Updated: Jan 17, 2019
The folks in Chattanooga had plenty of great things to say not only about my next destination, Blue Ridge, GA, but also of the brewery I was heading to... Grumpy Old Men Brewing, which got me pretty excited about the day ahead of me.
I rolled out of Tennessee pretty early Friday morning, and started the winding and extremely scenic ride up into the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia. I had never been to the town of Blue Ridge before, and it was described as a sort of smaller version of Asheville, NC, and I think that's pretty apt. The downtown area is sort of mountain rustic (the main street shops were largely constructed of logs and stone), packed with restaurants, artsy shops (jewelry, clothes, a handmade fly fishing shop, etc.) and a good handful of breweries and wine shops. It's obviously a destination town, but not nearly as touristy as a Gatlinburg... more like Asheville. Just outside the town, I spotted the Sasquatch Museum (which is also the official Researching & Reporting Center) but sadly it was closed due to family vacation. I was initially worried... what if I actually saw a Bigfoot while the Research & Reporting Center was closed??? Oh well, if it happens I guess I'll just let the cops know, they probably deal with Sasquatch issues all the time anyway...
Grumpy Old Men Brewing - Blue Ridge, GA
The beers are distributed in cans throughout the Tennessee/Georgia region currently, but wider distribution is coming soon. Kegs are also tapped in other establishments, Retail can sales are also available at the taproom.
Grumpy Old Men Brewing was named after two retired fellas who founded it several years ago, but I learned towards the end of the night that about a year ago they sold, to quote their website, “to another Grumpy Old Man & his Crabby Old Lady”, Jeff and Kristie. Kristie was my sort of tour guide, helping me through their extensive beer selection, and for that I'm thankful. I'm also happy to report that on this particular night she didn't behave at all like a Crabby Old Lady. They have kept beers from the original owners' era, and have also expanded the selection significantly.
The taproom is spacious, and encompasses several rooms, as well as an outdoor space with a cornhole area. On this night they had a large crowd of mostly locals, but I also met some folks from Atlanta, which is about two hours away. The crowd made for an ideal show... very friendly, very into the music, and engaging with banter, etc. I had some great conversations during set break, including with a newlywed couple the husband of which was an Ohio University alum, so here we were in Georgia raving about the greatness of the other college town called Athens. Whoda thunk it?
Upon arrival I was served a Hell's Holler Porter (7.2%), which is a dark English Porter, with a thick tan head and full of body and rich flavor. A smooth drinker, it was robust enough to be a great cold weather brew, but also a satisfying thirst quencher to start off with.
Sometime during my first set a Cyclone Larry IPA (6.9%) was delivered, which was a very refreshing change after a porter. It had occurred to me that since the end of Summer I had been drinking a lot of darker beer and very few IPAs lately, so it was nice to revisit the variety.... and this was a great IPA. Golden and slightly hazy, a New England style IPA, well hopped but a little more on the piney side than the fruity. Very well balanced, and just a great beer. If this were readily available in my neck of the woods I could see it easily becoming one of my go-tos.
The next selection was highly recommended as a must-try by Kristie, but I must admit I initially wasn't very interested in the Choco Blanco White Chocolate Wheat (6.5%). First, I kinda hate the mystery substance that is called "white chocolate”. Second, “wheat” has become almost generic for “Belgian Wheat”, which I also don't care for. That said, I was presented with a pint that naturally I was then obliged to at least sample... and it was damn good! I might even say spectacular. A somewhat hazy golden pour, it was a nice smooth wheat with a complexity to how the white chocolate hits... it definitely tasted like a wave of white chocolate, but there was some vanilla flavor, and the balance between the wheat and the chocolate was just perfect. The white chocolate was out front enough that it made me go “wow”, and I did have the thought that it might get a bit overwhelming by the end of the pint, but it didn't at all. The last sip was as enjoyable as the first. So yet another example of how I need to just face my fears when it comes to these questionable sounding beers, because they usually turn out to be surprisingly great.
At this point I should point out that from here on I just had small samples, not pints. So please understand that 1) the following thoughts are just based on a sip or two, and 2) I did NOT need to be carried out of the brewery.
Espresso Yo Self Coffee Porter (7%). Rich and dark, and the coffee was very forward, which I like. Others might find it to be a little too bold... just depends on how much coffee you like in your porter. It was definitely bold and coffee-forward, and I liked that.
Nali Malli Orange-Chocolate Stout (5.8). This one just kinda confused me. Maybe I needed to start fresh with this one, perhaps my palate had been through so many varieties at this point (palate fatigue?), but it just confused me. It was a solid stout, but I just couldn't wrap my head around what that other flavor was... evidently orange-chocolate, but I couldn't really identify either. I might go back today and try this one again.
Scentsation Double IPA (8%). My first comment was “wow, great aroma” to which the retort was “uh yeah, that's why we called it “Scentsation”... duh, I'm an idiot. A humbling moment. A few months ago I was tired of very hoppy IPAs, but after a few months of porters and browns and stouts, I really enjoyed the fact that this was really well hopped-up IPA. Next time I need a pint.
Citra Knot Citra Pale Ale (6.5%) - a very tasty, lighter bodied, medium carbonated IPA with a lemony streak. I'd also like a larger sample of this one.
East Brown & Down Brown Ale (7.3%). Lots of caramel and malt flavor, dark brown pour with a tan head. Love my browns.
Grass Hoppa Imperial Ale (8%). A tannish amber, and a nice balance of hoppy bitter and caramel overtones. Another one that I'd like to examine more closely as a pint!
Whew! That was a lot of sampling! Luckily the beers were all fantastic. I highly recommend both a visit to Blue Ridge the town and Grumpy Old Men Brewing. The variety and quality are awesome, and the people on both sides of the bar are friendly and great for conversation. Just look out for Bigfoot.