Bhramari Brewing Company is the Bee’s Knees

One of the best things about traveling is day-drinking. There’s no work to be done, no social obligations and depending on where you are in the world — everyone is doing it!

Bhramari Brewing Co. acts as a sort of gateway from downtown Asheville to the lower warehouse area that houses many of the breweries and funky eats. One block up is the edge of downtown and if you look out the front door, you can see Wicked Weed to the left and Hi-Wire to the right.

Bhramari is the Hindu Goddess of bees. Thus, a lot of their beers are honey-based, but mostly they like to focus on getting local ingredients for their beers.

One the boiling hot day I visited at noon, I parked my sweaty bum on a stool in full line of the fan and free from the beating sun. It’s an airy taproom filled with wood, golden colors and fun-bar eats. Check the light fixtures which are beer bottles filled with string lights.

Here’s what I had:

  • Lorelai IPA
  • Luck Dragon Kolsch
  • Natural Born Farmer Saison
  • Carolina Common California Common

Asheville’s Oyster House Brewing Company Provides … Oysters and Beer

After a 10-hour drive and downing the fabulous burger Tastee Diner, I headed to the closest brewery to begin my tour of Asheville’s finest beer. Down the street on Haywood in West Asheville is Oyster House.

All you need to know about Oyster House Brewing Company is in the name. You can have oysters, you can drink beers made in house and you can have both at the same time.

An oyster stout might seem like an unusual beer, but it not hard to find brewers willing to take discarded oyster shells to make beer. The recipe can be traced back to Victorian times when brewers used anything they could get their hands on.

Today, brewers use it to give richness to stouts, with a bit of a briny finish you would expect. Thus, the Oyster House Moonstone Oyster Stout has a mineral-like finish with hints of sea salt. With the low alcohol, it makes a good companion to their oyster selection. For something with a little whoop-whoop, have the bourbon barrel aged version.

I’m not a shellfish guy, but there’s plenty of other choices. I had room for more nibbles after the Tastee Burger so I went with a small side of the bourbon pimento mac and cheese.

Here’s what I had:

  • It’s Porter Time
  • Ole Dirty Blonde Golden Ale
  • Step Papa Pale Ale
  • Bob’s Yer Uncle Extra Special Bitter

It’s a cosy spot that’s not in a high-traffic area, so it’s optimal for relaxing after a day of hiking.

At Burial Beer Co., A Sloth and Magnum P.I. Mural Welcomes You

Heyyy, youuuuu guuuyyyysss. Let’s drink beer! HAAA HAAAA!

Sometimes, you should not ask questions when you see Sloth from Goonies and Magnum P.I.-era Tom Selleck painted on a side of a brewery. You kind of just accept it and order some beer.

Alas, since I visited the Asheville, N.C.- based brewery Burial, I looked up the answer from the owners. As they explain….

Many moons ago, we were loaned a rare and beautiful velvet Selleck to display our taproom. Soon after, a portrait of Sloth made its way into our hands and the hearts of all who gazed upon his likeness.

Meanwhile, on the outside of our brewery, a need to fill the blank canvas of our bare concrete wall began to grow and gave way to a night of long, arduous and soul searching among Jess, Doug, and Tim to decide what things were important enough to them to immortalize forever. Should it be our logo? A portrayal of our belief in the beautiful and aching cyclical nature of life and death? A light side/dark side piece that is reflected in all our labels?!

Sometimes speaking the most important thing about yourself to the world, means speaking about thing that makes you laugh and brings you joy without fail. And sometimes that means your self portrait looks like a world where Sloth and Tom Selleck are best friends on an urban farm brewery nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains, just living their dream of being best buds.

Best buds, which means they were high when they decided to do this.

Besides 80s memories and velvet art, Burial makes beer — GREAT beer. Burial is a name that sporadically makes his way up to the tri-state area.  Their Blade and Sheath saison is the most common title that I’ve had before. Thus, their taproom is where to try their wide array of styles. You can also get some grub at the Salt & Smoke truck outside in the stone beer garden.

Burial was my favorite brewery in Asheville. Wicked Weed is the most popular brand in town, but I have hand it to Burial. The beer tasted fresher, each one had a distinct taste and the vibe in the joint was laid back.

Here’s what I had:

  • Skillet Donut Stout (took home a six-pack of this bad boy, so good)
  • The Rise of the Merciless saison
  • Winnower Porter
  • Machete Extra Farmhouse Saison
  • Surf Wax IPA
  • Both Ways India Pale Lager
  • Billows kolsch

 

 

Nashville Hot Chicken Showdown: Bolton’s vs. Hattie B’s vs. Prince’s

While barbecue keeps the locals and tourists happy with piles of meat and sides, it’s the hot chicken that’s at the heart of the Nashville food scene. It’s soul food that makes you feel alive and humbles you.

There are many option in your hot chicken quest, but I went to the three that are most mentioned — the two old school places, Bolton’s and Prince’s, and a new school joint, Hattie B’s. I lived to tell the tale.

Bolton’s was first stop when I arrived on Sunday. It was closest to my AirBnB in East Nashville and only one opened on a late Sunday when I arrived from Lynchburg.

If you watch the Anthony Bourdian show, Parts Unknown, this is the place that he visited with Alison Mosshart from The Kills. I rewatched that segment on the Netflix just now and there some very suspect staging in that episode.

First off, they got served their food on black plastic plates on trays. You will not get this. Even if you say you are eating in, you will get your food in Styrofoam containers in a brown paper bag.

I got the chicken tenders with a medium level of hotness with a side of mac and cheese. It comes with white bread and pickles. That medium will tear your insides out. My introduction to Nashville hot chicken was trial by fire in my mouth.

They warn not to rub your eyes because you might come in contact to with spices. Luckily, I avoided that happenstance thankfully since I used plastic utensils for my tenders. But, I was seriously watering up and snotty from my noise. Twice, I had to get up and wash my face. THIS WAS THE MEDIUM. The mac and cheese was ass, so avoid it.

With all that a said, this was flavor bomb of epic proportions. Getting the tenders was a good idea so I wouldn’t have hot chicken spices all over my face if I was eating off the bone.

As you see, the red, no-thrills interiors adds to the down-home, good eatin’ atmosphere. As a side note, I guess rock stars like Mosshart get great parking right in front of the joint.

The next day for lunch, I went to Hattie B’s Hot Chicken in West Nashville, the new school joint that’s sleek with pretty interiors, fancier sides, a better presentation and craft beer. This is your gentrified hot chicken joint.

Since I figure they didn’t want to test their customers heat limits, I went with the hot level of hotness with side a pimento mac and cheese. This time, the mac and cheese was stellar.

The juiciness of chicken was on point. A great level of crunch with the a juicy inside and heat was definitely tear educing, but not at the pain level at Bolton’s. This hot chicken will get you just enough hotness to get you to HOT DAMN level but not running out the door screaming. It’s just pushing past tolerable for the average mortal.

Finally, after a long drive from Memphis, I got to Prince’s an hour before closing, which was great but they were out of a lot of sides and drinks.

Apparently, Prince invented the hot chicken back in the 1940’s and the recipe is a closely guarded secret. It’s even more no-thrills joint then Bolton’s. It’s a strip mall with parking lot that hasn’t been paved ever. Inside, it’s packed with locals where you’re forced to eat with strangers who quickly become friends.

All customers are told to have a blessed day. Sales of their desserts helps local charities, so this is a friendly place even when it gets crowded and hectic.

Even though it was a Tuesday, there was a still a wait to get my food. I was ready to sit with strangers but all the booths were taken. I ended up taking it back to my AirBnb.

I went with the breast quarter white meat medium heat and side of potatoe salad (as spelled on the menu) and a chocolate cheese pie for dessert. They only serve tenders on Thursday and they were out of cole slaw, water and ice tea.

When I got my food in a brown paper bag, I darted back to my place in 7 minutes. When I got in, the bag was already soaked through with grease. I tore into chicken with both hands and discovered that the heat level of medium was weak compared to the others. It was still well-fried and juicy, but way too greasy. The potatoe salad was meh.

After I was done, I felt a little ill from the grease.

My verdict, Bolton’s takes the crown because of the flavor, not greasy, great crisp and no fuss interiors. If you have to go to one place while in Nashville, it’s Bolton’s. Sides were best at Hattie B’s with best looking chicken. Prince’s had the best crunch, but weak heat wise.

The Best Way to Visit Graceland is as a Day Trip from Nashville

The King died 40 years ago today. Let’s put it this way, the human vessel made of muscles, bones and organs that carried the soul of Elvis Presley ceased to exist. The legend and spirit is still very much alive.

Visiting Graceland is the best way to experience the life of Elvis and pay your respects to the man and his legacy. While Memphis is best known as a BBQ capital, Graceland draws people from around the world. Beyond these two things, there’s not much else to do.

The best tip I can give for visiting Graceland is to do it after your BBQ lunch. A timed ticket between 2-3:30pm is what you should aim for. Here’s why — the actual house is a 90-minute visit at most. Every body who has visited says the same comment — “it’s smaller than I thought.”

People make the mistake thinking that it’s an all-day event. The Presley family and Elvis Inc. have been revamping the experience to make it more for an all-day thing with a new museum of clothes, cars, airplanes and artifacts. This can run you $60-$159. You can skip that.

The Graceland only tour is $40 for a timed entrance and you can buy in advance the day before. It saves you 15 minutes. The tour is fantastic and how they kept the house exactly as it was when Elvis lived there should be commended. The tablet with John Stamos narrating the tour is a little cumbersome but it gives your tour context. There are no museum placards in the house to tell you what is what.

In all, I spent 2 1/2 hours total there which included a short intro video, van ride to the house from the main headquarters and proverbial stroll through the three gift shops.

Thus, there’s no need to stay overnight in Memphis unless you really like barbecue. From Nashville, it’s a straight 3 hours and 20 minutes drive. You can spend that time like I did by listening to the Elvis station on Spotify or playing Paul Simon’s Graceland album on repeat. The road trip nature makes it seem much more like a pilgrimage.

I left Nashville at 9am. Rolled into The BBQ Spot for lunch just after 12:30pm. Did a quick stop at Sun Studios (skip the tour, just walk in and out) and then went to Graceland. It’s about a 10-minute drive from the city center in a not so exciting area, unless you think gas stations, seedy hotels and strip malls exciting.

After my visit, I was back in Nashville by 8pm for hot chicken and cheap beer — the way Elvis would have liked it.

Creature Comforts in Athens, GA Could Be the State’s Best Brewery

Georgia is not a craft beery destination. Yes, they have breweries, and two nationally-distributed names (Sweetwater and Terrapin), but for a state as large and populous as it is, it doesn’t hold up.

With 53 breweries as of 2016, it ranks 49th with breweries per capita. There are may factors too elaborate to get into, but one of them, their laws, are changing September 1st.

I went to five breweries in Athens and Atlanta, and I still can’t figure out the laws. Basically, breweries can’t sell you beer on the premises. They sell you a glass, which you could put beer in. As for buying canned or bottled beer to go, that I’m not even going to bother to explain.

Which brings me to Creature Comforts in Athens. When I got to the space on Hancock Street near the Georgia Theater, there was a sign at the entrance, “43 Days Until We Can Sell You Beer”. Basically, what happens (this will be change on Sept. 1), I had to buy a pint glass and a wrist band for $12. On the wrist band were 6 tabs. I go to the bar, ask to sample a beer, they take a tab off my wrist ban and they fill my glass with 6 oz. of beer — good for half a glass. I repeat the process five more times. At the end, I keep the glass. This happened at three other breweries — Orpheus, Sweetwater and Terrapin.

Yes, it was a bit of a hassle, but damn they serve amazing beer. They don’t distribute outside of Georgia, so everything was new to me. In my research, they are known for the Tropicália IPA, which when they started out, would sell out instantly upon arrival at stores. It stands at 96 out of 100 on Beer Advocate. I made that my first sample and damn, it was amazing. It’s more on the sweet and fruity side, and not overtly hoppy bitter. Best of all, it smelled wonderful and refreshing.

Their other best seller is Automatic pale ale, named for local boys REM’s Automatic for the People and Weaver D’s restaurant. For a low ABV beer, it has the most robust flavor possible.

The other I sampled included, Koko Buni porter, Reclaimed Rye red ale, Bibo pilsner and Athena sour berliner weisse.

Beyond the beer itself, on the Saturday afternoon I visited, I was surrounded by friendly people who struck up conversations with me. Many were jealous of beer adventures I had planned for this road trip.

I was able to get some six-packs to go, but I had to jump through some hoops. I had to pay at one register, take the receipt and bring it to another area.

When September rolls around, I’m sure the Creature Comforts people will revamp their tap room procedures to make things less confusing for visitors like me. For now, I got my Automatic and Tropicália to get me happy.

 

Revolution Donuts in Atlanta Sells a Peach Slider Donut To Die For

Their motto is: “Put something good in your mouth.” So I did.

Revolution Donuts in Atlanta is the second location from the original Decatur, GA shop. It’s down the street from the upscale Krug Street Market.  While it’s hard to argue that they will lead a pastry revolution, they will reinvent your caloric intake if you’re waiting your weight.

In a dizzying display for sugary goodness, from salted caramel, apple fritter and maple bacon, it’s the fresh fruit slider donuts that are the most popular. If Georgia is known for one culinary staple, it’s the peach. Everything is peach named in the state. Thus, the peach slider is a wonder. Naturally sweet, crunchy and just a hint of tartness sandwiched in a pillowy yeast donut.

No one will blame you got getting another, or opting for a strawberry or blueberry filled slider. I got stuck in traffic on Rt 85 on a Saturday morning so damn straight I went for another.