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Lou Collichio came to Metro Wines with twenty eight years of experience in the spirits industry. He started his career in New Jersey first managing a small wine shop and then working for a chain of discount beer, wine, and liquor stores as a beer buyer and assistant store manager. After moving to Asheville in 2006, Lou worked for both Greenlife Grocery, and Whole Foods as a beer and wine buyer. His passion for all things craft beer started at the dawn of the American craft beer movement and has continued unabated to this day.

Lou says he is a "recovering musician." We haven't heard his music yet but what we do know is that Lou has stories! He plans to share some of his greatest hits with us and you on "Brewing UP a Storm" our beer blog. did you know that Lou was in a 7th grade play with James Gandolfini and lou stole the show? Stay tuned!


Anita Riley is the cellarman at Mystery Brewing in Hillsborough, NC and continues to blog for "Brewing Up a Storm." She holds the title of Certified Beer Server through Cicerone, USA, and is a native of WNC.

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Happy Brew Year!

“Regarding 2015: I do not care to repeat it. It was a lot of hard work and struggle, but I can say that I am proud of the strides I made this year. My son became (gulp) an adult, I managed to pull off a 4.0, I became a published writer, grew Metro Wines’ beer department from three skus to nearly 100 and added keg sales, worked two full time jobs or was a full time student working full time, and landed my dream job. I have enjoyed the successes, make no mistake. I don’t have plans to slow down any time soon. I have sixteen goals for 2016, and I plan on rocking each of them.”

This was my Facebook status on December 31st, 2015. It was, indeed, a lot of work. In fact, the last three years had been very similar with one exception: there hadn’t been a light at the end of the tunnel. To use a yeast metaphor, I had been in lag phase for a really, really long time. The lag phase is when the yeasts outwardly appear to be dormant, but there is truly a lot of unappreciated work going on. They are taking up oxygen and creating new cells. To the naked eye, all we see is that there isn’t any fermentation happening yet. In other words, the payoff hasn’t started paying off. If 2015 was my lag phase, 2016 has been my exponential growth phase!

I resolved in 2012 that I would go back to school to learn a new skill. It was becoming more and more difficult to eke out an existence with my first career. The recession and technological advances had changed the face of my field along with many others, leaving a large swath of the population wondering, “Now what?” In 2012 my son was entering high school, and my hopes of saving for his college tuition were dwindling with each trip to the unemployment office. It took me a year to work up the nerve, chose a program, and get my ducks in a row to return to school after thirteen years of brain atrophy.   I knew that at one point I had been a good student. I was also acutely aware that if you don’t use it, you lose it, and I had effectively lost it. I sat for my math and English placement test and flunked the math portion with such grandeur as to sentence myself to a year of math classes to relearn the basics. The English, however, I aced like a champ. Is anyone surprised by this? It was clear that the amount of work that lay before me meant that I would be graduating the same semester as my son would graduate high school, not a year or two before as I had hoped. Perfect.

I’m not sure that I can fully recount what it’s like to be a single mom, working full time, and going to school full time for three years on end. I didn’t even take summers off. I’m fortunate that my son was older and more self-sufficient while I pursued my studies. I see mothers of young children walking this same path, and I am dismayed at their perseverance. It’s daunting. I went to school and worked like my life depended on it, because it did. And not just my life. My son’s life depended on it, too. I can only imagine that this is a shared motivation with other parents that return to school.

On December 28th, 2015, I drove a moving van three hours from Asheville to an adorable three bedroom home in Hillsborough, North Carolina. It is my dream house. It goes with everything I own. The birds and squirrels and deer and rabbits play in the park-like backyard. There’s a nearby greenway, and I’m walking distance to the adorable downtown area. My son and parents helped me unload the furniture and possessions that friends had helped me load the day before. It was raining and muddy. I was exhausted. Two of the owners of Mystery Brewing came to help just in time to carry my largest and heaviest pieces of furniture into the house for me. As I drove the empty van back to the rental company, I started sobbing. I had worked so hard for this moment. At times I wondered if I would ever see it. Between work and final exams at school and the logistics of moving, I hadn’t really taken the time to let the gravity of the situation sink in.

As I wrote my resolutions for 2016 just a few days later, I couldn’t have known what was lying around the corner for me. I had just attained so many long term goals all at once, that I didn’t even know how to answer the inquiries from my friends about what I was shooting for next. I couldn’t have anticipated my boss would trust me to Adopt a Highway in the brewery’s name or that he would be handing me the reigns to host International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day at Mystery Brewing during the first quarter of my employment. This is an annual event that takes place on International Women’s Day, March 8th of each year, and raises money for The Pink Boots Society’s (PBS) scholarship fund to support professional development of women in the beer industry. I was only employed at Mystery a few weeks when I was given the task. We ended up hosting twenty women at our brewery that day. The result was “Field and Flower” a blueberry, lemongrass, and jasmine Belgian wit beer. The seven barrels (217 gallons) that we brewed sold out quickly. I couldn’t have been more proud to have it as my first commercial batch of beer and to have been able to share its creation with so many spectacular women.

Since then I have become more involved with PBS than I could have predicted was possible a year ago. I am currently in the midst of writing my first book that will benefit their scholarship fund so that more women can pursue and further their careers in the beer industry. I am working with other state and regional PBS leaders to organize and host the first ever all women’s beer festival, Biere de Femme, in Shelby, NC on March 11th, 2017. The North Carolina chapter of PBS has gone from meeting in small groups once a year for our annual brew day to holding quarterly meetings and social gatherings. In short, we are Brewing Up a Storm over here! 

As proud as I am of these achievements, I am even more proud to have gotten to see my son graduate high school in the spring. Talk about the culmination of a lot of hard work! He and I both put a lot of effort into making that day a reality. There is a dichotomy that exists for parents. We try to enjoy each day with our children because everyone tells you how fleeting those moments really are. At the same time, though, some days don’t seem very different from the one before it. It’s like pressing the fast forward button and pause at once!  It’s remarkable to finally be able to say that I am exactly who I wanted to be when I grew up. It’s exponentially more satisfying to say that my son is exactly who I hoped he would be at this age. He is my life’s work, and I couldn’t be more proud of the man he has turned out to be.  

It’s rare that I write about myself. It’s uncomfortable for me. But knowing how rare these kinds of years are, I took a deep breath and decided to write about it. In part because I think it’s worth celebrating. I could do that on my own, though. Rather, I chose to document it publicly because we all have lag years. Sometimes we have lag decades. It seems like we’re getting nowhere or that our destination is just a moving target that we’ll never reach. 2016 has been one of those great reminders for me that hard work actually does pay off, big picture goals are reachable, and one step at a time will eventually get you where you’re headed. I hope you’ll push forward on your path. I hope that you look over shoulder at the year gone by and realize that there was a lot of unappreciated work happening even if you didn’t always notice it. I hope that you take time to celebrate the large and small strides. And if you are fortunate enough to have reached a mountain top in 2016, then I hope that you recognize how remarkable it is before you set your eyes on the next peak. I hope you impress yourself in 2017. Cheers!

To learn more about The Pink Boots Society visit https://www.pinkbootssociety.org/

To order tickets for the Biere de Femme Festival visit https://www.pinkbootssociety.org/events/#!event/2017/3/11/biere-de-femme-festival

To learn more about Mystery Brewing Company, visit www.mysterybrewing.com

 

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Lara Murphy of Modern Romance: Finding the Lump in the Road to Starting a Brewery

Lara Murphy and her husband, Paul Hobson, embody the name for their brewery in planning: Modern Romance Brewery. Their story is a thing of beauty. They dated for two years when they were in high school, but when Paul went off to college, Lara was only in her sophomore year.  The relationship just sort of fell apart. Paul finished college, got married, and moved to Texas. Lara went to college a few years after Paul, then moved to New York City to start her career. While they had each moved on in their own way, neither forgot the other. Some fifteen years later, a twist of not-fate (neither of them buy into the notion) reunited them. Paul had just gotten divorced and moved back to North Carolina. Lara, who had also moved back to North Carolina, had just experienced a break-up herself. She went out with some friends to celebrate their birthday. Almost immediately after they arrived, Lara spotted Paul sitting at the bar with a group of old college friends. He looked up to see Lara looking back at him. It wasn’t long before they were dating again. Just over a year later, they were married. “It seems radical and fast, and it kind of is, but things clicked back into place in such a way. We definitely grew up and matured apart, but we did it in such a way that made us even more compatible, I think,” Paul says. I know, right!? Just when you thought romance was dead! “A lot of our getting to know each other again and date as adults was centered around craft beer,” Lara says as she recounts stories of the brewery tours, bottle shops, and tasting rooms they frequented during their courtship. This naturally led to shared experiments with homebrewing, which led to award-winning recipes, which led to even loftier ambitions.
Fast forward six years to September of 2015, and Modern Romance is really starting to come together. Paul and Lara had savings to use as seed money to start their own brewery. They found a location in close proximity to other Durham breweries and bars, wrote a business plan, found other businesses interested in sharing a multipurpose space, and Lara found a tiny lump on her breast. She recalls the initial diagnosis. “The younger you are, generally, the more aggressive the cancer is. So, when I was diagnosed at thirty-six years old, treatment started pretty immediately. There wasn’t even really time to process what was happening. I was having chemo treatments and going into meetings with our realtor about the space we were considering. At that point, our business plan was really taking shape. We were excited about it, and wanting to move forward.”
Paul continues the story: “At a certain point we realized that as much as we want to push through, we would be in the middle of a build-out in the throes of chemo and surgery. Our designer,” he says motioning to Lara, who has an interior design background, “couldn’t build her own taproom. We would have had to watch from afar.” At the same time, Lara was holding down a full time job that she needed to keep in order to keep her health coverage. Her employer found a way to put her into a position she could do from home while she completed chemo, recovered from multiple surgeries, and underwent radiation. “We had to hit pause on something,” Paul recounts, “and we couldn’t pause work or cancer, so the brewery had to go on hold.”
“Even from a financial aspect,” Lara points out, “we couldn’t really say what we could afford to put down as a down payment, and what we needed to divert to hospital bills. Even with a great health care plan, this has been an expensive year.”
Another down side to chemo is losing your taste for almost everything, including beer. “It was starting to get cooler, and my favorite, Vienna Lagers were starting to show up. There was one that came on draft at Surf Club in Durham. I’d had a few treatments. I couldn’t really tell what was changing. I still had my hair, I hadn’t really gotten sick yet. I took a sip of this beautiful beer that I knew I loved, and it tasted like pennies. And I was just like, ‘It’s starting. What a bummer.’ Losing beer was really crushing because it is this lovely emotional escape when you’re facing something hard. It’s also a great treat after a difficult situation. Especially since my doctors said that I could still have beer, I just couldn’t go crazy with it.”
“It was actually an adventure trying to find something that you did still like,” Paul remembers. “Your go-to’s like Pilsners, Saisons, and IPA’s weren’t doing it for you anymore.”
“All of those styles were really harsh to my senses.  I would taste a lot of perceived salt that wasn’t really there. It was awful. I’m a super taster, too, so to not be able to help with our test batches was also crushing!” Lara lamented.
Paul put that into perspective of what that meant for Modern Romance Brewery. “It was basically a year of relying on my perfectly adequate taste buds, but her sense of taste is so nuanced compared to mine. We just weren’t brewing and testing batches at full capacity at all this year.”
Lara continued, explaining how the couple found a way to move forward given the obstacles. “We ended up working on our barrel aging and sour beers that could take a year to make. We were also lucky enough to get to brew collaboration beers with Pink Boots Society, Bond Brothers Beer Company and Mystery Brewing during treatment, getting our name out there a bit and getting some experience on a pro level. I could smell things. My sense of smell wasn’t wrecked. I just couldn’t taste it.”
She and Paul started to experiment outside of her typical comfort zone. “I was never really a fan of heavy sweet things before, but that’s one of the things you can still taste when you’re undergoing chemo. So I found that I could drink dark, sweet beers like milk stouts. Anything with vanilla. Soft, round sort of beers I could taste…I got an entire case of Moo-Hoo and crushed it. I was actually worried that my palate wouldn’t come back, but it actually came back pretty quickly. We celebrated the end of chemo and my birthday in January 2015 with a bottle sharing party at our house, right as I got my taste buds back. Every sip at that party tasted like victory. There were lots of happy tears surrounded by dear friends that day. ”
“Do you think as messed up as the situation was,” Paul asks, “that this experience altered your appreciation for dark beers?”
“Totally!” Lara replies. She continues, but Paul interrupts with a premeditated, “Thanks Cancer!” I need to stop right here and acknowledge how wonderful these two are as a couple.
We collect ourselves, and Lara finishes her thought.  “It was actually an opportunity to start working on Cookie Mountain, our dark beer with shortbread, caramel, and chocolate that was conceptualized at that point, but we hadn’t brewed it yet.” 
While Paul and Lara both have clearly found ways to get through this past year and still look on the bright side, Lara warns that this is not a feel good story about a warrior that has won a battle with cancer. “A lot of my issues with feeling isolated is that at my age, there aren’t a lot of people going through this, whereas there is an intense support system for older women because they tend to come from the same walk of life. Most of them are worried about their kids. Even the few women my age that are diagnosed usually have kids, and I just don’t have that experience, so the concerns of people that I would otherwise reach out to as peers, were not my concerns.  I found some blogs that were helpful. Mostly they were written by snarky, single women, often living in large cities, who were writing in a voice that I could relate to. I wasn’t looking for someone to be all sunshine and roses. It just didn’t feel right. It made me mad, and it just didn’t ring true. I felt like a lot of those people were getting wrapped up in putting on a brave face so that their friends and loved ones are comforted or so that they can get the admiration of their friends, which is a powerful thing. Even among people that know you really well, there is a powerful pull to want to draw that bravery story out of you. Like you aren’t allowed to have a bad day. A couple weeks ago I said ‘I’m so f*#@ing over this,’ and the friend that I said it to was like, ‘But aren’t you lucky that you’ve…’ and I was all, ‘Absolutely. I’m a white lady in a first world country with great health insurance. I have an immense amount of privilege that I have to check every day, but also, I’m a thirty-six year old with cancer, and it sucks. And I’m allowed to say it sucks, and I’m allowed to have my feelings about it. Don’t gaslight me out of my cancer feelings.” Lara goes on to explain how well intended people can do damage when they think they are being helpful. “There is a flip side to that fighter analogy in that, if things don’t go well with your treatment it means that you didn’t fight hard enough, or you failed, or you’re weak. If there is a war analogy to be made, it’s really more like you’re the battle field, and science is fighting cancer. That warrior analogy can be really hurtful when things aren’t going well.”
But things are going well with Lara’s treatment. Her cancer is gone by all accounts. The science worked. She got her final treatment on August 30, and now she and Paul are picking up where they left off with Modern Romance Brewery, even though their own modern romance never skipped a beat. They are now adding to their business plan creative ways to give back to the non-profits that touched them throughout Lara’s treatment. You can keep up with their progress through their website at www.drinkmodern.com or on social media @drinkmodern or facebook.com/modernromancebrewery .
 
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Midas Touch from Dogfish Head

Wall Street Journal posts "The Clued-In- Brewer" Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione shares his tips on elevating a basic wardrobe. We don't have the wardrobe but we have the beer!

 

About Midas Touch from "Dogfish Head"

All of the ideas about what our ancient ancestors were drinking–whether a wine, beer, or mead–come together in our research on the so-called King Midas funerary feast, because surprisingly all three were mixed together in the drink.  The gala re-creation of the feast in 2000 was at the Penn Museum.  A spicy, barbecued lamb and lentil stew, according to our chemical findings, was the entree, and it  was washed down with a delicious, saffron-accented rendition of the Phrygian grog or “King Midas Golden Elixir” by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.  Dogfish is the fastest growing microbrewery in the country, and “Midas Touch” has become its most awarded beverage (3 golds and 5 silvers in major tasting competitions, with a few bronzes tossed in for good measure).  The extreme beverage took another silver in the Specialty Honey Beer category at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival in Colorado.

It all started with a tomb, the Midas Tumulus, in central Turkey at the ancient site of Gordion, which was excavated by this Penn Museum in 1957, over 50 years ago.  The actual tomb, a hermetically sealed log chamber, was buried deep down in the center of this tumulus or mound, which was artificially constructed of an enormous accumulation of soil and stones to a height of some 150′.  It’s the most prominent feature at the site.  There was indeed a real King Midas, who ruled the kingdom of Phrygia, and either him or his father, Gordius, was buried around 740-700 B.C. in this tomb.  There’s still some uncertainty, since there’s no sign announcing “Here Lies Midas or Gordius!”

When the Penn Museum excavators cut through the wall, they were brought face-to-face with an amazing sight, like Howard Carter’s first glimpse into Tutankamun’s tomb.  The excavators first saw the body of  a 60-65-year-old male, who had died normally.  He lay on a thick pile of blue and purple-dyed textiles, the colors of royalty in the ancient Near East.  In the background, you will see what really got us excited: the largest Iron Age drinking-set ever found–some 157 bronze vessels, including large vats, jugs, and drinking-bowls, that were used in the final farewell dinner outside the tomb.

Like an Irish wake, the king’s popularity and successful reign were celebrated by feasting and drinking.  The body was then lowered into the tomb, along with the remains of the food and drink, to sustain him for eternity or at least the last 2700 years.

None of the 160 drinking vessels, however, was of gold.  Where then was the gold if this was the burial of Midas with the legendary golden touch?  In fact, the bronze vessels, which included spectacular lion-headed and ram-headed buckets for serving the beverage, gleamed just like the precious metal, once the bronze corrosion was removed.  So, a wandering Greek traveler might have caught a glimpse of this when he or she concocted the legend.

The real gold, as far as I was concerned, was what these vessels contained.  And many of them still contained the remains of an ancient beverage, as seen in this close-up photograph of the residue, which was intensely yellow, just like gold.  It was the easiest excavation I was ever on.  Elizabeth Simpson, who has studied the marvelous wooden furniture in the tomb, asked me whether I’d be doing the analysis.  I just had to walk up two flights of stairs, and there were the residues in their original paper bags from when they were collected in 1957 and sent back to the museum.  We could get going with our analysis right away.

What then did these vessels contain?  Chemical analyses of the residues–teasing out the ancient molecules–provided the answer.  I won’t go into all the details of our analyses, in the interests of the chemically-challenged (please refer to the attached pdf’s).  Briefly, by using a whole array of microchemical techniques, including infrared spectrometry, gas and liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry, we were able to identify the fingerprint or marker compounds for specific natural products.

These included tartaric acid, the finger-print compound for grapes in the Middle East, which because of yeast on the skins of some grapes will naturally ferment to wine, especially in a warm climate.  The marker compounds of beeswax told us that one of the constituents was high-sugar honey, since beeswax is well-preserved and almost impossible to completely filter out during processing; honey also contains yeast that will cause it to ferment to mead.  Finally, calcium oxalate or beerstone pointed to the presence of barley beer.  In short, our chemical investigation of the intense yellowish residues inside the vessels showed that the beverage was a highly unusual mixture of grape wine, barley beer and honey mead.

You may cringe at the thought of mixing together wine, beer and mead, as I did originally.   I was really taken aback.  That’s when I got the idea to do some experimental archaeology.  In essence, this means trying to replicate the ancient method by taking the clues we have and trying out various scenarios in the present.  In the process, you hope to learn more about just how the ancient beverage was made.  To speed things up, I also decided to have a competition among microbrewers who were attending a “Roasting and Toasting” dinner in honor of beer authority Michael Jackson (not the entertainer, but the beer and scotch maven, now sadly no longer with us) in March of 2000 at the Penn Museum.

I simply got up at the dinner, and announced to the assembled crowd that we had come up with a very intriguing beverage that we needed some enterprising brewers to try to reverse-engineer and see if it was even possible to make something drinkable from such a weird concoction of ingredients.  Soon, experimental brews started arriving on my doorstep for me to taste–not a bad job, if you can get it, but not all the entries were that tasty.

Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery ultimately triumphed.  He also came up with an innovative label of our re-created beverage, showing the Midas golden thumb print.

Just one footnote: the bittering agent used in Midas Touch was not hops (which was only   introduced in to Europe around 700 A.D.), but the most expensive spice in the world, saffron.  Turkey was renowned for this spice in antiquity, and although we’ve never proven it, the intense yellowish color of the ancient residues may be due to saffron.

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Wicked Weed Hop Cocao

NEW in SHOP. NEW EVERYWHERE!

Lou in The Beer Department says:

Hop Cocoa is a silky smooth Porter brewed with Dutch cocoa powder, and dark cocoa nibs from the French Broad Chocolate Lounge.  Rich, dark and delicious with Wicked Weed's unmistakable hop style.

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Holiday Parties?

Wine, Beer and Event Space for Holiday Events

  Planning a holiday office party, celebratory event or searching for a unique idea for a gathering of family and friends? Consider a wine tasting @MetroWines! 

  We can plan an event especially for you. You pick the theme. Maybe Bordeaux, Rueda or Sicily or even a Blind Tasting!

Even Football !!

  Hosting an event or planning a wedding, we offer a wide selection of wines that vary by varietal and price and expert pairing advice. And if you are in our delivery area, we can bring the wine to you.

 We also offer a Gift Registry for any occasion. Someone retiring at the end of the year? Received  a promotion? Relocating? Getting married!?

  Call a consultant at 828-575-9525. Let us take one more task off your holiday to-do list! And thank you for the opportunity to be part of your holidays.

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