Needless To Say, It’s A Big Week For Big Lick Brewing

•September 23, 2016 • Leave a Comment

big-lick-brewing-circle-logoIt takes a pretty notable announcement for a brewery to upstage its own 2nd anniversary.  Or more likely, for Roanoke’s Big Lick Brewing, timing is everything.  This Saturday (September 24), the brewery is indeed celebrating its 2nd anniversary, an event worthy of raising a pint on its own.  Raise another then, because earlier this week, the brewery announced plans for its new location that will be several times larger than the current one, include indoor and outdoor seating, a stage for entertainment, and last but not least, let the brewery increase its brewing capacity from the 2bbl system it currently uses to a 10bbl one, while still retaining a 2bbl system for pilot batches.

The brewery had long outgrown its current spot, making the expansion a welcome announcement.  Most of its regular customers will likely tell you how Big Lick occasionally has to take a head count within its tasting room as not to exceed capacity, especially on days when a new release had come on tap.  Such as it is with breweries when solid beers like their Gone KoCo coconut porter and their “This Time” IPA series have become as cared for among the area’s craft beer drinkers as they have.

I imagine those same beers, as well as many others, had placed an expectation for such growth some time ago, as it did with me.  Perhaps the most impressive thing shouldn’t be the expansion itself then, but how such an expectation developed over a relatively short period of time.  Congrats on your 2nd anniversary, Big Lick Brewing, and many more to come in your well deserved new home.

****Check out Big Lick’s 2nd Anniversary Event page on Facebook here (live entertainment, food, and an expanded selection of beer will be on hand) 

And check out info about their expansion here!

Draft Beer At A Coffee Shop? Of Course.

•September 2, 2016 • 2 Comments

Last weekend, while the beer curious in Roanoke once again took over a large section of downtown for the second time in a less than a month, this time to celebrate another Deschutes event by bellying up to the Oregonian brewery’s admittedly impressive, multi city block, nomadic “Street Pub”, another beer related event was occurring almost simultaneously, albeit one that was a bit more low key.  South Roanoke’s beloved purveyor of coffee, Sweet Donkey Coffee House, had just finished installing their taps – yes, beer taps – just in time for the weekend, and they celebrated this new side of their business by hosting their own Deschutes tap takeover that Friday night.

For those who might be unfamiliar with Sweet Donkey’s non caffeinated offerings, bottled beer has been on the menu for a while now.  So at first, offering beer on draft might seem to be simply a deeper level of commitment to that side of their business.  But for regulars to the coffee shop, you likely know better, and for those perhaps who are not too familiar with Sweet Donkey, and are still wrapping their minds around the thought of a coffee shop with beer at all, it is much, much more than a new business plan, and really couldn’t make better sense.  With its fenced in front yard, its wide front porch and side patio, and its wholly welcoming and comforting look given by the large brick house it calls home, Sweet Donkey might as well be the poster child of what a neighborhood coffee shop – and therefore, a central spot for friends to gather over any shared, social beverages of choice, be it a cup of coffee or a cold beer – should be.  Simply put, I’m not sure there is a more charming spot to enjoy a beer other than your own porch at home.  Offering draft beer then, is not just a commitment to a business model, but clearly is what the owners want the experience of their shop to be for their customers.

A common school of thought these days in the overall beer community is that should a “bubble” of some sort burst in the craft beer business, that breweries dedicated to primarily serving to the folks who can easily drive across town or even walk down their street to reach the brewery will be one trend that not only survives, but flourishes.  No, of course Sweet Donkey doesn’t brew their own beer.  Yet part of the charm with that particular trend is not solely based in the making of the beer, but in the creation of an ultra comfortable, neighborhood centric spot to enjoy that beer with friends.  So with their announcement to serve draft beer, I couldn’t help but think that should that particular trend become more common, we may look back from a day not too far off and think of how one model of such a place might look (and feel like) was – of course – envisioned by a coffee shop.

Visit Sweet Donkey’s Facebook page here.

Microfestivus 2016: Location, Location, Location…and beer.

•August 13, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Sure, I could write about some of the beer that’ll be at Microfestivus today.  But you’ve probably already taken a quick look at the beer list, and if not, they’ll likely have ones available for you at the gate, should you be attending.  On the morning of the nineteenth Microfestivus, my mind is wandering beyond the beer.  Consider, for a moment, that perhaps the where is almost as noteworthy as the what.  In case you haven’t seen the festival map yet, Roanoke’s annual beer festival will line up along some of the streets within the Star City’s downtown area, along First Street and Kirk and Church Avenues, instead of on its periphery, as in years past.  For what it’s worth, I’m guessing it’ll feel even more cathartic than the last move was, when the festival ventured out of the confines of Elmwood Park.  But to cap it all off, let’s think about just how fitting the festival route seems, considering that after wandering down First, Kirk, and Church, past one beer tent after another, that the natural path for the festival seems to end right in front of the Texas Tavern.  I mean, for Roanokers, how fitting can that be?

Among other things that are also fitting but perhaps a bit more serious, I would be remiss to not send a quick shout out for the location of the VIP section.  Never mind that I have a favorite seat at Blue 5’s bar.  The downtown restaurant is easily stop number one on anyone’s guide to craft beer in Roanoke, and I think the world of Chaz and crew down there.  So how fitting is it that the VIP section is right outside the doors of Blue 5?  If you find yourself within the area, and see Mr. Blevins, consider thanking him for being a vital standard bearer for the craft beer scene in the Star City.

What looks to be perfectly traditional for the festival is, of course, the weather forecast.  In case you haven’t looked it up, it’s your typical Microfestivus forecast, which is to say that it’s calling for the asphalt under your feet to begin melting sometime around 3pm.  Good thing, I suppose, for the relatively high number of fruited beers and sours that seem to be on the list for today – nope, I’m not mentioning individual ones, just that they’re high in number, and that they’re often adequate for the quenching of thirsts.  It’s a reflection of current trends no doubt, though I’m not sure how many individual examples I would be interested in, personally.  After all, the number of IPAs on the list is even higher – a statistic that’s particularly fitting, well, at least for myself.  (And I’m sure I’m not alone.)

Not to delve too deeply into the melodramatic and start crying in our beer, but maybe we should also touch on the fact that somehow, this year’s Microfestivus feels like some sort of official cap on the last several months of brewery news for the area as well.  After all, we’ve welcomed Deschutes and Ballast Point to the valley, and without a doubt the lines at both of these brewery’s tents will likely be among the longest.  Come to think of it, such a sight would perhaps be the most fitting to be witnessed at the festival – two nationally known craft breweries, which the area courted and landed, serving up beer from their booths, all the while in the shadow of such classic downtown Roanoke spots like Lucky Restaurant, the former Kirk Ave Music Hall (now The Spot On Kirk), and Martin’s.

Unless you can’t tell, I’m a sucker for all things downtown Roanoke.  So yes, I admit loving the fact that Roanoke’s craft beer festival will be bordered by the buildings that make up the center of the city.  Crazily, I’ll also admit that if it wasn’t 95 degrees on the day of Microfestivus, somehow, it just wouldn’t be the same.  And of course, I’ll gladly admit that I’m proud my hometown landed Deschutes and Ballast Point, even if I don’t quite shed any tears into my beer over it.  

No, the only thing that might make me that happy is the sight of a cheesy and a bowl with at the end of the afternoon.

When The Beer Is As Good As The Company

•June 9, 2016 • 2 Comments

aviary_1460225680041.jpgWhat this is not is a shameless plug for my own beer.  You can be assured of that since I don’t actually brew beer myself, instead letting others do all the hard work and then (shamelessly, I promise you) reaping all the benefits.  One person I’ve been lucky enough to do this with is my friend Trevor Doyle.  From a plastic cup filled with Pale Ale while “tailgating” in a parking lot to a Berliner Weisse on the back deck of one of our homes, I’ve learned to never pass up a chance to try one of Trevor’s beers, as good as they are.  So this is most definitely a plug for Trevors’ beers instead.  And it comes well deserved and absolutely shamelessly.  It also comes as a recommendation of sorts which most anyone in Roanoke can act upon, because soon, Trevor – with a little help from his friend Bryan at Big Lick Brewing – is bringing one of his recipes to the taps at Big Lick, possibly as soon as this weekend.

“Strangest Tribe” is a Pale Ale made with Simcoe, Centennial, and Amarillo hops which is then dry hopped with that same line up and comes in at around 5% abv.  The beer also benefits from an addition of oats, offsetting what would be a thinner body from such a lower abv beer.  Borrowing a name from a Pearl Jam song, as many of Trevor’s beers do, Strangest Tribe should come across with plenty juicy hop character from the  Amarillo and Simcoe, both of which are known for their citrusy qualities.  Amarillo often pushes up an orangey, somewhat grapefruity aroma, and while some like to pigeonhole Simcoe for largely pine like notes, for me, beers using the hop also blast forth a grapefruit like, citrusy aroma as well.

But when it comes to trying Trevors’ beers, especially in his company, it’s not all about the beer.  If you happen to know Trevor, you are well aware that he not only has the ability to make good beer, but he comes with more than a few stories to tell and even more (often sharply pointed) opinions on a wide range of topics, which include, of course, the different circumstances by which to enjoy good beer.  I remember he once mentioned how he appreciates a person who can simply enjoy having a beer without spending fifteen minutes dissecting it down to its individual molecules.  I believe the description was, “He’s just a guy you can grab a beer with”.  I appreciate the same thing.  I’m looking forward to trying Strangest Tribe, and hopefully I’ll run into Trevor down at Big Lick while doing so.  After all, Trevor has always been “one of those guys” you can definitely just grab a beer with.  Perhaps being that way somehow affects the care he takes in making his beer, and is why, like many of the others I’ve tasted, Strangest Tribe will be great as well.



Deschutes’ Black Butte Porter – A Quick Look

•March 26, 2016 • Leave a Comment

According to the Facebook page for today’s “Big Lick – For the Love of The Brew” beer festival, there will be beer available for tasting from Oregon’s Deschutes Brewing, who of course announced this week that it will be locating its East coast brewing facility in Roanoke.  Considering the beers that were being handed out at Tuesday’s press conference, most likely appearing will be the brewery’s Mirror Pond Pale Ale and their well known Black Butte Porter, both flagship type releases for Deschutes.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the brewery’s Black Butte on a few occasions, so here’s a quick run down in case you haven’t had it before, and were curious:

Deschutes’ Black Butte Porter:  Body, body, body.  Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a ‘heavy’ beer by any means of course.  And yes, perhaps most porters are a little thinner than most might expect from their appearance, let’s say compared to your average stout.  But that’s not to say that they always have to be watery thin, as so many breweries’ flagship Porters are, and that’s where Black Butte, for me, wins major points.  With aroma and tasting notes of fresh brewed coffee, roasted grains, and a slight hop bitterness that whips around at the end, Black Butte’s body is what elevates it from an solid, well made beer to an exceptional one.  Silky smooth with just enough weight to appease as a sipping sort of beer, Deschutes’ porter stands out, similarly to Founders’ Porter, over most others you’re likely to find out there.

Apparently, the Governor himself particularly loves this beer, after having tasted it during the courtship Virginia had with Deschutes, I have to admit I wholeheartedly agree.




#Deschutes2Roanoke Becomes Reality.

•March 22, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I hadn’t planned it this way, but for what its worth, it did work out well, didn’t it?

My last post to the blog was some time ago.  But I figured given the topic, if it had to stand on its own without any updating or polishing up, it would do perfectly fine.  Considering that it covered one of my first experiences with a Deschutes Brewing beer, and given all the growing curiosity Roanoke has had over whether the West coast brewery – and the 7th largest in production among “craft” breweries in the US (2014) – would pick the Star City as the site for its East coast location, the post seemed better than any to adorn the blog while I took care of a few non-blog related things.

Today, we can finally add the accompanying, and appropriate, bookend to that post.

Deschutes is coming to town.

In the coming weeks, I’d like to share a few other experiences that I’ve had over the years with their beers, as an attempt at perhaps a “primer” of sorts for some of the breweries’ ales.

For today, I think this simple post will do just fine.

Welcome to Roanoke, Deschutes.

By the way…a more immediate primer will be available, apparently, at this weekend’s “Big Lick – For The Love of the Brew” beer festival, where at least a couple of beers from Deschutes’ beers will actually be available – quite a kick off, right?




Great Beer Always Leads To More Great Beer: How One Path Began With Deschutes’ Black Butte Anniversary Porter

•November 14, 2015 • 1 Comment

Deschutes Black Butte Anniversary XXVHonestly, I don’t remember how I acquired the beer.  But with ease, I remember its aroma, how it tasted, its body, and the setting in which my wife and I shared Deschutes’ XXV Anniversary Black Butte Imperial Porter on one chilly night in September, 2013.  If you’re deeply entrenched in good beer like I am, you know it often goes just like this.  The truly outstanding ones, you remember all of it – when you had it, where you were, who you were with, and, as you might have noticed, possibly even how the weather was outside at the time – you recall nearly every detail.  The taste, the aroma – it all creates a distinct, fond memory, but with this particular beer came one additional detail which, when I look back on things, might have been the most important:  how that particular beer would affect my beer choices going forward.

Important to understand is that while I don’t remember exactly how I came across it, I do remember that it was one of the first beers I went out of my way to get.  With no distribution to Roanoke, and with the Black Butte anniversary beer being a somewhat limited release, I couldn’t just pick up a bottle at my local craft beer store.  And although I would never pigeonhole myself into favoring one style over another, I admit that if I were faced, heaven forbid, with a one final beer-before-you-die question and it came down to some world class porter/stout or a more typical hop forward beer – yes, I’d probably pick the latter.  But after having it, the Black Butte XXV was, of course, enough to make me rethink that kind of decision.  So needless to say, it was definitely worth acquiring – so much so, that other beers of its kind would be too.

And in that fact lies what might have been most important about tasting the Deschutes Anniversary beer that evening more than two years ago.  If I had a curiosity for other, well made beers that were perhaps outside of my local availability, this beer poured gasoline on the fire.  It goes without saying that this isn’t to knock any product at all that has been or is currently available on the shelf at my local craft beer stores.  It is to say that this particular Deschutes beer was a stepping stone of sorts to seek out beers being created in other cities, or even in other states.  And while we may not have put the kind of mileage on the car that some I know have, traveling to the west coast or even to such northeastern havens for craft beer such as Vermont, but we have tallied up plenty of miles attending beer festivals, release events, and breweries not necessarily within easy driving distance, and of course, it’s all been more than worth it.

And so this is how it goes with good beer.  One outstanding example inspires you to seek out another, or maybe even the selection from an entire brewery.  An out of this world imperial stout or porter whets your appetite for trying more of the same style, and in turn those may take you off in some different direction as well.  Put simply, good beer begets good beer for the curious beer drinker.

I also can’t help but think about how that beer which I tasted some two years ago and caused such inspiration for myself is crafted by the same brewery my city is currently courting for its east coast expansion project.  Begun just over a month ago, the Deschutes 2 Roanoke Facebook page has over five thousand followers and continues to grab the attention of the Oregon based brewery, with media outlets both here in Roanoke and in Bend, home of the brewery, reporting on the growing interest.  Should Roanoke land the project, I also can’t help but think of how other craft beer curious folks in the region might seek out Deschutes and in turn, have it inspire them to reach out to other breweries and beers, both here in Roanoke and elsewhere.

For myself, I can’t help to think of how that one particular path to good beer would’ve truly come full circle.


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