Monday, July 22, 2013

A Road Trip and a Porter

Those of you who know me outside of the socioblogofaceosphere know I'm very fond of Asheville. More specifically, I'm very fond of downtown Asheville. It's a glorious place for those of us who love beer. Top it off with great food, one of the greatest independent bookstores I've ever visited and a dearth of bitchy people and it becomes a happy place for me.

Mrs. Traveler and I considered moving to Asheville when we left that failed experiment known as Florida, but we chose to move back to familiar stomping grounds. The great thing about that is that Asheville is still only 2 hours away, give or take a few minutes depending on tourist traffic.

I needed to pick up a box of beer from Bruisin' Ales, so Ratchet, Animal and I piled into the trusty Boozemobile and motored out. Traffic was heavier than I'm used to (I tend to go on weekdays and get to Asheville fairly early so that I can go to Malaprops - the bookstore I mentioned - first), but we still managed to get there just before Bruisin' opened.

While we were all surfing our phones a couple from Louisville, KY, showed up to wait for opening time too.

"We just need another couple of people and then everybody will think there's some kind of rare bottle release going on," Ratchet mused.

We picked up a few beers, loaded up the Boozemobile and set out in search of Appalachian Vintner. I'd never been and Ratchet swore by their selection and taps. I've still not been there. Well, technically I've *been* there, but I've still not perused their shelves. They're closed on Sundays.

By now Animal and I were a mite peckish, so the three of us headed to Wicked Weed Brewing, one of my favorite stops in Asheville. The food is always awesome and the beer is always amazing.

I was a smidge nonplussed, as it turned out there was very little vegetarian fare available, but the cheese platter sounded good. It was good. It was very good. Animal said his bison burger was good too. 

"It's what I always get when I'm here, and it's always perfect," he said between bites.

I ponied up for a snifter of their Black Angel Cherry Sour. Y'all know me and sours. How could I resist?

Dark colored with the taste of chocolate, plums, sour cherries and oak, this beer was damned good. I regret that I hadn't had it sooner, but one of the downfalls of getting to Asheville early is that most of the tasting rooms aren't open. Wicked Weed's upstairs opens during the daytime, but you have to wait until early afternoon for the basement, which is where their barrel aged and sour beers are located.

I decided to try an experiment. I snagged a chunk of the amazing blue cheese on my stave and chucked it into my gob to let it melt. Then I took another tug on the sour. It was like an epiphany. The sourness was tamed and the oak, plums and chocolate came bursting through.

"Hey Ratchet. Here's a chunk of that blue cheese. Coat your mouth with it and then pull on that sour in your flight." I moaned ecstatically.

He picked up the little piece of phenomenal cheese I grudgingly gave up in the interest of science, smeared it on his tongue and took a big ol' shot of the sour.

"Holy shit. Dude! Holy shit!" was about all I got.

"I know, right?" I said.

Well, I didn't actually say that, because I hate that phrase with the fires of a thousand suns, but you get my drift. I was too deeply in awe of the great combo to say anything much more intelligent.

That brings me to the next beer. Their bourbon barrel aged Infidel Porter. I'd had their regular Infidel on my last visit. I was very interested in seeing what the difference was, and I was not disappointed.

Pitch black on the pour, this baby tasted like the barrel. Bourbon, bourbon, bourbon. Sweet corniness, some chocolate and a mild booziness. It smelled like vanilla, chocolate and malt. A great example of a barrel aged beer, it satisfied my needs.

The day was over far too soon. We poured Ratchet back in the Boozemobile and headed into the afternoon thundershowers.

A day later I started digging around in the cooler and found a beer I had picked up at Bruisin' Ales on my first trip there. Cisco Brewers' Moor Porter. The label is pretty cool. Simple and direct, I dig it.

This beer poured a dark brown. Big bubbles formed the thick, luxurious head, hopefully indicative of a great drink. The lacing started up as the head subsided. It would prove to be one of the only impressive parts of this bottle.

Raising the glass to my nose I was immediately aware of the aroma of burnt chocolate, toffee and a hint of hops. It seemed promising at that point. Then I poured it on my tongue.

Disappointment. That's about the best word to describe it. I know porters don't tend to be all that complex, but this was beyond not complex. It tasted mildly like the burnt chocolate I smelled and it had a nondescript bitterness to it. That's all.

Mrs. Traveler's thoughts? "Bland. No aroma. Tastes kind of like something mass produced, like Lowenbrau Dark."

I agree. I'm not all that impressed. Either that or Wicked Weed spoiled me. I'm willing to bet it's a combo of the two.

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