged in barrels. The beer had a nice mix of buttery oak and mild funk, a solid complex sour. Waves Crash brett pale was hazy with notes of shrimp, citrus, and guava. It had a creamy body and mild funk though the fishy notes were prominent.

Burial is a great spot for funky brett beers and sours. They also have a good variety of other beers. I will be paying more attention to their bottles in San Diego now after the visit.

Hillman

At Hillman I also stuck to full pours. They have a nice open area with tons of bar seating and other indoor seating. I started with the Keller Pils. It was fantastic for the style with notes of crackers, crisp bread, and mildly hoppy. I finished with the hazy half back. It was fruity with notes of pineapple, tropical fruit, and citrus. A fantastic hazy palle creamy and dry but not overly sweet. Herbal hops come through as it warms up.

Asheville conclusion

If you are a big fan of sour beer then it is worth taking a trip to Asheville for Hi-Wire and Burial. Though if you are more of an IPA fan, the beers in Charlotte are plenty good to satisfy you, especially Heist and Resident Culture. Charlotte is also much easier to get to.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Asheville Breweries – Archetype and Hi-Wire

Archetype

I stopped by Archetype first because I was feeling like trying some Belgian inspired beers. They have a fairly open tasting room that doesn’t get too hot despite lack of air conditioning and the warm weather outside. All 4 beers on my flight were Belgian inspired and they all had a similar flavor.

The saison was super dry with light funk and mild cracked pepper. The beer had notes of peach white wine and mild cherry with a crisp dry finish. The farmhouse was very similar with a bit more pear white wine and subtle brett funk. The Belgian style pale ale was dry and funky with subtle herbal hops and mild bitterness, very similar to the farmhouse before it. The brett IPA was the most funky of the bunch and mildly hoppy and not too bitter. Though they were all similar, they were all subtle and balanced in a way that tells me the brewer is quite talented.

Zillicoah

I stopped by Zillicoah by the recommendation of the bartender at Archetype. They are in a large building close to a river with huge amounts of both indoor and outdoor seating. I wasn’t immediately excited by the tap list but then I tried a splash of their session IPA and went for a full pour of that.

It was super creamy with tons of pineapple hop aroma and mild bitterness. It reminded me of Holy Mountain’s similar beers. The best part of this brewery is their $5 full pours and seating by the river. We relaxed there for a while before moving on to the next stop.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Charlotte, NC Breweries – Heist, Divine Barrel, and Resident Culture

Heist

Heist wasn’t on my list for Charlotte initially. I ran into a friend who had been out to Charlotte recently (the brewers from Council Brewery) and they immediately said Heist was their favorite. Out of the small number of breweries I visited this was also my favorite. Depending on your style preferences, you might enjoy Heist more than any nearby breweries including popular Ashevillle options. They also have fantastic food.

Heist has a restaurant and focuses primarily on hazy IPAs and fruited sours. Even their honey blonde is hazy. I enjoyed all of the beers there and a few stood out as favorites. I started with Mango Pick’n, a Berliner Weisse with tons of mango added. It was thick and creamy with prominent ripe mango puree flavor. The mango overpowered the base beer so it only had a hint of lacto tart on the finish. This was my favorite of the bunch and I left with a few four packs.

Next was High Fives, described as a honey blonde, this tasted more like a hazy pale ale with some honey added. Mild honey sweetness supports the hop aromas of tangerine. The beer had a nice medium body and wasn’t very bitter or acidic. I was tempted to get a crowler of this one as well. Next was Torguga, a hazy IPA with pineapple and coconut. The adjuncts blended in perfectly with the base beer and it was like a creamy pina colada hazy. My husband took a sip and remarked that it doesn’t taste like an IPA. The hop aroma was minimal or non-existent and the beer was minimally bitter.

The two hazy double IPAs were both solid but both were fairly muted in hop aroma and neither had the same level of flavor as the others on the flight. Blurred up was super tropical on the nose but did not come through with similar flavors. The beer was acidic on the finish and had a nice creamy body with mild sweetness and low bitterness. The Cloud Control was a bit softer and less acidic with prominent notes of pineapple. While they nailed the mouthfeel it could have had more explosive hops.

Though I didn’t care for the double IPAs, the other beers were quite impressive at heist. This is a spot you should not miss if you are either local or stopping through.

Top 2:
Mango Pick’n
High Fives hazy honey blonde

Divine Barrel

Despite the name, there were no barrel-aged offerings when I visited Divine Barrel. They have a huge open tasting room but it has quite an echo because with just the talking of people it gets uncomfortably loud. This led me to speed through my flight more than I might have otherwise. They had solid beers but nothing that really stood out as better than the others.

The saison was fairly standard with notes of honey and pear white wine. It finished with hints of pomegranate. The hazy IPA was bitter and piney and just mildly creamy. The hops don’t work very well with the hazy style.

Cadillac Rainbows was an incredibly tart fruited berliner with notes of apricot and passion fruit. The lacto tartness was so prominent it overpowered the fruit. This is a nice counter to other more juicy versions of the style but I don’t think I could drink more than a taster of it. Ice Cream Paint Job is a similar berliner but with more berries and the addition of lactose. It was much less tart than the other and had only light acidity from the berries. Lactose adds sweetness.

Maybe in a few years Divine Barrel will have more barrel aged offerings but for now they are fairly standard with their offerings. If you like more acidic berliner weisse styles this might be a good spot to try.

Resident Culture


Resident Culture is one of the most talked-about breweries in Charlotte. This is in part because it was started by an ex-brewer from Russian River. They had a large variety of beers on tap though I only tasted 4 because my husband needed to rest and it was quite loud. Thankfully they had a couple of bottles I was able to bring with me to-go.

Resident Culture has a large tasting room and the day we visited they had some live music. I started with the hoppy farmhouse. It had prominent herbal hops and notes of bubblegum with a mild earthy finish. It was a solid farmhouse. Books on Tape, a peach brett beer was my favorite of the day. The flavors worked wonderfully with peach and brett funk blending together. The beer had a light acidic finish. I probably would have ordered a pint of this out of the four I tried.

Thunder Study hazy IPA was creamy with notes of vanilla and pineapple and a mild herbal hop finish. It was solid though not as flavorful as Heist. The brut IPA was a bit buttery, which may have been diacetyl. The beer was super dry with mild herbal hop character though overall a bit too subdued hops for my preference.

I had two bottles in my hotel room directly after leaving the brewery. Both were mixed culture saisons aged in oak. Secret Feelings was super carbonated with notes of buttery oak, subtle funk, and mild lemon. It had an excellent balance. Ghost Particle, aged a bit longer, was funky and oaky on the nose and a bit more carbonated. The beer had notes of caramel and kiwi with flavors more on the fruity side than the other one. Both were excellent for the style but I prefer the Secret Feelings of the two.

Though not as impressive as Heist, Resident Culture is excellent and if I were to come back I would try a few more beers there. They certainly know how to work with brett.

Top 2:
Books on Tape – Peach Brett Ale
Secret Feelings – Mixed Culture Saison

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Almanac Brewing Company – San Francisco and Alameda

Almanac has been around for quite a while though they only recently opened two large locations you could visit. They were originally known for their barrel-aged sours, which was for a while all that they produced. I remember enjoying both their series of fruited sours with local fruits and dry-hopped sours usually with a single variety of hops. With the opening of two new facilities, they also started brewing other styles of beers. Now they have a variety of options available not just sours.

On a recent visit to the San Francisco Bay Area I checked out the two locations for Almanac brewing and decided to visit the one in Alameda because I was staying with family nearby. I also selected that location because it is a larger tasting room as opposed to the brewpub in San Francisco. Brewpubs tend to get more crowded with the addition of food. The tasting room is in the same old naval yard where Faction opened their brewery. It has a similarly large building that appears to be a re-purposed hangar.

There are numerous picnic tables to sit at inside plus bar seating and more picnic tables in an enclosed outdoor patio. Even with the high ceiling the inside area was noticeably louder than sitting on the patio so we moved outside once seating opened up. During my visit I tried two sours, a hoppy pilsner, and a hazy IPA. I left with cans of the pilsner and cans of an oak-aged vienna lager. They also had a crowler machine for beers to-go.

Apricot sour.

Of the two sours, I was most satisfied by the Interstellar Apricot. Though it was a saison as a base beer, it had plenty of apricot so that it had a thick creamy mouthfeel. The beer was like apricot puree and went down easy thanks to low acidity. The cherry supernova was a bit more subtle with the fruit despite a name that suggested a similar fruit explosion. It was well-done but I would have preferred more prominent fruit. It was only slightly more fruity than most of the fruited beers from Societe in San Diego, which I find to be too subtle for my tastes.

Two sours side by side.

The pilsner was true to style except for the addition of modern hops. It exploded with citrus and bubblegum hop aroma without much bitterness. I have enjoyed a few cans since visiting the brewery and really enjoy this one. Of course if you want to enjoy the hop explosion, make sure that you get fresh cans. The oak-aged vienna lager I only tried briefly at the brewery but have had a few cans of since leaving. The oak gives it mild butter character to blend nicely with the caramel notes of the base beer. It also has some notes of plum.

Pint of pilsner.

I finished my visit with a pint of the Hazy IPA brewed for Ales for ALS. The beer had a nice creamy body and prominent hop aroma with notes of pineapple and mild herbs. The beer was mildly bitter and low in hop acidity making it quite crushable. I have seen their hazy cans outside of the brewery but hadn’t tried them yet because so many breweries label new IPAs as hazy when they are simply imitations. This is the real thing.

With such easy access to Almanac beers throughout California, it isn’t essential to visit them at the source. Though they were selling vintage bottles to go they didn’t have rare bottles for on-site consumption. If you happen to visit family in Oakland or Alameda though, it is worth taking a stop by the Alameda tasting room. You could visit Faction during the same trip.

Known for:
Almanac is known for fantastic barrel-aged sours and recently branched out to brewing other styles. They had a solid hazy IPA and fantastic hoppy pilsner.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Toronto Breweries – Halo, Blood Brothers, and Burdock

Halo

Halo was enjoyable for this visit initially because they had strong air conditioning blasting. We stood for about 15 minutes before some seats opened up. I had two beers that day, a hazy IPA called New Wave, and a tart saison called Day Star.

The New Wave seemed initially to be overly harsh in hop acidity as if it was tapped too soon. Hops came through mostly with flavors of apricot though thankfully as it warmed up a bit the acidity faded and more of the candied fruit flavor I remembered from my visit a year earlier came through. The tart saison was nicely balanced with subtle notes of apricot and funk with some lingering acidity.

Halo’s tasting room is tiny but it is a nice place to spend some time if you are nearby and it is hot outside. They are quite a distance North West in Toronto but once you are up there it is fairly short walk to two other breweries, Burdock and Blood Brothers. Though if it is hot, I suggest doing Burdock next because they have air-conditioning.

Blood Brothers

We went to Blood Brothers next mostly because it sounded like the IPAs at Burdock were more on the hazy side and we assumed my friend would prefer that style. When we got there, he announced he was done with beer and wouldn’t be having any more there. If it is hot outside and you are doing a tour around the area, try to visit Blood Brothers later in the day because they don’t have air conditioning and it gets quite hot inside. Though clearly the crowds didn’t care how hot it was.

Beer wise, my notes were mostly taken on Untappd because despite the heat the place was packed and there was nowhere for me to put my beers down. I started with the Shumai IPA, a hazy IPA that was creamy and a nice blend of herbal and citrus hop character. The beer was restrained in hop acidity and not too bitter. After tasting a friend’s beer of Paradise Lost Razzle Dazzle, I had to order one for myself. This is a beer with raspberry and vanilla served on nitro. It was super fruity without being overly sweet and was extra creamy on nitro. I would love to see this in nitro cans to enjoy outside of the brewery.

Other friends were drinking their delicious tequila aged sour while I was there and it was so good that most of them ordered their own glass after having a sip. It isn’t a beer style that I would have expected to enjoy but worked quite nicely. If I had a cooler with me I might have bought a bottle to bring with me to-go. But it was so hot outside i didn’t want the beers to heat up too much. Hopefully if it cools down during my stay in Toronto, I will make another visit to Blood Brothers before I fly home. [It didn’t]

Burdock

Burdock was our last stop for the day, a short walk from Blood Brothers. Everyone at the table saw the cherry and other fruits can-conditioned sour called Cherry B and went straight for that one. It was nice and refreshing with powerful cherry and mild mix of other berries while not very acidic. It was especially nice to enjoy as we cooled down from the hot brewery before hand. I also ordered a dry-hopped sour called Te. It was nice and funky with light herbal hops. Burdock impressed me last year with the quality of their sours and again on this visit. They also have a restaurant.

If you want to read about my visit to some of the same breweries in my 2017 trip, you can find the old post here.  During the 2017 visit I ended up ordering a bottle of sour to enjoy on site because they had a nice reduced price bottle that day.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Exploring San Diego's Craft Breweries