Friday evening we left Oskar Blues and the buses headed to Sierra Nevada’s Mills River Brewery. I could barely contain my excitement. I visited the brewery six months earlier and knew the gorgeous cathedral to beer that await us. Just driving into the brewery is special. No detail was left undone, even in the road leading up the to brewhouse. I watched the faces of those on the bus as they saw the brewery when the bus crested the hill. Everyone’s excitement matched mine. The bus full of beer writers knew this would not be just another brewery tour.
We disembarked to be greeted by Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman and his son, Brian Grossman. Brian moved to North Carolina to run the East Coast Brewery, while Ken flies in regularly to visit. Also greeting us were the head of Brauhaus Riegele and his Brewmaster from Augsburg, Germany. Minds were blown, and would continue to be.
We split up into tour groups. Sierra Nevada staff lead the tours, but I was privileged to be in the first group led by the founder himself. Ken was a gracious and humble host, showing us around the brewery, explaining its operation and answering every question. He was such a regular guy who did not put on airs of being the craft beer royalty he is. The new brewery is immaculate. It is a castle befitting a king, and the king was our tour guide.
After the tour, Ken took us hiking from the Brewery to the new river side picnic area. The beer bloggers dinner was the first event held at the river side, and Oktoberfest was in full effect. Brewery staff handed us glass steins full of the new Oktoberfest collaboration with Riegele. It was delicious, a malty Marzen beer that paired perfectly with the sausages, rabbit cassoulet and a full spread of German foods. The grounds were a little Munich, the food tents had wreaths with ribbons hanging from them, and the German oompah music played throughout the festival field.
As much as we wanted to stay forever, we had to return to Asheville. Event sponsors threw a party to introduce us to their beer and services. We tasted more great beer, learned about great beer towns and got to see new beer-related products.
We ended the evening with the Night of Many Bottles. Ideally, we should have all gone to bed at 10:30. Instead, we had an epic bottle share. There was so much beer that we could not finish it. The beer was from all over the country, from well-known breweries to obscure small start-ups.
The best part of a bottle share is enjoying beer new to you. Attendees brought local beers from breweries back home. I was happy to share Yazoo, Blackstone and other Tennessee breweries. I finally got to taste Lunch, Maine Beer Company’s great IPA, plus a dozen (or was that two-dozen?) great beers I have not tasted before. Thank you to all my beer friends who brought great beer from your area!
They finally kicked us out of the ballroom. We shuffled to our rooms, knowing the next morning would that was coming way too fast.
Stay tuned for updates about Saturday and Sunday in Asheville.
Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference attendees who registered as a Citizen Blogger received a discounted fee. In consideration for the discount, two blog posts were required about the conference. This is actually my third, her are the first and second.