As you might have guessed, touring the country playing craft breweries can be an awfully trying lifestyle. Not everyone is built for the daily grind, month after month, of going to cool destinations and playing guitar, drinking craft beers you've never had before, and then moving on to the next. A lot of people wouldn't like spending weeks at a stretch in a different beach town every day, sampling the best fresh local seafood, meeting interesting folks and enjoying their beaches, and taking advantage of their tips on what local haunts to check out. Many people don't like just starting the day whenever you wake up, and going to bed whenever you can no longer stay awake. I get it. Life can be pretty trying when, as an adult, you get to do what you want, when you want, instead of living under someone else's thumb. Some people need that structure, I guess.
For nearly 30 years I worked career gigs in a corporate environment. I remember the joyful inspirational festive glow of fluorescent lighting. I clearly remember high stress environments where the whole world would supposedly collapse if some arbitrary deadline wasn't met, some product enhancement wasn't rolled out to the thousands of people who supposedly couldn't wait any longer (but wouldn't even remember it tomorrow). I remember Big Fish in small ponds who expected to be treated like royalty because they sat on or towards the top of a few thousand employees, presiding over selling some service that supposedly the world just couldn't live without. I remember schools of guppies willing to worship said Big Fish in small pond. I remember pissant ladder climbers, political game players, and backstabbers. Of course I also remember the good times... the “team building” events. The office celebrations of some monumental achievement that I can no longer recall. Casual Fridays. Boy, those were the days...
After playing a pretty rowdy show to a crowd of mostly intoxicated young ladies in Wilmington the night before, I woke up Friday morning not far from Emerald Isle, NC. I was feeling a little worn out, and decided I needed to pump a little life into myself, so I filled the cooler with some fresh ice and headed to the beach. It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, and the breeze coming off the ocean was just cool enough to make the sunshine comfortably warm yet not too hot. The water was just about the perfect temperature, with waves in the 3-4 foot range. I swam for about 20 minutes, had an icy cold beer to rinse the salty water from my lips, put on a little sun tan lotion, and took a nap. When I awoke about a half hour later I took a few more sips of icy beer, then rolled over and took another nap... this time while sunning my back. By this time it was now early afternoon, and I needed to head towards Kinston for the evening's gig at Mother Earth Brewing, and to meet up with my sister, who was coming in from Chapel Hill for some fun.
In addition to Mother Earth Brewing, Kinston is also the home of celebrity chef Vivian Howard's restaurants, which are featured in her PBS show. We decided to meet up before my show at the more casual of the two, the Boiler Room oyster bar, for a little comfort food. I just had a wedge salad and a small plate of buffalo chicken mac & cheese, with bacon and green onions. Just enough to satisfy without filling me too much before the show.
Mother Earth Brewing - Kinston, NC
The beer is available at the brewery/taproom, and at retailers, drinking establishments, and restaurants. Check availability in your area here.
Mother Earth is right across the street, and having already set up when I first arrived in town I just had to plug in my guitar and get going. I played each set to a rather different crowd, and again our streak of fun shows to enthusiastic crowds continued.
The brewery is focused on local sourcing, sustainability, and being a good green citizen, and they leverage relationships with other regional businesses and suppliers to that end. The roof is lined with solar panels that help power the facility, which has also undergone other major renovations to reduce the business' carbon footprint.
Mother Earth's compound takes up about a city block, with a large brewing facility, modern taproom with expansive ceilings, a courtyard like beer garden.
The brewery has a rather extensive list and variety of beers, and I actually sampled two of them at the Boiler Room (the Sunny Haze hefeweizen, and one of the IPAs, I'm not sure which). The hefeweizen was an opaque pale gold or straw pour, of medium light body, and medium carbonation. It had a wheaty flavor with slight hints at banana, but not nearly as profoundly banana as many other of the genre. Overall it was a nice refreshing beer, I'd have it again, but I wouldn't necessarily hunt it down.
I remember thinking the IPA was a little disappointing after the hefeweizen, just tasting like a middle-of-the-road IPA, with no particularly defining flavor. Not bad, just not particularly memorable.
When I moved over to the actual brewery I decided to go a bit lighter with the beers, and started with the Garden Party Champagne IPA (8.5%), which was a brut IPA brewed from Chinook and Mosaic hops, creating a mildly fruity IPA with the dry finish of a dry sparking wine or champagne. I'm generally a fan of this newer spin on the IPA, and Garden Party was a good example of what a good brut IPA can be.
My other favorite of the stop was the Summer Sipper Watermelon Gose (4.5%), which was just tapped for the first time on this very day. A very light pour with a fluffy white head, the watermelon itself was rather understated, with just a light wash of it hitting you upfront, and a bit of a sour finish. Thirst quenching and refreshing without weighing you down, this was a fine new selection for the Summer.
The show wrapped up with a few sing-alongs, which for whatever reason I've been whipping up towards the end of the last few shows and has been a lot of fun. After these shows I've been getting a lot of compliments about the music and how fun the sets have been, and tonight was more of that both from the patrons and the staff, so that's always satisfying. There was talk of returning later in the Summer, so stay tuned for that, as I have a lot of other beers to sample...
As this was a little bit of an earlier show (6-9) I wrapped up early enough to then hit the other Vivian Howard restaurant in town, the somewhat more upscale Chef & the Farmer. Again, a central theme of this establishment (which also partners frequently with Mother Earth) is locally sourced ingredients and the community of the regional farmers, supplies, restaurant, and clientele, so the menu comprised of what is in season locally. I'll spare you the details of what we ordered, but suffice it to say the entree was a nicely done piece of fish, and the oyster appetizer was fantastic.
The funny part of the Chef & the Farmer experience was that, after eating at the Boiler Room earlier, I wasn't terribly hungry for dinner... so my sister and I shared an appetizer, shared a small plate (the oysters), and shared the entree. We had about a 90 minute drive up the coast to our hotel which was much closer to the next gig, so we decided to have a few cups of coffee... which then led to ordering dessert. I should add that I almost never order dessert, so when I looked at the 5 selections I thought four of them looked fantastic, but I'd normally pass. However, being we were getting coffee, and we were having a fun night, we decided to order something. Interestingly much like a craft brewery, the restaurant offered a flight of desserts, so we got the flight of 4 desserts, assuming that (like with beer) the flight would consist of smaller samples of each of the four desserts. Much to our surprise this was an incorrect assumption... the flight consisted of four full-sized desserts, so we were quite entertained by the notion of the waitress thinking we were lunatics when we shared a small entree and then ordered four desserts for the two of us! They were all fantastic, though... and I'd recommend you do the same!
After dinner I walked back to the tour van and ran into my waiter from the Boiler Room, who not only greeted me by my name but also asked how the show went at Mother Earth... and that's a pretty good summary of how these beach town shows have been going... great, friendly people who actually seem genuinely interested it what you're up to, and if possible sharing the experience with you. And then inviting you back to do it again as soon as possible.
I drove off into the night towards the next beach town of Beaufort, NC., listening to standup comedy on SiriusXM to stay entertained and awake. I got to the hotel at 4am, slept in the next morning, and woke up to a fresh cup of coffee and a fresh cinnabon, which I hadn't had in years, and enjoyed thoroughly. I typed up the blog for the Waterman's gig a couple of nights before, had a little lunch and headed to Mill Whistle Brewing for Saturday afternoon's gig (blog coming soon!). I also had an even more fantastic dinner, and walked the local marinas looking at big boats and yachts.
I didn't have any conference calls, I wasn't “on call”, and I didn't get to rearrange my schedule at the last minute to accomodate someone else. I didn't get stressed about anything, and I didn't curse the existence of any particular moron I had to deal with. Nobody lied or double crossed me, and I didn't have to explain myself to anyone. It's a different life, and I realize that it's not for everyone... but someone has to do it, and I'm willing to take this one for the team.